Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Tips For Part-Time Indies

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 17, 2011

So here’s an article for those who want to make games as indies, but are somewhat addicted to things like eating and can’t yet quit the day job:

“Indie and a Day Job: Making It Work” at Gamasutra

He’s got some great suggestions here, to which I’d like to add a few of my own:

#1 – Make a regular schedule, if the day job allows. It’s a lot easier to work on the game at night (or in the early morning) if it’s part of a regular pattern or habit.

#2 – Set deadlines, and be accountable to someone for them. Accountable to your team, your spouse, a friend over email – report on the status, why you missed your deadline (oh, wait, you mean sometimes you actually meet them? Cool!), etc. Deadlines work.

#3 – Although your work may be primarily at night, don’t work when exhausted and nodding off. You are just wasting time. I know this from bitter experience, though I don’t know if I have entirely learned the lesson, as I still do this.

#4 – Keep a task list, and refer to it often. I just use a text file, or a spreadsheet (Google Docs is good for this).

#5 – Spend your first 5-10 minutes of your working time *planning*. Refer to the notes he mentions in the article, or the task list in #4, and decide your approach. I waste a LOT of time spinning my wheels after finishing a task figuring out what I’m going to do next, and this helps me curb that.

Be sure and check out the link he has to Steve Streeting’s blog post as well. There are more tips to maintaining work flow in an environment that doesn’t allow you to often get in / stay in “the zone.”


Filed Under: Game Development, Programming - Comments: 12 Comments to Read

  • Spencer L. said,

    Nice, this is very helpful. I’m going to attempt to keep it regular and steady. Oh, I am certainly guilty for ‘spinning my wheels’ quite more than I am comfortable to saying. Then I excuse myself in that I am ‘testing extensively’. Needless, to say the least.

    For keeping a task list, all I have set out is a design document on a text file placed in DropBox. I refer from time to time, and it allows multiple users access to the file for clarifying collaborative efforts. Now, you have me thinking on a more appropriate task list that I could compile for immediate and short-term tasks.

    Deadlines…hmm. Procrastination is largest crippling force that hinders a ton of what I work on. The only I might be able to succeed in this, is to set many smaller goals to possibly ‘short-circuit’ my lax habits.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah, I find my worst productivity occurs when I don’t think anybody will care if I miss my goals or not. “So what if I don’t get this feature done tonight?” Do that for a few nights in a row, and suddenly you’ve got a couple of weeks with little to show for ’em.

  • Spencer Lee said,

    Yeah, it kind of feels like ‘meh’ when that mood settles in.

    I suppose since that these projects are usually our own. And often, with little outside support it can be…’depressing’, should I say? It can be hard to be motivated with the thought of uncertainty and disappointment. However, whenever we work on a project and it is not our own, yet we are responsible for it, there can a different mindset that can cause people to feel compelled to work more diligently on it. At least, that is how I feel. It feels much more rewarding to serve someone else other than ourselves. In a way, we could say that we are serving the people who would buy what we make. That, I think, is a mindset that everybody ought to explore.

  • McTeddy said,

    Woohooo! I do most of these things… yet… I am still… failing miserably…

    I’d probably add two things to the list:

    1. Limit Distractions. If you are sitting next to your XBox it is far too easy to play a “just a few” minutes.

    2 Make sure people you live with understand you are WORKING.
    Most people don’t understand making a game is hard work, and very time consuming. If they don’t take your second job seriously, they will pull you from it whenever they feel like it.
    This can kill both productivity and motivation.

    Number two is seriously a killer on my end.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    My problem is more #1 than #2. My wife is really good about leaving me alone when I’m working – she’s awesome. But I do find it very, very easy to seek out distractions. I mean, my work PC (at home) is also my gaming PC. And I’ve gotten some really cool indie game betas lately. I can play ’em really quick, for just a few minutes (honest!), and… and hey, I can even post a blog article about them later and call it “working…”

  • McTeddy said,

    Yep. I had that problem at one time to.

    I think someone here actually gave me the advice to create a second profile on my PC that doesn’t have access to my games. Whenever I need to work, I swap over to the work profile.

  • UDM said,

    By the way, digressing from the main article a little: you might want to consider inviting the developer of Darkwind (Sam) as a guest writer for this too. He’s a full-time lecturer at a University in Ireland; Darkwind’s more like his side-hobby.

  • Will said,

    #1 + #2 = die at 30 years old from heart stroke

    Sorry guys – human needs 8 hours sleep/day.
    It’s not possible in long term to code until 2am and go to work at 8am.


  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I can’t sleep 8 hours a night anymore, unless I’m sick or really fatigued. If I go to sleep an hour early, I wake up – fully awake – an hour early the next morning. I don’t even need an alarm clock most of the time, now.

    On the other hand, I sleep HARD. I used to be a very light sleeper and would thrash around a lot at night. And I had problems with insomnia. Nothing like that now, but I only sleep about 5.5 hours a night.

  • skavenhorde said,


    Well I’m 35 and still alive and been sleeping less than 8 hours a day most of my adult life. My physicals say I’m fine, but what do doctors know. They’re such quacks 😛

    Sleep is overrated. There is just too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    By my understanding, the 8-hour-sleep thing was largely a product of the industrial revolution with 8 hour shifts (Good ol’ Robert Owen with his “Eight Hours Labor, Eight Hours Recreation, Eight Hours Rest” cry). Prior to that, sleep was largely determined by season, limited primarily by daylight.

    They have done studies that show that too little sleep or too much sleep can be detrimental, though the specifics always vary. But apparently getting less than 6 (oops!) or more than 8 or 9 (oops!) for adults can be a bad thing. But largely I think the body will do what it can to adapt to a reasonable schedule. The trick is, it needs a schedule – a pattern it can adapt to.

  • xenovore said,

    I consider ToDoList to be just about the best task management tool out there (especially since it’s free). Tons of features, clean interface, customizable, multi-user support… and with source code. Give it a try.