Before you do anything else today, I want you to read a post by Koen Deetman over at Gamasutra entitled Don’t Be Scared To Kill Your Darlings. Deetman gives a great indie dev tip in his tale about how his indie studio (KeokeN Interactive) bounced around from project-to-project, trying to figure out the best ways to develop these two games only to ultimately shelve the projects (for the time being) and focus primarily on a project (Deliver Us The Moon) that was proving to be fruitful. The game had a better vision, assets were created faster than ever, and the project looks like it is on track to being an awesome freshman release from KeokeN Interactive.
The team at KeokeN Interactive sounds like they are at a great place right now. They are developing an indie game that looks extremely ambitious and features graphics that are in the same ballpark as AAA games while giving players a unique experience. Yet, Deetman’s team would have never got to this point if they had been afraid of shelving the projects they had worked tirelessly on for months. To Deetman, because the previous projects were not meeting their expectations, they had the clarity of mind to know that now was not the time to be developing these projects.
In other words, Deetman and his team knew that if they were to finish these projects this year, it would not be up to their standards. It’s the reason why Deetman claims the choice to shelve the two projects and focus on Deliver Us The Moon was actually pretty simple:
“We therefore simply decided not to ‘debut’ with a lower quality title. We want to be proud of our product and feel happy working on this every day in the week. Blow ourselves away with how the game looks, feels, and sounds.”
The barometer for your projects
Deetman and his team possess a barometer that every indie studio should have. They know that if a project is not coming together (no matter how much time and effort they put into it), this ultimately means they need to step away for a while and put it on the back burner. It’s a great indie dev tip to take to heart, yet far too often, beginning indie studios believe that they need to release a game as quickly as possible in order to make an impact on players and give themselves enough momentum to develop their next game, then their next game, their next game, etc.
Many times, this is a mistake. Just because you put a lot of time into a project that isn’t panning out as well as it should be, that does not mean that you have to keep developing the project. If the project is stalling out and isn’t giving you the results that you want, then it is imperative that you analyze why the project is failing, what you can do about it, and how to ultimately fix the situation.
If the situation is unfixable at the moment? The best thing to do is to cut your losses and return to the drawing board. It could be that the project was too ambitious, you don’t have the right vision at the moment to develop the game, or you are not looking at it from a right angle. Again, but the project on the back burner for another time, but know that you can always visit the project again.
While putting all of that work into a project only to find that it has come to a standstill is heartbreaking, depressing, annoying – basically all of the above – it is better than continuing to work on the project and ultimately releasing a poor game. There is light at the end of the tunnel – and Deetman is proof of this. Know when to cut your losses and focus on projects that you are truly passionate about with this indie dev tip (and have the skills to develop appropriately), and the rest will come together.