If you are a new committed developer and you only read one blog post I do, then I suggest this be the one.
We have been pretty much working on projects for the last five years without any significant gap. This process has taken us on journeys of exhilaration right through to utter despair and burnout on a regular basis. I want to try and talk openly about this process and what it does to people.
Me are Shaun are alike in that, we truly find joy in this passion. However, unlike many indie devs who are so determined that they take the plunge and go full time working on a project, we have always attempted to work around day jobs. Our release output is high and other indie devs are surprised when we tell them we have jobs. I can’t speak for Shaun’s reasons but for me, the idea of full time indie dev is tempting, but the fear of not having income is too great. Perhaps I just don’t quite have the undoubted belief in what we are doing - or perhaps it’s the knowledge that living in London without steady income is near impossible. However, I also think that for me, it’s also a fear that going full time might kill the passion. I’m quite social, I enjoy talking to people and I know that isolation would not do me much good in the long run. That being said, it is painful being drained by a day job and then knowing your remaining precious hours must be devoted to the passion and that’s the focus of this post.
The tunnel vision I developed working on Legend of Hand for three years, lead to a great deal of neglect in other areas of life. It was an all or nothing project, a project I had to create for myself. I was proud at how in the zone I got. Even when out socializing it would play on my mind, I needed to get back to it. Every hour not dedicated to climbing this mountain felt like an agonising waste. However, working on it with such devotion blinded me other areas of my life that needed attention. I let friendships slip. I became boring to be around, always fixated on the project. Most importantly, I didn’t give my relationships with those closest to me the attention they needed. I let my personal life crumble away slowly. Suddenly, I turned around and there was no one to share any sense of accomplishment with. I was burnt out and exhausted. And for what, the project had not changed my life. And because of that I dove straight into the next one, to justify the ongoing vision.
As our game Sumatra: Fate of Yandi (the 4th game in a row that we have worked on) nears its final stages I have really started to unravel. At this stage the project causes me mental pain to work on. Don’t get me wrong, this project has been one of the most fun to do- it has been an exercise in tranquillity compared to Legend of Hand. However, a breaking point was reached, a moment where I had to step back and take stock of my life. I’m going through this process now. Luckily, I just about pushed through the bulk of Sumatra: Fate of Yandi before this hit me. It’s not that I have stopped working completely, I still spend several hours a week on it. But that infectious intensity that I had for so long has currently deserted me. I look forward to the passion returning in the near future.
I’ve read dev blogs that talk about this before - the importance of maintaining friendships and relationships is as important as rest days. In fact, I would say enforced rest days can add value to the project and allow you to digest the joy of the process. This is particularly important during the crunch period because that’s where your health and mental state can really come unstuck. We have heard all about the damage done in the triple A and film industry by such intense working patterns and it’s no different for your own work. It’s not easy to take a step back; you will feel that you are just slowing down your train. But you are in this for the long haul - you must work on preserving your love, health and state of mind for this campaign!