I’ve been in the business of making video games for about 2 years now and it’s the kind of work that is very meaningful and satisfying. In those 2 years, I’ve found it to be the most exciting time of my life and it still continues to remain exciting. But of course I won’t claim it to be the perfect job. Far from it. I will admit that there are some moments of weakness. Like when our revenue is not meeting up to expectations or when there are not enough downloads to a game we worked so hard on for almost half a year.
To add salt to the wound, my friends and family tell me that the “work” I’m doing is all fun and play and not real work and I must not be stressing at all. To keep the conversation positive and not too emotional, I’ll usually agree with them and say it is really fun. But at the back of my mind, I wanted to tell stories of the not-so-fun parts of being in the business of fun.
So thankfully we have this blog and this is my opportunity to share with you 3 of the most difficult things that I had to overcome while working in an independent videogame studio.
Mistakes are okay! Just make sure to learn from `em
In the beginning when we just started making games, I’ll admit that I’ve done some pretty amateurish mistakes from small ones to really big ones that would really disrupt the progress of the project.
When I was handling the production of one of our earlier titles, One Punch Hero, I was really antsy to get the game released and I would ask the developer to rush and cut some corners on some features so we can launch ASAP. This would unfortunately bite us back really bad. When we wanted to update the game, since I asked the developer to rush, his code was a little messy and it was hard for him to add new features. Ultimately, he told me that if we wanted to add more stuff, we had to do a total re-write. So we ended up just dropping the updates and continued to other projects instead.
Lesson learned! That’s why usually when we start a new project, I make sure that there’s a solid plan to start from and everybody get’s a say on the production.
Keep your chin up and keep going
It’s very easy to fall into the temptation of self doubt when things start to go wrong. A lot of negative emotions will run through me and I will admit, there are really those periods that have made me doubt myself for a moment and it get’s a bit overwhelming.
But all this negativity goes away whenever we get together as a team and try to find out what’s really wrong with our game and how we can fix it. A perfect example for this was when we were in the early stages of development of Darkest Nightmare. The prototype showed some real good potential, but there was still a lot lacking. Jed proposed that we all give it a few days to think about some mechanics and discuss it when we got together again for our weekly meeting. On that meeting, everybody shared their ideas and we started cherry picking those that are really good and doable within a one month time-frame.
I really wish sometimes that we had a video camera to record these moments because, I really felt the room energize and I could feel that everybody was really excited to complete the project. The drive to persevere becomes easier with people who are as passionate and not to mention more talented you are and I’m lucky to have a team who are exactly that.
Giving the gift of trust
Time and time again on our blog, Jed has mentioned the importance of trust and how difficult it is to sometimes just let go. As stated on one of his posts: “if you’re used to doing things yourself, you may find it difficult to let others truly earn that trust.”. With a Filipino-Chinese upbringing and most especially your family owns a business, you will be taught that you must rely on yourself on everything and not to rely on others because they will not do a better job than you. So believe me, having to give my trust to others was a very difficult thing to do. But the more I did it, the more I saw better results.
Admittedly, it is a very conscious effort on my part and caught myself going back to the “old ways” when I was assigning the task of making a Facebook Ad to Kristine. I told her to basically copy a layout I found and modify it for our own game. It came out just okay and needed a lot of work, but I was struggling to communicate on what changes I wanted.
Luckily, Erick swooped in and just told her to redo everything but this time he gave the general objectives of what the ad should achieve. Within an hour or so Kristine was able to produce an image for the ad that actually drove a lot of installs when we ran the campaign. Giving trust is indeed difficult, but when given to the right people, it will be definitely worth it.
So there you have it, making games is not all… Well, fun and games. But with all the struggles and hard lessons to learn, I’m still thankful for the opportunity and will be looking forward to more hard lessons to learn in the future.