Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Phantasmal Devlog: The Journey So Far (Part 3)

I'm going to be a bit weird with the order and save Part 2 for another time to type up.

I'll jump ahead to Part 3 which is the present.

I'm currently a month out from the full Steam Release.  Today I sent out a bunch of press emails to journalists and youtubers that I've spoken to before.

It's right in the middle of GDC, so I wouldn't be surprised if everyone is super busy right now.  I had one reply back but they weren't able to commit to covering the game on launch day because of the volume of news they had.

I know I shouldn't get too bummed out, but I can feel that elation I had last week from checking off a bunch of tasks starting to slide away, and I can't seem to grab on to it.

Being an indie is a horrible roller coaster of emotions sometimes - it is super easy to slip really quickly into depression.  It's happened to me countless times to the point where all of my energy gets sapped away and I'm unable to even get out of bed.

Another thing that I've allowed to get away from me lately is my physical health.  I've been eating horribly for the past 3-4 months and I've dropped 5 days a week exercise down to 1-2 now.

Even though the launch is a month away, I can't afford to be too slack with my physical health.  It's a vicious cycle really - the less healthy I am, the less energy I have, which means I will be that much more vulnerable to depression.  It's a downwards spiral that could easily ruin more than just the game launch.

I have to buckle up and really look after myself from tomorrow onwards - both physically and mentally.

Back to the game.  So from here on in, I've been waiting for a video editor to finish off the launch trailer, which I'll pass on to our music contractor guy who is currently at GDC.  He says should comfortably have that all finished next week, which will mean it will be ready for the 2 week out press release.

That will be the crucial one as it will essentially be a "media bomb" where I go through a massive list of hundreds of youtubers, twitchers, press etc.   Speaking of the list, it's about a year out of date, so I'll have to update it in the next week or so - oh boy no wonder no one else in the team likes to do marketing!

I feel like things are more or less on track with the marketing.  I haven't really been looking at the game itself, so I pray that the other guys have that all in hand.  I need to sit down with the team at some stage to look at the current status of the game itself.  I'm going to dedicate an hour tomorrow to look at it when I'm at MOTAT.

Being the team leader is pretty cool sometimes, but often times I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.  The pressure is far more intense than my most trying projects in IT.

Another challenge is thoroughly stifling any hope of the game become an immense success.  It' pretty unlikely that will happen at all.  Consciously, success to me would be making back all the money we spent to date.  If we could compensate ourselves for all the time we've spent, then I would call that a massive success.

The problem we secretly have as game devs is that we sometimes allow a small speck of ourselves to secretly hope that the game will be the next Minecraft, DayZ, Undertale etc.  Media always covers the massive hits, and conveniently ignores all the failures.  I think we all subconsciously sometimes allow ourselves to thing "just maybe!".

But this is as unrealistic as it is dangerous.  Firstly if we even let that small speck survive, we will be completely spiritually crushed if is anything less than a hit.

Secondly I see many of my fellow devs go all in financially to get their game out.  If it is anything less than a hit then effectively they cannot sustain themselves which would mean effectively the team would need to look for full time jobs and break up.

I almost fell into these traps last year.

Financially, I went all in for more than a year, with the assumption that my wife would be able to sustain the household.  That went horribly wrong and almost put us under which would have meant the game would have been collapsed.

During the Steam Early Access Release, even though I made an effort to dissuade anyone who said to me that the game might be a hit, subconsciously I allowed myself to entertain that thought.  "What if" right?  Wrong.

The game didn't do terribly - it actually did really well all things considered, but because I held on to that ridiculous spark of hope, I felt completely devastated.

It was unrealistic and stupid of me.  I won't think that way at all for the Full Release - I'm going to keep my expectations firmly grounded.  If we make a modest amount out of it then I will be really happy.

Plus the household is now set up so that I'm not betting the farm if the absolute worst happens, i.e. the game makes nothing at all.

If that does happen, then all we will do is wrap up the game and rock right into the next one we have planned.  There will be no moping around.

This is a long term journey, and I won't forget that.  I have to remind myself that I'm in this for the joy of making games, not to be rich.  There are many easier ways of getting rich, but I wouldn't (didn't) enjoy it.

I think that's super important to keep perspective, I mean what I'm doing now is what I've dreamed of doing since I was 3 years old.  I just have to remind myself continually that I'm living my dream!  Wanting to be super rich is just greed on my part - I don't really need to be.  If can make a living and have a roof over my head from doing this then that is real success!

If one day in future I do make some moderate amounts of money and have some semblance of success, I think it would enable me to help all the other indies around me (e.g. in The Arcade Auckland).  I've always dreamed of empowering our indie dev community - there are so many amazing and deserving individuals around.  It would be an honor to have the ability and credibility to help these amazing people.