I am Amateur-iPhone-Developer, we are legion for we are many.

To us, spare time is the working day. To us, the journey is more important than the destination. To us, deadlines need not apply. We haven’t risked everything to follow our dreams. We still have a job. We still have a career*. We can fail and it doesn’t matter! So I say again -

Deadlines. Need. Not. Apply.

Until Now.

For Me.

And I blame it on the baby.

Putting the Prog into Sprog

I am assured that is an arm and not a witches nose.

In what I believe to be an AltDev first, I’m going to blog about how, the miracle of life has brought cataclysmic change to my poor little programming hobby.

You see that collection of splodges over to the right has just become my ultimate task master. Relaxing, snug in the warmth of my wife’s womb, it is blissfully unaware that it has just brought a real, hard, unavoidable, unmovable deadline into a world I thought safe from such unpleasant things.

To understand what this means, you really need to understand the background. You need to understand why that matters. Ultimately you need to understand that I have an illness.

I am an addict.

A Good Habit

Yes I have an addiction. I have an itch I cannot scratch. Given the chance, I will do it. Whilst doing it, I can do nothing else. It offers false hope of unimaginable riches, while removing all my free will. It even has a pet name to mask its compulsive hold over my life. Progging. Or to give it its proper name, Programming iPhone Games.

It all began when fate conspired to have me stop managing people at work and start writing SQL. I then realised (a) I was good, or rather, it inflated my ego (b) I really enjoyed making things; and (c) you can make things with code for free. So it was a natural step to start doing this in my own time.

At first it was under control. Just a pointless bit of fun with C#, I mean it wasn’t like I would ever release anything. However, then I discovered the x-box market place and realised what was possible. This started me down a slippery slope, that could only end one way – being seduced by the crack pipe that is, the Apple App Store.

Cheap DIY games publishing for everyone! The chance for fabulous wealth. What’s more, your app doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be clever. It just needs to be lucky and that could happen to anyone!

I was hooked.

Without really realising it I was spending every waking moment, when I wasn’t at work, progging. Weekends. Evenings. Holidays. Especially holidays. When I was somewhere I couldn’t use my Mac, then I would meditate about progging – what am I going to make next, how am I going to fix that…

The Maldives – the ultimate place to prog?

Now arguably this is no bad thing. I mean, I was learning things, and not just programming languages. Can’t quite get character movement right? Time to spend a month or two understanding the biomechanics of bipedal gait. Characters not avoiding obstacles? Time to start playing with A* and other path finding algorithms. And of course, learning is good, right?

Well maybe it is good. But there is no doubt that others suffer, the primary (and I hasten to add most understanding) victim is my wife.

With all free time taken up by progging, it means no time for things that make couples, well, couples. You know, romantic walks, candle-lit dinners, shared shopping, all the good, bonding, making-time-for-each-other things that make relationships work.

What is more, apparently I’d hidden this inner geek before we were married, so she feels somewhat cheated as well as neglected. The promises of fathomless wealth, when my game hits the app store and becomes a worldwide sensation, sound a bit hollow a year on with no release date in sight.

And therein lies the problem.

Taking the Death out of Deadlines

My addiction is fed by a lack of end state. Yes, I have a game I am making. But no I don’t have an exact vision of how it will end up, and no I don’t know when it will be released. If I was reviewing this in the real world of work I would laugh at that being a classic disaster IT project, the perfect recipe for never being finished. Which is especially ironic given that I have a professional qualification in project management**. In fact maybe that is the attraction – deliberately doing things the easy, but wrong, way.

The lack of end state means a lack of stress and an increase in opportunity. It means I can spend three months making a beautiful rag doll human with an elegant striding gait, and then ditch it for being too slow. I can spend a week creating a custom primitive batch drawing class and then replace it with a couple of Cocos2d layers because drawing a few detailed sprites turns out to be quicker. I can do anything, and not worry if it ultimately doesn’t contribute to the goal, because there is no goal just a sort of vague direction. I can take as long as I want because there is no deadline, just the future.

And that is what The Bump has just changed.

You see I am a hands on husband. I want to be involved. I was at least a 50% partner in the planning of our wedding (I don’t know about the whole world, but here in the UK that is unusual). I will want to look after that crying, vom’ing, pooing, screaming bundle of joy. I will want to spend every moment with it, even if most of that time is cleaning up sick and changing dirty nappies. I know I will.

So the future has changed. The future holds no spare time. The future does not allow for progging in the evenings. The future does not have time for progging holidays. The future looks prog free.

Who’s the Daddy?

However, possibly surprisingly, I’m looking at this as a positive. I see this as a great opportunity to put up or shut up. I can’t just abandon my current baby – my iPhone game. No, instead I need to give birth to it, and quickly. Fortunately this is a pregnancy time line I can control.

So, time to get serious. Time to finalise the features. Time to set some boundaries. Time to flow some charts. Time to set some milestones. Time to actually write a design document!

Woah there! Slow down Mister. Baby steps first, walk before you can run and all that.

No, for now, I think a single, SMART (yep, time to roll out the awful corporate acronyms) objective, will do. Given that Real Baby is due in early Jan 2012, it pretty much write’s itself. What’s more, by making it public here I’ll be able to apply mass, unseen, but very real, peer pressure on myself to make it happen. At the expense of pleasure maybe, but I need that if I’m to kick the habit!

So, here it is AltDev-ers, the positive pregnancy test for my iPhone-game-to-be, a public pledge:

[The Game] will be released on the App store by the 31st December 2011

Now I’m off to get a hit of pure un-cut progging while I still can.


* I’m not sure I believe “A Career” is a valid concept anymore, but I’ll save that for another, rainier, day’s blog.

** Literally not worth the paper it’s written on, but nonetheless very popular and well-respected, and always handy to wheel out in situations like this.