Looking back on 2014.

20 Jan
January 20, 2015

I think you’re supposed to write these kinds of retrospective pieces at the end of the year they’re relevant to, at least by about New Years. Not halfway through January. But fuck your rules, man, I’m a free spirit.

Twenty fourteen. It sounds like some science fiction date. It almost is. To write about it in the past tense is somewhat surreal. And to think that it marks the third year of working on System Crash, even stranger. I quit my job and took the plunge into indie game development just yesterday, didn’t I?

No, no. that me was heavier in the wallet and lighter around the waist.

Making things is harder than dreaming about making things. An obvious truth, but that doesn’t mean you don’t learn it all over again when you actually get down to doing a thing. You learn it in the same way that Sisyphus learned that ruddy great boulders are heavy. A truth plucked from the realm of the abstract into painful, grinding reality. You learn it your bones, your sinews, down in your water. Shit be tough, yo.

And the worst part of it all is the gnawing uncertainty. Is this the right choice? Am I going in the right direction? Maybe I should have forked left instead of right. Is this finished, or does it need more time to bake? Others can light the way, those who’ve already made the trip, but you can never walk exactly the same path. At the end of the day, it’s really down to you and your gut. You just have to hope that your instincts are good.

Twenty fourteen. The days of future past. How I look back on two oh fourteen depends on my mood, really.

If I’m feeling tired and glum, 2014 feels like a bit of a failure. A difficult year of struggling to juggle a mentally-intensive day job and a mentally-intensive side project. Along with my personal relationships and physical health. A struggle that has turned into a gruelling slog. It’s a year where I repeatedly spent time and effort building UIs and game systems that I then chucked out. A year where I failed to really get my act together when it came to marketing System Crash effectively. Which creates the gnawing fear that I’m going to release SC to a resounding silence. Eek.

Of course, I have a tendency toward self-flagellation.

When I’m well rested and feeling positive, I see 2014 differently. I’m working for a great company that helped me get back on my feet, financially, one which encourages my game development efforts. And I have a wonderful girlfriend who is incredibly supportive of my dreams.

The decision to iterate and improve aspects of System Crash has resulted in a marked improvement to the game. The presentation of the story and world is far more engaging and interactive, and there’s a lot more content. I managed to write 21k words of story and dialogue in total, about the length of a short story. And my revitalized finances have allowed me to commission new, world-class background illustrations that flesh out some of the areas that I felt were lacking, bringing the world of System Crash to rich, vibrant life.

(Click for larger)

MapCompare

StoryCompare

The game is almost done. It’ll be out shortly, for real this time, and by this time next year, I’ll be writing about my progress on Game 2! And I’m bursting with ideas for what comes next! Really, I have a document full of ideas for new game projects.

I’m right on the verge of achieving something I’ve dreamed about my entire life, releasing my own commercial game, one completely of my own design! I’m proud of what I built, and excited for what comes next!

And sucking at marketing is something you can improve, it’s not like people not having heard of your game is a terminal condition. You can fix that. It’s something I can work on and improve at, over time. This first game is about learning, more than anything, and the areas where I make the biggest mistakes are the areas where I can learn the most.

Most importantly, I’ve learned how to wrestle with the doubt, anxiety and weariness that beset anyone doing anything creative. Resilience, the ability to persevere in the face of hardship and doubt, the thing that psychologists call ‘grit’, is one of the most important traits to develop. I’m building that endurance! Again, it comes back to doing, rather than thinking about doing.

2014. The third year of my adventure. What a year it was. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

9 replies
  1. GhanBuriGhan says:

    Three’s the charm. You took so long that in the meantime I have all but given up gaming (lack of time, also started doing music again – even less gaming time). I’ll still get yours though.

    Reply
  2. Kris says:

    So, wondering what you’ve tried so far for marketing? I know you must read all the Kickstarter postmortems, which often go over broader marketing efforts (successes and failures). Those improved graphics are stellar!

    Reply
  3. Flashback says:

    “And I’m bursting with ideas for what comes next!”

    How about something that starts with “scars”, ends with “war”? And no, I don’t mean starting a revolution in South Africa.

    Reply
  4. gareth says:

    Flashback – Scars of War is, sadly, too large in scope to take on at this point. I need to be working full time, and have a team behind me. So until those conditions are met, I’ll be working on smaller projects in the hope of building up to it. (Which isn’t to say I won’t work on smaller RPG projects).

    Ghan – Thanks man! Appreciate that. 🙂

    And I know what you mean, in trying to create a game I all but gave up playing games. I made time to over the holiday and found the old joy again. It helped that 2014 had some great releases. Now, I’m trying to make sure I play regularly. I think it’s important for both my wellbeing and as a designer.

    Kris – Honestly, not much hey. I’ve spoken about it on this blog, twitter, Facebook and a few sites. I should have been more consistent with my blogging, talked about dev more, and reached out to media sites more.

    I kind of hesitated to contact people until I had something to show, then I hesitated until it was polished enough to make a good impression. I was afraid of there not being enough to keep people coming back, and didn’t want to waste what might be my only opportunity to make a good first impression. So I kept putting it off. And now here we are.

    It was fairly foolish. I’m going to try be better about it in 2015.

    Reply
  5. Daniel says:

    Sorry about the late reply, but i do love the mass effect look of the buildings. you remember those towering skyscrapers in Freedom’s Progress in ME1?

    My of my favorite types of architecture in scifi.

    P.S cant wait to get back into zbrush and make some beautiful buildings. :))

    Reply
  6. gareth says:

    Indeed! And thanks Daniel, I’m glad they’re evocative!

    You must post some of your work when you’re feeling comfortable with the tools, I’d love to see it!

    Reply
  7. Daniel says:

    Will do :), my hard surface modeling skills are pretty good, but my organic modeling tends to look like a living poo lol.

    Reply
  8. Berry says:

    Success is a series of failues. If that is true, then you are closer to success than most people will ever be.

    Reply

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