Thursday, December 08, 2016

Gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away

Steve Jobs famously said "Focusing is about saying no."

I've been thinking about this quote a bit lately. Like many game developers I have a number of games I want to make. And like many game developers I've even started building some of these games.

I had been developing a prequel to my classic adventure game Flight of the Amazon Queen as an Apple Watch game. I love my Apple Watch and love adventure games. With titles like Lifeline doing well it seemed like an opportunity to do something in that space.

The game, creatively titled Return of the Amazon Queen, was shaping up to be an interesting adventure. I had the idea for it, and I said "Yes, I'm going to do this." In reality, I should have said no. The audience for adventure games lives on the PC. As much as I love my Watch, the audience for the game on the Watch was probably going to be me - and I already know how to solve all the puzzles!

Return of the Amazon Queen on Apple Watch

As well as the Amazon Queen prequel I had also developed a 2D endless runner in Swift. The game is 90% done, meaning the remaining 10% will take at least 90% of the time I already spent on it to actually wrap it up. It's the seemingly little things like ad networks, leaderboards, testing, etc. that take up way more time than people think.

A character from the endless runner made with programmer art!

While the game was fun to play (for me at least) it didn't get the reaction from family and friends that I had hoped for. They tended to play it for a bit then politely return the phone back, or switch to another game (never a good sign!). I could try and fix, but the reality is the style and mechanic, and the fact that it is 2D, are all factors keeping it from greatness.

So, I've folded these two games in order to focus on Billy Carts, a game that has already elicited more excitement from those I've shown it to than my previous efforts.

There is always that sense of duty to finish what you started, and that's a great thing to help you keep focused so you actually ship your game. But sometimes its best to put that game aside, write of the sunk cost of time and effort, and focus on the better idea.

The good news is that the time I spent on those two unfinished games only helped me become a better programmer and designer. I managed to get experience with some new frameworks that will carry over into Billy Carts.

Remember, even if you do say yes, it's okay to say no later and walk away if you really believe that that is the best thing to do.

Time is precious and as indie developers it's important to make stuff that isn't just okay but is great. We're doing this because we love what we do. We are fortunate that we're not a cog in a big publisher driven machine making some licensed game for a pay check. We're in control, and sometimes we may get a little out of control, but ultimately we have the power to say no and make things right.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! But do not feel that the game you made was lost. The story of your new Amazon game remains and one day perhaps it will be the source to an epic PC adventure game. And when Joe King returns on PC a lot of people will be thrilled about it – I know I will! But everything has its time.

And about how to prioritize what game project to stick to I found out that you can get a lot of good game ideas but eventually you will get one that you love more then any other and you JUST have to do it and you are willing to spend years to develop it.


Passfield Games said...

Thanks for the kind words and advice Samuel!