When you imagine the final version of the current game that you are working on, you almost imagine it being a game that you absolutely love. It’s a labor of love after all, right? Hence, you always imagine the game being perfect, awesome, and something you can be proud of for year to come. But it doesn’t always happen that way.
It happened to developer Taro Omiya who, despite getting glowing reviews for his game Star Driller Ultra, actually hates the game! He gives a post-mortem for the game over at his post, and he goes into the details regarding his thought process and what went wrong. It’s worth a read to learn why he was so critical (he points out a lot of things that aren’t obvious) – especially what he thinks he can learn from one of the most common indie dev problems. According to Omiya:
“I chalk Star Driller Ultra as a pretty big mistake and a learning experience. While my ability to create juicy and visually attracting games are better than ever, I found this entry to be a bit enlightening in the fact that I still have a long way to go in deciphering what game mechanics leads to which experience. Still, I’m hardly deterred. If anything, I think Star Driller Ultra helps me be a little more humble with a realization that I still have a lot to learn. I could use a bit of humility every once in a while. In any case, I’ll probably continue the experimental route that I’ve worked hard on. I’ll continue to throw spaghetti on the wall, but I have one more data point this time to make the spaghetti more sticky.”
That entire quote is exactly the type of attitude you need to have when you release a game you hate (or are disappointed with). Let’s break these indie dev problems down a little further, though:
Assess the experience
After releasing a game you dislike, write your own post-mortem and detail exactly what went right and what exactly went wrong. Mention things that you are happy to have accomplished, but detail the disappointments so you can know what to avoid next time. Did you focus on a certain dimension that didn’t need as much focus? Mention it in your post-mortem.
What can you learn from the experience?
If there is one lesson that you learned from the experience, what would it be? Write it down and think about other lessons you learned along the way. After all, the best way to avoid developing a game that you hate is to learn from this experience from the start.
How is this experience going to improve your future projects?
The lessons learned from this failed project will (hopefully) shape the way you tackle your future projects going forward. It will help you realize the best areas to focus on and put everything into perspective as you begin your next project. Know the reasons you were disappointed with your last project, learn from these reasons, and do your part to never repeat them again. Use every project as a learning experience – even the project that results in a game that you despise – and you’re going to find genuine, important lessons that you can learn and apply to your indie studio down the road.
Sometimes, you don’t know that you despise your indie game until it’s already launched. Tweak it, pull it from stores, or learn to live with it – the choice is yours. Just be sure that you learn from your mistakes so you do not repeat them again!