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Climbing Mt. Everest in sneakers and shorts: My attempt at going pro

ceosol

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I did hear a voice that suggested to just give up this whole game design a few times last week, but so far I haven't really considered that. Especially now that I am getting close to...

This is a very powerful statement. The same thing constantly creeps up on me...
What if I made a mistake leaving my profession?
What if I never find another contract?
What if I never get recognized (as all people from all art forms suffer with)?
Can I survive for one more month?

Indie game dev is an incredibly tough job. Just focus on your passion for doing this type of work and do what you have to do to get by. Keep at it and thanks so much for writing this "blog".

KramerGames

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  • Posts: 332
It's always the same when I'm working on something art-related: My instinct can't help but imagine big success, and my mind has to reason with it and point out how unlikely big success it, but of course, there will be some success. And in the end even my mind was overestimating the success... I guess it's human.

In the case of my first flashgame, the rat shooter called Pasta Heroes, it turned out to be the same, though the failure was beyond anything I had expected. I uploaded it first to Kongregate, got less than 100 plays and a rating of 2/5 stars, and not a single comment that could have helped me improve it.

Luckily the Stencyl community was really helpful, various people took the time to point out what I should improve, and I did my best to follow their advice. Now I just uploaded my game to Newgrounds, thinking I had learned from my mistakes, only to make a bigger one. I wanted to test the ad function, and I thought it would freeze the game. It doesn't, and I had placed it where any click will open a link to my site. I can only imagine how annoyed people were by that, and I seriously fear that I won't pass the judgement...

Things I have learned after 3 months of working at least 8 hours a day and no such thing as weekends:

- I suck a lot more than I think
-The internet can really bring you down
- I should have made tiny games at first, even if I didn't like them, but to get my feet wet
- This forum right here is where I will present my games first, because the feedback was really good and in other places non existent or just insulting
- I still want to continue on this journey


And of course I would really appreciate some help to get my game passed on Newgrounds:

http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/677427
Parasites United  (Idle Parasite Game)

merrak

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  • Posts: 1280
-The internet can really bring you down

The internet is good at doing that :P

Although easier said than done, you really do have to dismiss comments that contribute nothing of value. I've run into a lot of trolls on NG in particular.

I must've missed the original post you said you were using games to promote your novels the first time I read through this thread. That's pretty interesting, as it's the reason I jumped into game development with Stencyl. It took me a while to realize I should be working on telling stories with my games, rather than the game just being a static ad for a book.

Games I've made that have told stories have earned far better ratings than anything else I've done, so that might be some advice to consider. If you want to promote a book, don't pass up an opportunity to hook a potential reader into its world.

gurigraphics

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It's normal. If you do not have haters and enemies in your way, is because you're in the wrong way.
Also not is quick to balance a game that you have no previous experience.
After about 10 games like this, that you come to understand the world from a Tower Defense.

I think what is lacking in the game is to improve the level design.

The first stage must be much shorter. The goal is the player to understand how the game works. I almost gave up before seeing that there was a store.

The second phase must present more variations. Every phase must be quite different from each other. If the player does not get curious about what comes next, he gives up. It's like a movie or story.

You can also place a more big or accurate aiming. On the internet players just want to win, they want to progress, they do not want to test your skills. The experience of exploding easily several rats is better than having to aim and kill a few.

If the player does not conquer anything in the game, he also gives up. The difficulty should come much later after he won several things. You can make the first giant rats. And placing the minors in difficult phases.

Study carefully the game: plants vs zombies

iii

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You haven't reach the Summit.
You only just arrived at the Base Camp.
Pick up your gears and keep it up. Next stop, C1.

ceosol

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  • Posts: 2027
Quote
Things I have learned after 3 months of working at least 8 hours a day and no such thing as weekends:

- I suck a lot more than I think
-The internet can really bring you down
- I should have made tiny games at first, even if I didn't like them, but to get my feet wet
- This forum right here is where I will present my games first, because the feedback was really good and in other places non existent or just insulting
- I still want to continue on this journey

I really enjoy reading you blog on being indie. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one with these struggles. I just had this conversation twice last week with different people. When I first started, I was thinking that I would be creating these massive games and making a decent living after two years. It took me nine months (of not working full time on it) to come to the realization that took you three months (of working full time). It wasn't until I realized how much I sucked that things started to change for me. Even two years in, I am still not making massive games - barely scratching the surface - and I am just making enough money to get by. Now I think about two-years-ago-me and I think about how naive that guy was.

