In Unqualified Advice #2, I define myself and my company by extension, as failures. That may seem weird. It is. Doubly so when you realize that we haven’t even done anything yet. My drive to test failure is not meant to spur the creation of low-quality products. Instead it is a means to work on our operational mechanics. I want to know our tolerances in addition to the market’s. Until you create something tangible, everything is unknown. Now that we’re shooting for an episodic release, it’s a bit easier to validate this line of thought. At a minimum, I’ll extend my prior maxim.
3. Success and Failure are extremely relative. Take advantage of your reality.
When I see myself as a failure, I do not do so in a self-defeatist’s manner. I say that because I’m fully aware that I have not finished or even attempted to reach my final vision. I’m doing everything that I can within current limitations, but I know that may not amount to much initially. Coming to terms with that declaration is tremendously important to my creative process. Primarily because of my destructively obsessive nature. I want to revise every little detail in a vain attempt to create a mythically perfect game. However, such incessant revision is inefficient at this stage. I do not have all the resources required to make such a game. If that were my initial pursuit, I’d be mired in this project for years with little chance of creating something worthwhile. Satisfying that fervor remains my overarching goal, but I understand that I need to be judicious until everything is ready. Ultimately the best games are the ones that people can actually play, interact with and criticize. An un-presentable idea is worthless for a budding game developer. It’s important for beginner to take projects to market. That’s the only way you can honestly learn which aspects of your operation demand improvement.
I theorize that fledgling creators need increased focus on frequency at the cost of perfection. Creators at the very least should live up to their title and produce something that is publicly tangible. In the beginning stages, the more the better. Now, there are actual repercussions to this concept. You’ll have tighter delivery windows. You’ll need more efficient planning and rapid judgment. It turns out that this method stresses many of the weak-points typically found in independent gaming. The majority of independent creators are said to possess great drive and imagination; however, I’d also posit that the majority are largely detached from certain realities. Or perhaps I’m just projecting? Personally, I always get caught scheming up some brilliantly overblown idea only to realize that it doesn’t fit our current projects or capabilities.
There’s nothing wrong with that sort of radical dreaming. Ambition is tremendously important in creative pursuits. When you’re starting out, odds are it’s your only reliable fuel source. However, blind ambition becomes increasingly wasteful as you near a project’s completion. Ideas often require the most focus right before you finally turn them into valid expressions. Once an engine is built, the story is written, and the art is set, what will your final design choices be? Will you proceed with your simple turn-based combat or will you scrap it to create a hyper-complicated pseudo real time battle system? Will you really have enough content? Should you rewrite a weak plot point or eliminate it entirely?
There are no easy answers, but I do have a suggestion.
A rapid release schedule prevents stagnation around unworkable refinements and unreachable milestones, which enables the production team to learn the most important elements of procedure. You could rightly decry that as nothing more than opinion, but it’s one that I find incredibly logical for an independent developer. Had we held to our initial plan, we wouldn’t have anything available until the end of 2012. Our first release would be much less modest in that scenario, but what would we learn working in such perfect isolation? A lot, but not nearly as much as we’d learn from the public response. Heck, even a complete nonresponse would be a worthwhile lesson.
Thus, we’re testing our systems, acquiring audience/market feedback and tweaking our ultimate direction. We’re not afraid as one misstep will not end our dreams. Our projects can break even quickly as we are still operating as weekend/weeknight hobbyists. Time is the only sincere investment we’ve planned for the next year. We’re looking to test our processes and deliver the single most important aspects of our game. In an industry dominated by increasingly refined 3D art and hand-crafted 2D animation, creating a nonstandard text-based game appears suicidal. I’ve no doubt that a good portion of the market won’t consider a text game in their next gaming session. Failure to us is inevitable in some capacity, more so in the present stage. The reality appears cruel, but it is wholly logical and partially incomplete. You have to understand that even in its limited capacity, our text-based, rapid-release version of Vagrant Dreamtide will give our ideas a time, place, and reason to be considered. To us those base considerations just might form the perfect definition of success.
For now at least.