A couple of things recently got me thinking about this. The IGM review of Neil Rajah was one of them. Some of my friends who read that responded with “Well, what are they comparing it to?”, or something along those lines. The other was an email conversation with another developer, who made a comment that went something like “You’re doing pretty good for someone who has a job and a family, and is doing this part time”. On the family front – my wife and I just had a baby a couple of days ago. This is our second, and anyone who’s a parent knows what that means in terms of free time.
So, what exactly am I doing here? I’m definitely not competing against companies like Rovio, or the smaller indie game dev studios with a handful of employees. In fact, I’m also not really competing with the one-man game developers who do this full time. It took me some time to understand and accept that. I created Neil Rajah because I love platformers, and I wanted to make something that was like a traditional platformer. However, that means that the game will naturally get compared with all the other platformers out there, and it will definitely come up short. I’ve been looking at other games out there that are so much bigger than anything I can reasonably create – online multiplayer, multiple modes / upgrades, etc. It’s not that I can’t code any of that. I’ve done my share of network protocol work at my day job But realistically, I cannot take on projects of that size and have any hope of getting it done in a reasonable amount of time. And I’m not going to spend years working on a single game, I will get bored and quit.
So that was a bit of a realization for me – stop trying to do the same things that I see bigger developers doing. And even if you’re a solo developer, if you’re writing games full-time, you’re ‘bigger’ than me. And really, isn’t that what being indie is all about? Working on what you want to work on, without trying to conform to someone else’s expectations?
So with that long preamble – what kinds of games should I be making? I don’t know. However, the words ‘small’ and ‘different’ are what I keep coming back to. Something smaller in scope, that won’t take a year to code and hundreds of dollars in art and music assets for it to look even halfway decent (Neil Rajah really needed another world or two, but I ran out of time and money). Maybe something involving puzzle-solving rather than running and shooting. I’ve always liked puzzle games too, and it seems like a genre where you could reasonably take one core idea and make a game around it, without people automatically expecting that because it’s in genre ‘A’, it’s not complete unless it has features ‘X’, Y’ and ‘Z’. ‘different’, of course, is harder to work on, but it will also be more fun to work on. I’ve had some ideas for a while that more or less go along the lines of “It would be cool if there was a game that involved doing this“, whatever ‘this’ is.
One of the games that inspired me is GYRO. I heard about this recently on the libGDX forums. This is a great example of the kind of game I’d like to make – a simple, unique gameplay idea, doesn’t require a big investment in time/money to create, and a lot of fun to play.
So that was my sleep-deprived “Wow I forgot how much work a newborn baby takes” stream-of-consciousness self-realization blog post