- Yes, you aren't as good as you thought you were (I wasn't either)
- Yes, the internet sucks (don't get wrapped up in what people say - take it as a learning experience)
- Yes, make tiny games first (if you want exposure, smaller games will start getting your name out there and make for excellent portfolio pieces)
- Yes, this forum is a better place for testing mechanics than publishing to Kong or Newgrounds
- Yes, you should continue. This small dose of reality is sobering, but it was good for you to experience it. You will get better at this. Things will get better for you :)

I'm sending you a private message. Check your inbox when you get a chance.

KramerGames

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  • Posts: 332
A week has passed since the reality of trying to become an Indie-Gamedeveloper has kicked me straight in the balls... After I had published my game on Kongregate and got bad reviews (2.5/5) and very few plays, I tried to improve it and published it on Newgrounds, where the reviews were slightly better (2.9/5). I tried to look for feedback as much as I could and implemented it, most importantly reducing the difficulty, shorter levels and a nicer interface/menu.
I felt like writing this game off as a learning experience, and didn't even want to make the mobile version. But since Google Play only charges 25$ lifetime for a developer account and I had already subscribed to the premium version of Stencyl, I figured I might as well learn how to do that as well. It didn't really take long, with a big thanks to Ceosol who had mentioned that I should use „when mouse is down“ and not „when mouse is pressed“ for mobile. I did test the incorrect behavior and it was very unreliable indeed.

I spent quite some time to correctly set up IAP, namely the option to turn off ads for my game. I got really close, the only problem was that my test account couldn't sign into the appstore while playing and when I started googling for solutions, I had enough. The minimum price set by google for any IAP is  0.50€ in Germany and even 0.99$ in the States, and I'm the first to admit that my game is not worth that much. So instead of spending more time testing it out, and of course this would have to be tested more than anything else, I'm moving on. I just have to figure out how to get the height of the ads so I can adjust my menu bar...

I already started on my next game, another shooter.  I spent a lot of time on figuring out the mechanics of a fixed shooter, so hopefully this time I can focus more on game design and graphics. I was going to make a fighting game but my drawing is still too bad for that, it is freaking hard to draw specific faces, even if it is a cartoon. I am working through my drawing books, but it takes time. Meanwhile I will make a game with monsters :-)

Since I found out that the things I don't know about game design could fill a book, I have decided to read that book. My first choice was “Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design”, though I didn't get very far yet. Next on my list is “The art of game design”. I might try a book specifically on flash or mobile games, though I assume most of them are very new and with books I like to let time decide which ones are really good.
Parasites United  (Idle Parasite Game)

ceosol

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  • Posts: 2027
Unless they changed it, Newgrounds (and perhaps Kong too) start at 2.5 rating. Your rating goes up accordingly based off of the ranking of the people voting. I think it is there to prevent people having their friends vote 5 a bunch of times.

It might be easier just to have a popup ad after every two or three levels rather than resizing things for a banner.

I don't know if I would categorize your game as a shooter. I think it falls more into the bug smasher style. Instead of bugs, you have mice. When I think of shooter, I think of the player having the ability to move.

gurigraphics

  • Posts: 687
In my experience, the launch of the game decide the success of the game.
If you launched a game not very good, the rating will not improve much - or as it could. Due to the herd effect or social proof.

For me this is a shooting tower defense game.

KramerGames

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  • Posts: 332
It's been 4 months now since I've started my little journey, and it's time to pack up my tents and leave. My total revenue is less than 1$, after hundreds of hours. I would have made more money scavenging empty bottles, a lot more money.
What finally made me end my journey was the discussion in the Journal for my next game Herb Defender. The gist of it was pretty much that I was attempting games that are too complex and graphic heavy, even though I suck at drawing. It was suggested (by some of the most experienced and successful members here) that I make smaller games with simpler graphics. After thinking about it for days, I am now absolutely convinced that I should not to that. I want to make games I would be playing myself and where I can let my creativity flow, and I want to practice and experiment with drawings so one day I can make games that really stand out.
Furthermore, I am tired of the pressure of being a freelancer that barely makes a living. I have been doing that for ten years now, and I have written one and a half novels under pressure (not the same pressure of freelancing, but rather an “added pressure”). I nearly went insane, and I do not want to repeat that with making games. Therefore I have decided to look for a job here in Germany, preferably one where I will have time to work on my writing and drawing, meaning a night job as a security guard or at a reception. Even if that doesn't work out, I'll take whatever I can get.
I will continue making games, probably for the rest of my life, but I will go at it without pressure. I will take my time, make the games that I want to make and work hard on my drawing skills to create something unique. 

I will continue posting here, but this is no longer “Climbing Mt. Everest in sneakers and shorts”, it is rather “going back to Germany and look for some decent shoes and do some training”.

