As development on Beyond The Veil winds to a close I thought it would be a good idea to look back on my first foray into Independent Game Development. I've learned a lot from this process, from realising that I'm a lot better at some things than I thought, to accepting the fact that there is a lot that I can improve on. I've had so much great support from my partner, my friends, my family, my PR team, and of course, my social media followers.
Project Planning is Difficult
I've never worked on a project as large as this, and without knowing the whole picture it's difficult to plan ahead. Changing from a primarily text-based, to including some shooter elements, to becoming a complicated bullet-hell style top down shooter with survival mechanics put serious stress on every part of the project structure. I am not ashamed to say that this scope creep has resulted in some serious spaghettification of my codebase. Why? Because I knew this was going to be a learning exercise. I anticipated spending a while trying to get things right, and I wanted this game to fit the vision in my head, and not the other way around. Now when I dive into projects in the future I'll be much more prepared for what needs to be done, and hopefully, will make development cycles much faster.
Social Media is Difficult
Oh boy did I underestimate this one. My naiive brain said 'hey don't worry, it's just social media, just build it and they'll come'. I should've started building interest months before I did, I should've been putting up more devlogs, more gifs, more pictures, more of everything! But the problem is, and I'm sure many developers suffer from this, social media just isn't fun for me. I want to get stuck into developing cool new features, not telling people about old ones. The reality is that cool features just aren't that cool if nobody cares about them. I had a great stroke of luck when I was contacted by Vicarious PR. Now my social media presence is much better, and I have a team of lovely people I can ask questions and learn from.
Selling The Vision
Beyond The Veil is very dark, both literally and figuratively. It uses very minimalistic UI and art, uses a lot of symbolism, and tells a story very much rooted in my personal life. There are definitely a lot of people, myself included, interested in playing games with emotional and dark themes, but there are many, many more who just want to fling pigs at towers (actually that does sound pretty fun). So I've accepted that my game is fairly niche, and is going to be a more difficult sell. However I hope that it does come across as unique, and that will help it stand out amongst a sea of more 'positive' games.
Real life loves to get in the way of things. Game development was supposed to be great, I would be able to spend as much time as I want developing, and release it when I feel its ready. But the reality is that we moved house, changed jobs, had holidays, and of course there is always the small things, doing the washing, walking the dog, making dinner, having a social life. So the development suffered, I found myself stressed by my own deadlines, unable to think my way out of code issues, too busy with real life stuff to focus. These are the kind of things that don't happen quite as much when you work in an office. But I wouldn't have it any other way. All these experiences have contributed in some way, improving my ability to focus, to push past things I don't want to do, improved my motivation to get work done, and just generally helped me feel more positive about life.
I could definitely go on for longer, but I think I've written enough. Indie dev is hard, and working from home is hard, but it's definitely been worth it. I'd love to hear your stories- either working from home, in an office, in game dev, or somewhere else!