Dev Diary #2 : The Milestone
When people ask, “What was your first milestone?” I answer them, “One download, that’s all I needed”.
I’ve made games since I was a kid. I remember making my first “Tetris”-style game when I was in sixth grade, and although most of it was guided by my computer teacher, that’s when I fell in love with coding. I’ve made at least a game every year since.
Creating games has always been my passion, and prototyping came easy to me. I remember making such games as a “Diner Dash” rip-off with “Chrono Trigger” sprite and a real-time strategy game with three unit types, ripping off “Warcraft” sprite. Although I never created an original idea for public consumption, I would always boast to my friends that I could make this and that. “Oh that game’s easy to make,” I’d proclaim. “I could make it in a day!”
One day, I met with my successful businessman friend who called me out on these proclamations. He told me there is a huge difference between “I could do that” and “I have done that”. This stung, and I felt challenged. So I got to work - kinda.
I initially expected this to be like my other game designs. Oh how I was wrong! The burden that others would review my game, the inevitable negative comments and the failure possibilities haunted me day and night. I realized that this was harder than I thought. I remember conceptualizing games in my mind - mostly that were just rip-offs from other games. I scraped those ideas, trying to find something grandeur, something unique, something that was a sure-fire hit. The only thing I had done was lost time. I’d fallen to the depths of hell!
Six months passed and I was ready to surrender. When my friend asked about my progress, I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I lied to him and said my day job had monopolized too much of my time to also create a game.
Seeing right through me, he laughed and called me out again. “Let me guess, you gave up, didn’t you?” he asked. “Couldn’t handle the pressure, could you? I bet you’re overcomplicating things, trying to get the next million-downloaded game. Take a step back. You just need one.”
“I want something special and unique,” I told him, “but I’m out of ideas.”
“Set your target smaller,” he said. “Find something simple. One download is all you need. Just one. If you get one person to download your game, I’ll acknowledge you as a developer.”
His comments lingered with me. Just one download? That’s the goal?
I opened Word and typed: First Milest Download.
I thought about the countless simple games out there, and began conceptualizing a small flash game, mingling with many engines and creating stuff with my new approach.
Couple weeks later, my friend asked if I’d reached my goal. I was able to proclaim not only that I’d reached it, but had surpassed my goal! I got 15 downloads on my first flash game (yeah that’s pathetic) . I even told him that it wasn’t that hard, once I had the right mindset.
Before long, I had made lots of games, some certainly better than others. Some were praised and some were panned. Nevertheless, either response was motivation to create another game.
The hardest part in creating something isn’t having the skills and ability to do it, it’s having the mental toughness to see it to completion. My friend was right. I’ve been a game programmer since I was a kid, but I never actually completed a project.
The satisfying feeling of saying, “I’m done” is unexplainable, and once I felt it, I wanted more of it. Since then, every game I’ve developed has begun with one goal: Complete it and let’s get that one download!