Parasites United  (Idle Parasite Game)

ceosol

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  • Posts: 2027
I am sad to see this. I was really hoping that you would succeed - I wanted your games to get out there and have the exposure that you needed.

I totally understand the desire to make games that you want to play. I started out the same way wanting to make massive RPGs. After four months of being full time, just like you, I realized that I could not sustain myself by doing that. I turned to contract work because I needed to make this a sustainable business. Getting $1-2 on web portals is not sustainable and I do not have the advertising connections (even after almost 2 years) to go about publishing my own games.

Selling small games makes this sustainable. Many of those games I never play, but I do the work because it affords me another month of trying again. Almost two years in and I finally have some time to work on my own projects. Being successful as an indie requires a long time of building up your skills/exposure or tons of luck.

Hopefully you will continue this log as a hobbyist indie developer.

KramerGames

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  • Posts: 332
Little round up of the past few months: After realizing that making a living with game design was just as likely as becoming the heavyweight champion in boxing, I needed a job. I had the genius idea of becoming a night auditor in a hotel so I could write and learn how to draw while getting paid. Unfortunately the hotel manager was one step ahead of me, and the job included a shit load of paperwork. Working at night proved to be harder than I thought as well, I pretty much spent the entire day in zombie-mode trying to catch some sleep. Long story short, I quit that job. My plan was to go to New Zealand and do some fruit picking etc, but a family emergency held me back, and now Im pretty close to an arrival of a relative I haven't seen in years, and with Christmas just around the corner, I might as well stay. While I have applied as a dishwasher for events, I still have to hear back from them, therefore I have some time to make games.

The long break was good to gain perspective, I no longer insist on making games that are too big for me to ever finish. Since I came horribly short of my goal of making a living with games, I scratched that idea entirely. My focus will be on improving and learning step by step. I have come up with 3 simple games that build up on each other, mechanically speaking. The first one will be as simple as a clicker game, just a menu really, the second one will use a map and add some logistics, the third one will have simple placement of objects. Since they all use similar mechanics, I hope to spend the same time on each one, and I very much hope that I can finish each within 10 days.
Parasites United  (Idle Parasite Game)

ceosol

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  • Posts: 2027
Prototyping = good idea :)

I have 100's of prototypes made. I think that is a very smart plan for putting together ideas into a larger project.

detted

  • Posts: 36
Awesome! I'm glad to hear you are back on your horse again. And this time with perspective and a more down-to-earth approach. Very awesome indeed :)
Composer • Sound designer • Producer
www.tedwennerstrom.com
@TedWennerstrm

KramerGames

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  • Posts: 332
My newest attempt of climbing up that mountain (or pushing the rock up that mountain?) resulted in a very simple idle game. Graphics are pretty bad, the mechanics are even worse. And that's after redoing them completely because the first version was as resource intensive as it gets. The game is not very good, so at least this time I won't be surprised if it just disappears into oblivion like a stone thrown into the ocean. There was a bug when calculating offline production, and a rather hard to find one, so I figured I just publish it without and if anyone actually plays the game I can work on it. When I made my first game I spent so many damn hours adding this and that and in the end no one cared about the game anyway. I sure learned my lesson, and I am very happy to move on to the next game, another idle game but this time with a new mechanic (build troops and attack enemies). I have to admit I have some hope that this game won't just disappear into the stream of crappy games being published all the time. I am already working on it and designed the mechanics a lot better than my other games (using a lot more variables). I absolutely regret now that I spent so much time on my first and, after literally hundreds of hours, never finished game. The mechanics are so poor that it would be a huge waste of time to pick it up again. Looking back it's as if an untrained fatso had tried to run a marathon. At least I'm training now.

I am not sure when I will finish my next game, I am progressing a lot faster due to the improved mechanics, but I will be offline in 10 days until next year and travel right after that. I did cancel my New Zealand plans due to lack of money and the delay, and will fly to the Canary Islands instead. Flights are less than 100€ and I've found many options where I can work for food and accommodation. Maybe I can even find a job, though this might be a bit tough from what I've read. I really hope I can work on my game while I'm offline and upload it in early January before I chase the sun. I have no clue if I will have internet access or time after that (probably staying there until May).

Here's the game, the best part about it is the music and the icon, which I didn't make :-)

http://www.kongregate.com/games/BambooHutGames/kings-of-the-ocean


All in all my passion for making games is burning again and I feel like I might have a shot at actual happiness (that thing that all those smiling people have) if I could do that all day long.
Parasites United  (Idle Parasite Game)