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  • What I Learned From A 14-Year Passion Project

    [09.28.21]
    - Matt Canei

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    The 5 worst parts of doing an indie project for so long

    1) Trying to market, promote, raise awareness of an indie game is a level of hell I'll never ever miss. It's an incredibly saturated market, and also a market that costs A LOT of money to break through. I get messages almost daily "Just get streamers" or "Just get [insert giant youtuber]" to play. It's nowhere near that easy, it's hard to even get a response with a PRICE QUOTE, let alone asking them to play out of the kindness of their heart. I feel that an indie game hitting it big is almost entirely luck for the most part. It's just the right theme, mechanic, gimmick or w/e at the perfect time to immediately catch on, and if it's not, it can be very challenging. See Tip #1 of "things I'd do differently".

    2) Sacrifices - This type of project came with significant sacrifices along the way, and maybe that's just on me. But this project is so personal, making progress on it was non-negotiable. I've lost many friendships, relationships, opportunities to enjoy years of my youth and travel, enjoy and live a balanced life. A huge majority of my free time went into this project, and that's time I can never get back and reflecting on that can be very painful. There's some kind of twisted irony in doing this project to atone for not being better for my mother when she was sick, yet choosing to make these choices.

    3) Career impact - while you're learning and getting better and even if you compartmentalize very well, it creates a certain perception at your actual workplace. Indie projects can be seen as threats, or you can be seen as a threat by employers and colleagues for doing indie projects and it can hurt your career, even if you handle it extremely well and overcome all the hurdles to handle that professionally and with a high level of standard. The irony of that is a huge majority of the skills you can pick up from an indie project, usually are pretty darn valuable to your employer. But there's some huge positives in that too, the right place can REALLY value indie work and think it helps you be a better you.

    4) The long-term rollercoaster - The project wasn't always perfect, incremental process. We went through all kinds of ups and downs, getting greenlit in 9 days to a failed Kickstarter the next month that almost killed the project, to winning an investor conference to getting an Epic MegaGrant - it's been a rollercoaster of the biggest disappointments of my life and some of the biggest triumphs. Now we're about to face our biggest of trying to see if our 14 years of work turns into something that allows us to keep it going. While the project was therapeutic most of the time, it was also a gigantic burden at others. It's taken its toll, I never had anxiety issues and some other things before this project and they kinda made their way in from not balancing things out more. Always take care of your health first in indie development or at a giant studio. Staying up hours into the night to work isn't worth it. Have the discipline to get 7-8 hours of sleep.

    5) What to do next - For most of my adult life, from age 19 until now this is all I've known. What comes next? That unknown is a beautiful thing and a terrifying thing.

    Conclusion

    I hope this information dump can be of use to other developers. I tried my best to be very real and honest about the good and not-so-good aspects of this journey. Ultimately, I am proud of what we accomplished. I did the math and despite it taking 14 years, in terms of manhours we put into the project is the equivalent of a 100 person/40-hr per week studio putting about 14-20 weeks into a project. I don't know many games that were at a release state after only that short of actual manhours.

    At the end of the day, for better or worse, whatever happens once we press that release button - a lot of people got great opportunities from this project, I learned more from this as a developer, person, etc. than I would have anywhere else. I wouldn't give it up for anything. I think that no matter how long it takes, if you have conviction, tenacity, and the passion to seek out your dreams that it is perfectly fine if it defies common logic, timelines, and people's expectations. Brick-by-brick...

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