I once saw a post on a game-related forum, from a developer who explained what their next project was, and how it was going to be the greatest thing ever. It was also going to be on every platform and therefore sell millions of copies. Fast forward a few years later… the game has not been released and even worse, it’s not in development anymore. The forum post haunts me, but I bet it haunts the developer even more.
There’s nothing wrong in being excited about your current or next game. “Passion” is a strong word in our industry, so every developer should have strong feelings toward their projects. But there’s a difference between being plain excited and being smart about it. Along with your feelings, your project must have a plan. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate plan, but it must get the job done. And that job is to keep you centered.
My first game will be an MMO
You’ve probably seen it several times on the internet. A beginning developer, who happens to be an MMO fan, wants to create an MMO as their first game. Their enthusiasm gets them to the point where they have downloaded or created some tools; perhaps they even have a rudimentary demo to show. For example, for a 3D MMO the demo is simplified 2-player networked gameplay in 2D. Sometimes, this gets other people excited enough to join the project. But after weeks or months of work, the developers call it quits. Why? At some point during the project, everyone realized how hard it is to make a game. Then they realized how much harder it is to make an MMO. If only they had known this when they started. If only someone had warned them. But wait… someone did try to warn them. When they blogged and/or posted on forums about it, some people chimed in and recommended making simpler games. Some of these people had played with fire before and got burned, so they had advice to share. It’s almost as if their future selves tried to talk them out of it. But did they listen? No.
My game will be ubiquitous
It certainly is tempting to target multiple platforms. I know I’d want everybody to play my game if I thought it was great. Plus, being on multiple platforms might mean striking it rich (not so fast… see below). But sometimes targeting a single platform is cumbersome enough. For example, if I write a game for iOS I might consider building for iPhone 3GS, iPhone4, iPhone 4S, iPad, and iPad2. Notable differences include processing power, screen resolution, and AirPlay support. On Android, there’s even more fragmentation. Add Windows Phone to the mix, and now you have major differences when trying to target all three platforms (Objective C/Java/C# and OpenGLES/XNA). While it’s good to have the goal of multiple platforms in mind (and in the plan), it’s better to finish the game on one platform first, then port to others.
My game will make me rich
Here’s another newbie mistake. There are many success stories about games on digital distribution platforms, so you think your game is next in line to make a lot of money. This *may* be true, as some games do sell well. But there are several stories of failure you don’t hear about. You rarely find out about submitted games getting rejected, and it’s even rarer to know the reason for rejection. It’s also unusual to hear about sales figures for specific games, unless the developers decide to post it for the public to see. This is rather unfortunate, as failure is often more instructive than success. Definitely keep an ear to the ground about sales news, but most important, be in it for the thrill not for the treasure. If money is your strongest motivation in this industry, you’ll likely find yourself burned out very quickly.
It’s okay, you should definitely be excited about your projects. Maybe even to the point of blogging or posting on a forum about it. But stay true to yourself. Don’t take on more than you can handle and don’t expect to be rich when the game is released. Be true to others as well. Underpromise and overdeliver. Don’t get people excited about detailed vaporware. Fans will dislike you when they finally realize the game isn’t coming. One last thing, don’t leave an online trail of broken promises. You never know who’s watching…