My Gamedev Drought

There’s been quite a lot of silence on this blog recently. Mostly because this is a gamedev blog and in the last month I’ve done… no gamedev.

Maybe you’re kindly thinking it’s because I’m busy marketing or writing design documents but no, I kinda count those activities as gamedev too. Mostly because an indie game developer wears many hats.

Nope, no gamedev at all for me! Let’s see… last time I wrote a post about how I was taking part in the Public Domain Jam. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish the jam on schedule. I originally put it down to the jam finishing on a Friday night thus not having a full weekend to finish it.

But no, in truth even if I had those two extra days I still wouldn’t have been happy with my progress. No way would I have got the game to a finished state. Well, I could probably give it a start, a middle and an end but I wouldn’t feel I was doing the source material justice.

That source material in question was Kalevipoeg. The Estonian epic poem. I think I failed for a few reasons. Firstly I was too worried about doing a good job with the source material – this was my way to bring a bit of attention to Estonian folklore. Despite the fact that only a handful of people might play it, this was one of the overriding thoughts going through my mind at the time.

Another confidence hit came from hating my programmer art. I’m under no illusions about the quality of my art – I hated my Ludum Dare entry for ages until I forced myself to go back and redo the assets. By which time, despite having exactly the same gameplay I actually started to really like the game.

With Kalevipoeg I had done some basic artwork that I would “improve later” but that later never came due to the fact that I was so far off finishing the game. Another downfall for me was that everything was taking me so long to do. I used my own engine, and had a week to turn it into some kind of action rpg a bit like Legend of Zelda. I simply overestimated how much time I’d have that week. I’ve put the last stable version before I quit online. It’s not any good, but feel free to have a try.

My Kalevipoeg game
My Kalevipoeg game

After I had failed to finish my Public Domain Jam game I remembered that Kalevipoeg was supposed to be my May One Game a Month game. I had the idea that I would continue working on Turnstile Football while taking occasionally breaks to enter jams. Those jam games would be entered as my #1gam games. This worked really well for Ludum Dare but didn’t for the Public Domain Jam.

So, crazy me decided to do a quick game in just a few days so that I had something to submit for May’s One Game a Month. I saw that the theme was money, quickly came up with the idea of a game that lets you play as a money counterfeiter, became an instant expert on the subject by watching a couple of YouTube documentaries on it, then set about doing some art work for my game.

Because I was still in the “hating my own artwork” stage I thought it would be best to keep the artwork as simple as possible, so I decided to go with a ZX Spectrum aesthetic. Only a small colour palette and small screen resolution. I created my art assets fairly quickly which you can see below.

With all that ready I opened up Construct 2 and hoped to power through and make a game as quickly as possible, as this time I wasn’t making a new engine from scratch. Only I’ve never really used Construct 2 for anything very complex before, and when I say “complex” I mean more complex than my first ever Construct 2 game entitled “Easter”.

To cut a short story even shorter, I didn’t manage it. I flailed about a bit in Construct 2 and ran out of time again. I got some really good help from Jay X Townsend and Lisa Brown but sadly it just wasn’t enough.

After these two failures in quick succession I decided to take a week off from game developing. That week off has now become a month as of today. So I thought I might as well post about my game dev drought.

I’ve decided that what I would like to do instead of trying to enter jams is to work on my main project – Turnstile Football – and also spend a bit of time trying to learn Construct 2 and improving my art skills outside of the time constraints of a jam.

I’m hoping in July I can turn it around and gain a little of that confidence back. I never thought I was the worlds best game developer but I know I’m better than last month suggested.


2 thoughts on “My Gamedev Drought

  1. I had one of those not too long ago, except it was like 3 months instead of 1… And you know what got me out of it? Feedback. On Twitter, actually. Colleen from Adversary Games (@spazchicken) I think favorited a pic of one of my then-abandoned #1GAM games, and that sent a spark into the engine, so to speak, and got me wanting to work on it again. It was nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I think showing to other devs what you are currently working on can go a long way into motivating you to plow through the hard parts.

    It can also lead to some unexpected collaborations or ways to improve on the aspects you do not like in your games you did not thing about. So get your projects out there as much as you can. Every project hits a point where you just do not want to work on it anymore, but there is light on the other side of the tunnel! 😀

  2. People take breaks and vacations for a reason – even people who love what they do! It doesn’t have to be a failure, just a little time off to recharge.

    I took a year break from game development because I tried to do too much (both in and outside of game development). Even now, I am only slowly introducing myself as I try to find the balance between gamedev and sanity!

    Your plan to move forward with your main game while building other skills sounds good and look at it this way: By assessing the situation and forming a plan, you’ve already broke the chain and have done something gamedev related!

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