This is difficult to write, but here goes: I’ll be taking a short break from games development. When I come back, I’ll be throwing out current plans and re-assessing how I finish CQ2. I’ll still be finishing it, and soon, but I can’t say exactly when. The desktop Win/Mac/Linux version in particular probably won’t be out this year.
Let me explain.
I’m approaching four years of indie development now, three of those on Cardinal Quest 2. Across those four years, between CQ2, Vigilance and some contracting, I’ve personally earned a total of £25,564. As a full-time salary that works out at about £3.82 an hour; well under the minimum wage here in the UK and deeply below the living wage here in London.
Now, this sort of thing is what you’d expect starting up a new business and working on a long project that only brings in money at the end. And I did have savings… until they ran out last year. Most importantly, I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful partner who’s supported me financially through all of this.
Nevertheless, my bank balance has been bouncing along close to zero for a couple years. This is troubling. The only way to keep it in the air has been to Release Things. Maybe that’s good motivation to some? My experience has been it’s a source of stress, desperation and burnout.
This pressure has pushed me to commit to deadlines I probably couldn’t meet. I committed to unlikely deadlines because not meeting them would make getting by until the next release or update even harder. (I often didn’t meet them, and it often did.)
It’s pushed me to take uncomfortable shortcuts. For example: the game only stores progress locally. This means the Kongregate.com version’s saved progress can be lost to an overzealous browser purge. It also means progress isn’t shared between iOS and Android. This is something I hate. Still, because of the work involved in setting up a parallel saved-progress system and hooking it up to online infrastructure, I cannot afford to fix it.
It’s pushed me to withdraw from people and talk about my work less. The tighter money has been and the longer CQ2 has taken, the more I’ve had to focus on it – and that work has been more and more about necessity than doing cool stuff I’m excited to show everyone.
Often, over the past year or so, worrying about this stuff has made it hard to work at all.
I want to keep making games for a long time. Games are awesome!
I also want to make them the best games they can be. Right now, with CQ2, the stresses of development have left me thinking about doing as little as possible to drop the game on Steam as quickly as possible and walking away – just to get it over with. That wouldn’t be doing it justice, I wouldn’t be proud of finishing it like that, and it’s not a sustainable way to make games.
There’s a whole bunch of games I want to make next. There’s an old prototype I’d like to do something with, a shmup-fighter based on not understanding Nidhogg’s trailer. There’s this card game about tactical spaceship combat that I’m really excited about. I’d also like to make a puzzle game about terra-forming; an apocalyptic RPG set on an interplanetary theme park; a chilled-out simulation of driving without going anywhere in particular; a local co-op game about being the worst band ever; and so on.
If I’m going to finish all these games and do them justice, I need to find a way to complete big projects without coming to hate them and myself. So please bear with me while I take the first real break I’ve had in four years, get my head straight, and – with any luck – come back ready to make CQ2’s desktop release and future updates fully awesome. ♥