Ten years as a part-time Game Developer

I recently watched Jeff Vogel’s amusing (and educative) GDC talk, “Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software Way“. Vogel is an icon of the indie developer scene (despite his self-deprecation); he’s been around for longer than pretty much anyone else still actively developing in the game development world. It’s always interesting to read the posts and talks he does, because after 20-odd years in the game development industry (and still going strong), Vogel has a unique perspective on the business which other small-scale boutiques (like my own) can take a lot of wisdom from. And he can be quite funny to read/listen to too.

Listening to the latest talk makes me feel a bit old myself, though. MicaBytes (the company) actually turned 10 years old last month, although I didn’t publish my first game until almost two years later. That event itself was the culmination of an embarrassing number of years during which I had worked part-time on a huge game project (and the occasional small side-project) without getting to the point where I felt ready to publish. It was actually pretty serious stuff, to the point where I had negotiations with potential publishers for funding and considered taking time off from work to spend some time on full-time game development (no Kickstarter back then). Ultimately it wasn’t to be – the timing was just never right, and the window of opportunity for that kind of adventure slammed definitely shut when I had my first child.

Reflecting on Vogel’s talk, however, made me think about a couple of things. A lot of the advice for indie developers out there (especially from others) is directed at people who are in game development to make a career of it. Personally, that hasn’t been on my radar for many, many years (if it ever really was); I love my “real-life” job, have always loved it (it’s why I got a Ph.d. in the field) and it would take an amazing opportunity for me to consider dropping that to do something else (also: economic security). Surely I’m not the only part-time game developer who lacks the ambition to go full-time, though to judge from most indie game developer blog posts, there are not many of us. Or more likely, we just don’t have time to blog. I get that – this blog has often been on hiatus for several months.

It’s a pity though, because although there is lots of great advice on the blogs of Vogel and other prolific indie bloggers (I also frequently like to read Cliffski’s musings, as well as Daniel Cook’s essays at Lost Garden and Soren Johnson), not everything that they suggest when it comes to business is true when your regular working hours are 9PM to way too late. Perhaps I should write a little about that… if I can find the time.