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Sometimes I write stuff not about games.

Random musings, daily observations and other obsessions.

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On Career Trajectory, Aspirations, and When to cut your losses in Game Development
Just a warning: This is going to be somewhat depressing of a read right before Christmas, so yeah, bailout, and all that stuff if you don't want me to spoil the jolly mood.

Since the Mayans didn't end it all, it's time to put a few things in perspective, and figure a few things out. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I'm really not sure what the right answer is (if there is even one), and if you think you have a suggestion for me, please send them this way.

Let's get a few facts out the window in case you don't know:
- Officially, I've been Unemployed/Self-Employed (but hasn't made any money) in the last 20 months now.
- During this time, I've shipped 4 iOS Application, and 2 iOS Games. One is still in development/ready to release. Based on the current trajectory of sales, let's just call it a "challenge" (more on this later)
- During this time, I've had approximately 4 decent interviews for Designer positions, all within core gaming space. (also more on this later) I've talked to quite a few other more casual space companies, but have decided to not proceed further with a interview process.


During the last year, I've been listening to quite a few podcasts and other stuff while I work, and two in particular had much resonance with my current predicament (give them a listen):

This American Life - Last Man Standing - "Is it stubbornness? Tenacity? Survival of the fittest? This week, stories about people who feel compelled to keep going, especially when everyone else has given up.", specifically, the story of Act 2 - "Producer Sarah Koenig tells the story of Duke Fightmaster, who refused to give up his simple dream: to replace Conan O'Brien."
The Upside of Quitting - "You know the bromide: “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”To which Freakonomics Radio says … Are you sure? Sometimes quitting is strategic, and sometimes it can be your best possible plan."

In both cases, it speaks to the current place where I am at right now, and I'm wondering if there is a cutoff point when I should just cut my losses, and stop looking at games as some sort of future career.


Now may also a good time to establish the baseline of what I had been looking for as far as working in games:
a) Any Design position in any "core game development"
b) Casual games design that isn't entirely reliant on absurd microtransations that abuses player's OCD complex or inability to control financial decisions over "nothing".
c) Not Facebook Zynga clones
d) Programming? (not that I can actually get such a position as I've been just so far removed from anything that isn't ObjC coding)

One of the main reasons I wanted to make games was really to reflect what they were for me when growing up: the ideas of world exploration, mechanics, decisions, story, etc… The concept of play and challenge were the driving principle of games back then, and it's the thing I look forward to in game creation. The recent trend of F2P/Facebook games challenges that to a certain extent, and while it can definitely be a balance between financial and design decisions, it seems like every "casual" game is all about asking whether I can extract the most amount of money from whales as much as I can without ever asking what kind of gameplay ideas and mechanics makes the game long lasting. For the longest time, I've pretty much avoided directly applying to companies that uses any sort of F2P scheme cause I just can't get over myself as a game designer to think that all I would be doing is manipulating people's compulsions. I won't go as far as calling it amoral, but I would have a hard time calling myself a game designer and do that at the same time.

Is holding games to such ideals too much? Should I just give in and just take it? I'm well aware of the fact that design roles core space is limited, and my "3 years of experience" just isn't enough (it's scary to see junior positions asking for 5-8 years), so is that other side of gaming my only choice left? I don't know.


As for the iOS development (CaffeineRunTime Games): It's been a slow grind, but I'm now at a place where I can ship games on a "reliable schedule", but three problems:
1) Without marketing, sales of games will be slow to non-existence (my current numbers are early, but just as I expected)
2) The lowest I can charge is $0.99, and it's not a space I can compete in with everyone and their mothers coming in at that price (or even free + IAP)
3) Don't have a way to get an artist (who would work on commission basis), which almost always means that I'll take the hit when it doesn't sell, but there's no guarantee that improved art would improve sales by the same fold.

I've got one or two more things in the works (one of them will be an IAP thing that I'd play myself - which has enough gameplay meat that doesn't fall into my categorization of the F2P trap), but again, as this venture is without any financial backing, I don't know how much longer I can keep plugging away at it.


I guess the biggest question is how long can I really hold out looking for the right job within games, which goes back to those podcasts topics. A few people have asked me when I'd just look for a "real job", and every time it happens I give myself an artificial deadline: 6 months, 1 year, 15 months, 18 months, this christmas… In the back of my mind, I know I still want to make games, and giving myself more time despite the lack of income is a sign of that. Yet at some point, life has to move on, right? I look at the people I know, and it seems like everyone has moved on (and mostly away from gamedev), so why can't I?

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iOS development is not mutually exclusive with work. You can do both at the same time.

You have to understand that I'm not actually attached to iOS development, but Game Development. iOS just happens to be the cheapest and easiest way to get in to a largest possible crowd with the least amount of headaches.

More importantly, I didn't bother typing that in, but I've had that discussion once before: game development, especially on iOS/mobile, as far as I am concerned, is mutually exclusive. You can somewhat argue that I've hamfisted my way into developing apps and games slowly, and yes, there's definitely a learning curve to it all, but that's precisely the point: if I were to do iOS game development on the side of another job, how long would it take before I ship anything, if at all? The platform itself shifts every 6 months, on both tools and hardware side, which means that if I can't get up to speed, and ship something out within 6 months, it's wasted work, again. For example, the recent app I shipped began work at June, where I was using a stable build - 2 upgrades to the SDK and 1 major revision to the Framework has passed by, and I'm "supporting legacy" device as far as the rest of iOSDev is concerned.

Thanks guys, for sharing such informative data.

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