Being an independent game developer is about doing your passion. It assumes that you possess the combined virtues of totally different specialities. You have to manage, command and execute all by yourself and your few equally ranked partners. It is like being an army where you get to be both the general and the troop (if there is no emergency that requires you to be the medic of course!). It’s an endeavor that can only fuel itself on your passion. However, passion does not come with capacity. Because as Daniel Kristiansen nicely puts it, an indie can easily be just a moron. It is highly unlikely that someone can combine expertise at high quantities in:

  • business plans
  • marketing plans
  • legal issues
  • accounting
  • management

Please note that I intentionally left out all the creative talents. I assume that these are there! Programming, art, music, game design, etc are assumed to be cultured by the passion over the years. But all the above are well known, and many megabytes of digital ink where wasted about it on articles all over the internet. There is something more there, though. Something more elusive. Something that most of us get wrong. Something that when doesn’t result in hurting the game, it at least hurts the developer. That elusive matter is time management.

It is true that when you mix passion with all the above it can be hard to keep schedules. Time becomes the ultimate enemy. The thing that gets between you and your goal. Somehow time is never enough. You find yourself struggling between coding, managing, promoting, building frameworks, engines, websites… and it is then that you forget the value of time off. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I “virtually” finished work on Friday afternoon and got back to it on Monday morning. And what does that give me? Two days per week. So a six month project can be done in five. If you stop and think about it, does it make sense? I don’t think it does, but the distance from theory to practice is small in theory and large in practice! It turns out that giving yourself time off is one of the hardest things to do, requiring lots of discipline. Realising that finishing a project one month earlier is not going to happen by working weekends, is harder that it looks. Realising that that is going to hurt the project and you is ever harder.

We have to understand that time off is part of the process. It is not a waste of time. It is a required ingredient in the recipe for success. Especially for us doing creative work. We can never be creative when we are consumed in a process. Creativity requires disengaging, stepping away and looking at things from completely wild directions. You can’t do that when you try to squeeze that code optimization at 3:00am in the morning because the next day you must manage the advertising documents. Sometimes you have to force yourself to stop working on the project and do something completely different. Do something completely different, let yourself escape. And “No”, going sailing while tapping the refresh on your twitter app does not count as escaping!

This post will go live on Sunday. I really hope it gets less that 10 views because on Sunday all of us have a life beyond gamedev. Even if that life is in football (which I hate!). I for sure will try to read only about Barcelona, Liverpool and other FCs this Sunday. Nothing about gamedev and preferably on a newspaper (in real paper) while lying on a sandy beach.