Monday, January 26, 2015

Musings of an Independent Game Developer

Being an independent game developer is easily one of the greatest challenges I, and I think probably most everyone on the I-Novae team, have ever undertaken. Many members of the dev team have been working for close to 10 years on this company and to our great astonishment some community members have stuck around with us for about that long as well. Independent game development is, in many regards, a beautiful and rewarding thing. We have ultimate creative freedom and everything we've been doing over the last decade has been in pursuit of our collective dream game. That being said there are many times where it has felt like a 10 year death march. While people are generally supportive of our endeavor we occasionally get comments like this one:

When I see comments like the one by @IGeennn I'm always slightly amused. As it turns out I was wondering the exact same thing but in the reverse - what has taken you so long to build your own planetary tech and release a game? Please hurry up because, frankly, I'm tired and would prefer it if you could just do it for me. As of the time of this writing the I-Novae team consists of 11 people working in various capacities. In the last 10 years we have collectively invested, through both money spent as well as lost wages due to working full-time unpaid, over a million dollars. During that period of time we have also received exactly 0 return on that investment. Ten years, over a million dollars, and 0 return - ouch.

We've nearly closed investment more times than I can count. We've signed licensing partnerships with companies only to watch them go out of business when their publisher went belly up and stopped paying them royalties on the games they'd already shipped. We've also nearly sold the company on multiple occasions. The high's have been high and the low's have been low. Most everybody on the team has struggled with depression in some form at some point - yet we keep chugging along.

The team is working as hard as they can to finish the Kickstarter campaign as soon as possible. Our campaign video is really coming together nicely, the excitement surrounding it amongst members of the dev team is palpable, however none of us have any idea if our Kickstarter campaign will succeed. Half a million dollars is an ambitious goal and we really haven't even discussed what we'll do if it fails. It's equal parts terrifying and thrilling to know that, after so long, we will soon release our tech to the public and we have no idea how it will be received. It's possible we may never have a return on the investment we've made in this company. It's possible that the best we can ever hope for is to move the medium forward in some small way. None of us started this journey to get rich. We started it to pursue a dream, to build the game that captured our imagination as kids, to conquer the cosmos.

We're approaching, in some form, a culmination of that effort. Hopefully there will be many more culminations to come. We'll keep chugging along, doing the best that we can, and let the cards fall as they may. Every day I'm humbled and amazed we've been able to assemble a team of such dedicated and talented people who've stuck together for so long. However this journey turns out it has been an honor to work with each and every one of them.

So there it is, that's independent game development. You're probably better off just inventing snapchat or some app that lets people pretend to drink beer. You'll finish it in a fraction of the time and sell it for a billion dollars.