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Long Term Passion

Saturday, November 12, 2005

David Michael has an interesting article about balancing passion and profit when you're creating games.

  1. Start with your passion, because if/when it makes a profit, you won’t mind doing it again.
  2. Focus on your passion, but keep an eye out for how to make it profitable.
  3. If necessary, get a job you don't hate and that pays well enough so you can afford your passion.
  4. Allow yourself to not have a profit motive. Sometimes.

I believe that you should always choose to follow your passion. Along the way, you will find a way to make money out of it, especially if you keep an eye open for it. Of course, your passion shouldn't blind you.

Job on the side

David's third point is interesting. I consider myself a full-time indie game developer, but I do have some contract work on the side. That's partly the remainder of a previous life as a web developer, but it also pays the bills. And I don't hate to do it. Actually, I like it and sometimes even love it.

But my true passion is creating games (well, my true true passion is teaching, but let's not go there) so that from time to time I wonder whether I should give up web development altogether. I don't want to get stuck in it.

Where does Trichromix fit in?

How many indies have started with a casual game "just to get some money flowing", with the intent to use the money to fund "the games we really want to make"? Quite a few. What percentage of them then create "just one more" such "get the money flowing" game, over and over?

Trichromix isn't exactly the type of game I really want to make, but I didn't choose it to get the money flowing either. Rather, I designed that particular game to be easy to program, so that I could learn as much about the process as possible. A good thing I did, too. Could you imagine how long it would've taken me to get Trichromix out there if I had trouble programming it, too? ;-)

But something interesting happened along the way: I fell in love with Trichromix. After having played around a bit with the prototype, Trichromix wasn't just a learning tool, it was a genuinely fun game with real commercial potential. How many puzzle games out there are truly original? Not many. But Trichromix is. I did a lot of things wrong on this project, but at least I'm convinced I got the game design right.

How's about another puzzle game?

So, now that I'm thinking about what my next game is going to be, I'm tempted to design another puzzle game, because designing it is just a lot of fun. However, in the long term I want to focus on story-based games. Story-based games like I have in mind are a lot harder to create, because they contain a lot of non-trivial programming and usually require more content. At this point, I don't think I should start developing a game that I think would take more than a year to finish.

That means I have a new design challenge: come up with a story-based game that you can pull off in just a couple of months. That might be even more interesting than designing another original puzzle game. :-) And you now what? I already have a game in mind that fits the challenge.

What it comes down to, is that I know what my passion is: I want to create story-based games. That's my long term goal and every short term decision should be made with that in mind. Trichromix was a good first step. It doesn't contain any story elements, but it allowed me to learn more about the development process and it will allow me to learn about marketing. But the next game shouldn't be another puzzle game, because then I would be doing something I know I can do. Instead, I have to move slightly beyond my comfort zone and more in the direction of my long term goal.

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