Most indie devs make games at a slower rate than me, and have been around a lot less time than me (except jeff vogel, obv.). A lot of devs therefore have not gone through the ‘release a game’ phenomena that much. I’ve gone through it a lot, and would like to offer up a view into how it feels for those who haven’t done it yet, or aren’t in the industry, but are gamers.
A few points to consider:
- I’ve released tons of games, so I’m very experienced at this.
- I’m not risking a lot financially in percentage terms. If my next game flops, it will not impact my lifestyle at all.
- I’ve had some big hit games. I can always point to them. The next game launch will not ‘define’ me.
- My next game (Democracy 3:Africa) is an expand-alone to an existing ‘franchise’ thats sold extremely well. It has good name recognition.
So on the surface of it, I shouldn’t be stressed about Tuesday’s launch at all right?
Ha. Fuck that.
I am very stressed, partly because I seem to take everything way too seriously, and partly for deep psychological reasons that would take too long to go into, but basically equate to having an in built need to prove people wrong. I’m a 46 year old man, but psychologically I’m still a 12 year old kid being talked down to by the other kids at school because they had wealthy parents and I didn’t. Most people have something like that. Maybe you were physically bullied, or abused for being the wrong weight/race/height/whatever. A certain percentage of people rebel against that sort of thing by developing a ‘fuck you, I’ll show you!! *shakes fist*’ personality and I’m one of them. Thats a feeling you almost never shake. No amount of sales charts or fancy cars will shake it.
So my stress is entirely imaginary. I have no real risk here, no real danger. The only risk I have is the psychological risk of failure, and I guess, ridicule. This is much more of a thing now Steam Spy exists. I could have lied about Gratuitous Space Battles success when it came out, but you cant do that now with GSB2. If a game flops, it flops. BAM! right there in public for everyone to see, and lets face it some gamers are INCREDIBLY insensitive to the feelings of developers when they mention a poor selling game.
I have a popular blog and 8k twitter followers. Is that good? Maybe, but its also stress. I tweet and blog about selling indie games, what if I have a huge flop, I’ll look like a fraud? Essentially I’ll be like mr darcy, wondering if people are laughing at him.
The conventional wisdom is that stress is alleviated for the successful or the wealthy but I strongly suspect thats not true. Nobody gives a shit about if your indie game sells or not, but if the last one made a million dollars, or ten million, people suddenly do care, a LOT, and some people WANT you to fail. Big success brings impossible pressure. Hardly anyone can cope. Notch was so stressed about it he sold the whole company. George Lucas got so sick of people criticizing his later star wars movies he sold the whole franchise. How many great promising musicians turn to heavy drink & drugs the minute they hit the big time? Far too many. How many game developers had huge hits and then…stagnation. fear of making the wrong move. That can go on for YEARS.
Being ‘public’ entertainers is one thing, but business people also have similar pressures. The following chart does not surprise me at all:
Corporate executive more stressed than a surgeon? Yup, I think they probably are. Surgeons can only fuck up one persons life at a time. Make the wrong call as the head a of a billion dollar company and you can fuck up a lot more lives.
My way of dealing with it is to go all Klingon about it, and surge forward into victory or death. Maybe my next release will flop, but if it does, I’ll just redouble my efforts to never let that happen again. Much easier said than done of course, but I think that approach is preferable to the sitting by a keyboard and not typing any code for fear that you can never live up to expectations. Loads of things fail along the way, SpaceX blew up a lot of rockets before they worked out how to do this. They have the right attitude :D. (Can you *begin* to imagine the stress associated with that?)
Oh BTW we are releasing Democracy 3:Africa on Tuesday. Its fab, buy a copy :D.