I recently took part in a panel at this years Develop conference in Brighton. A lot of the topics centred on the subject of work-for-hire and more importantly, how do you balance that along with creating games that your company set out to make. This is a subject that is very close to my heart at the moment because in my particular circumstance this balance has been lost and it’s mostly leaning towards the work-for-hire camp. This was not by choice.
In previous articles I’ve talked about how I use work-for-hire to fund my company Xiotex Studios in between game releases. None of the games to date have made enough money to allow the company to be self-sustaining. So when a high paying contract comes my way I have to take it seriously and in most cases take it.
Making a releasing a game part time
Using this model of work I have been able continue working on Xiotex Studios games. An example of this was when I was contracted to work on http://www.ea.com/create for EA. It meant a commute into Guildford every day and I made use of that commute to work on a game and during the course of the contract I was able to complete and release http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/koan/id366816832?mt=8 on iPhone. Because it was a part-time game it’s not the best game I could have made but it sold enough and has over 11831 unique scores in its high-score table, not a top seller but a game I was able to develop and release which is an achievement.
The end of balance
Wind on a couple of months and I am approached to work on an Advergame and I am intrigued with this concept so I agreed to do it. It would be this game that would destroy the balance completely.
The client was convinced that the game was very close to completion so in the last month I put in an extra effort and pulled stupid hours and days in order to get that extra polish in and make sure that as many bugs as possible were eliminated. In the end it meant working something like 47 days in a row with no breaks save maybe one day. A lot of those days were 9am to midnight type hours but I felt it would be worth it because as soon as the game was finished and handed over to the client there would be plenty of time to rest.
It’s these stupid hours and days the effectively killed off any development time that could be dedicated to building games for Xiotex Studios and it’s something I regret. While the contract paid it managed to throw my original plans onto the scrap heap and now it’s time to pull them out again much of the original drive has been lost and all I want to do now is rest.
So if there is anything that should be taken from this is guard your time and if you are tempted to take on work-for-hire then do so with completely open eyes and really judge if it is something you can manage side-by-side with your other projects. Don’t underestimate how much of your time it will suck away from you and also how much an effect this can have on your morale.