Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Finding Your Indie Rhythm

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 11, 2013

To be completely honest, I’m not sure how successful I’d be right now as a full-time indie. I still struggle with schedule. I struggle with my rhythm. I usually find an awesome (but exhausting) pace towards the end of a project, but it is a little too crazy to sustain it all the time. I couldn’t handle it.

But I have a tough time in lower gear. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes it doesn’t. And I worry – if I were to go full time (which I totally couldn’t afford right now, anyway, so it’s not a pressing concern), would I use my extra time efficiently enough? If I could work 45 or 60 hours a week on my game, could I actually get things done 2-4 times faster than my curremt, 15-20 hour weeks (or less, given the last couple of months)?

The trick is finding my rhythm, and I have trouble finding it. It’s not the same for everyone. Dave Toulouse recently wrote at Gamasutra about this very issue in “Part-Time Indie: Making the Most of the Time Available.” It’s a good read. I know Dave (hi, Dave!), and we frequently commiserate about the same challenges. Making a go at it as a part-time indie has its pros and cons. On the pro side – you don’t have to worry about your game dev habit not paying the rent. On the con side, it can be an enormous struggle to maintain motivation, especially when you realize that you’d make twice as much money for your time and effort flipping burgers as McDonald’s in your off hours.

Yeah, shockingly enough, most indie games do not make Minecraft-level sales. Or even Dustforce-level sales. A lot of the time, their sales are like this. Or this. Or this. So money’s not much of a motivation. It has to come from somewhere else.  And that somewhere else may be pretty far away from the couch when you finally get home from an exhausting day on the job.

When you have a family (or have – or are trying to have – a social life), it gets trickier still, because you need to be flexible and arrange your schedule around other requirements. That makes establishing a habit more challenging. I’ve opted for the late-night thing, when I’m more likely to be undisturbed, but that’s got its own inherent problems. Namely, while I’m awake and alert enough to enjoy a good game or movie — sometimes — it’s tough to concentrate and focus that late. If I get into the “zone” I do great, but otherwise, it’s not efficient time.

Sometimes I find the rhythm – the “groove” – and other times I spend days and even weeks “puttering.” It’s hard. I applaud Dave for finding something that works for him. That might not work for everyone. One thing I would like to note here – something he does that I found works very well for me – is how well planning activities in advance really, REALLY helps. Taking the time to map out your efforts in advance does wonders to make your game dev time more efficient.

Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Dave Toulouse said,

    Hi! 🙂

    Even though my technique do helps me I still run into trouble from time to time. Well more often than I’d like to be honest.

    It often happens when I write on my list a thing that sounds like this: “Think about gameplay in global map”. It’s completely generic and vague but often occurs after I find out that my original idea just doesn’t work or ain’t fun. Some stuff can’t be figured until you actually experimented it and when you’re part time it can means that for 2-3 weeks you have just tried out bad plans, something that might take 2-3 days doing this full-time.

    That’s when the motivation gets badly hurt. I’m quite disciplined to take a pen, sit and think about x,y or z issue in my game but it’s still fragile. It takes just a bad bug in the day job and you’re already exhausted when the day is over at 5PM and there goes your “thinking time” for your game in the evening. And I know that if I don’t figure something before my full-day on Friday that I won’t be very productive.

    But it’s the price to pay to not have to worry about games paying the rent. One day I’ll be able to deal with I guess (probably once one of my game make more than $1,000 which should help …) but for now it’s still the lesser of 2 evils.

  • Maklak said,

    What I’m about to write has nothing to do with the topic of this post, but the forum doesn’t appear to be working.

    You want some puzzles for FK2, right? And your day job is making crane simulators. So how about FK2 has some kind of crane puzzle? Not the lame “always flip any levers you see and it will be to your advantage”, that the modern games have adopted, but something with several levers where the player can screw up and for example destroy what he’s trying to manipulate.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Dave – That (plus the trip to Bangladesh and the difficulty getting back into the swing of things when I got back) is EXACTLY what happened to me, too. I have a goal that’s clearly too large to be done in a couple of days, and I didn’t break it down because it was “too obvious.” But then I spin for 2 weeks doing little more than “puttering” on the giant task that should have been done in 2 weeks. So obviously, I need to get far more specific….

    @Maklak – the forums are down because I haven’t developed the courage and wherewithal to come up with a more permanent solution – either archiving it all and killing it once and for all, or finding another solution. The spambots broke through all my defenses and it became more than I could manage.

    Anyway – yes, I’m always looking for puzzles, and I might do something like that. I’ve got some pretty good rope code for Unity I should do something with. 🙂 I don’t want to do anything that requires great eye-hand coordination, which would be primarily in the realm of what I could easily simulate. But it would certainly be something interesting to play around with.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Are you able to try for your forums the scheme twentysided uses for that blog? A check box you have to check to prove you’re not a robot? (Or maybe you already tried that.)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yup, I had a couple of custom measures like that. They lasted for a couple of years. Not sure what changed, but one day even my maintenance tools wouldn’t work without crashing / timing out.