The time after shipping a game is harder work than it looks on the surface. When I made console games, a game would ship, and I’d start coding on the next project before the discs hit the shelves. So my impression before Banished was released was that I’d be able to jump right into further development, prototyping new games, and have a general period of relaxation.
This is not the case.
Because I’m not just a programmer on a team – but the whole team – there’s a flurry of email, customer support, dealing with press, trying to keep up with social media, phone calls, meetings, future planning, and attempting to fit everything into a five day work week. Having time away from the screen is still very important to me too. Overtime just isn’t my thing. Somewhere in there I’m trying to find time to fix the bugs and work around compatibility issues.
My coding time has been reduced significantly lately and the fixes aren’t coming as fast as I’d like, but I am working on them. There’s the beta patch out there but it doesn’t yet address all the issues I’d like to get to. I really want to get to more work on the mod-kit and ports and future projects.
I’ve certainly thought about getting help with the coding, but it takes time to find someone, get them up to speed, and start producing work. Not to mention the complexities of expanding a business to have employees.
I’ve also had to put a little time into another project – back when I wasn’t sure making indie games was going to work I starting making tools for game developers in the hope that I could make a living with writing development tools instead of games, or a combination of both tools and games. I started a small company with an artist, and developed a product called Handplane. It actually helped fund the development of Banished and get it finished.
It’s a little complicated if you’re not a games graphics artist, but Handplane takes an object-space normal map generated from a hires/lores baking process and converts it into a tangent map for a lot of different game and graphics engines. It lets you make models without smoothing splits and import it perfectly into the Unreal, Unity, Source, and Creation engines, as well as Max and Maya, regardless of where the source model or object space normal map came from. So people have been using it to make nice objects in Fallout, Skyrim, Dota, Unreal, and other games without spending time tweaking models so that the normal maps display correctly.
Because I wrote the code and am the only programmer at Handplane3D, there’s still support and update issues for that product too. While I’ve generally let Banished take most of my time, Handplane is still something I have to work on occasionally – especially since I’m not the only person working at that company.
Could I be more busy? Probably, but I don’t want to be.
On a non-time and busyness related note, I’ve encountered an interesting phenomenon in dealing with support that I didn’t expect. The amount of positive feedback, number of players, and people having a good time with the game is an absolutely huge percentage.
But even as the good feedback is out there, as the developer I see all the bugs, startup problems, and strange issues up close and personal, everyday, and in a volume that’s large enough to make the game release seem like it has a lot of problems when taken out of context of the full number of people that have had success and bug free play time.
This is somewhat hard to deal with – at first reports of bugs and the game failing to start made me cringe and stress over getting them fixed as fast as possible. But I know most software has small percentages of issues because of hardware and software incompatibilities. And I know bug reports need to be taken just as a bug to be fixed. And it takes time to reproduce bugs and find fixes that won’t break other things. But it’s hard to separate personal feelings from just dealing with support issues when releasing a project to the world that has been a personal project for many years.
I get the feeling I’m not the first indie developer to feel this way – but really I just needed to get past it, fix the bugs, and continue working on Banished and new games.
And finally, I’ve been meaning to update the devlog more often, but time flies when you’re busy. Things are calming down around here so hopefully soon I can get a patch out for more of the bugs and get to work on the Mod Kit. More soon!