Here’s me following my own advice:
— Laura Bularca (@sarienn) March 8, 2017
Switching between gamedev and marketing hats is very tiresome
Even if you love doing it and have the control to practice ethical, valuable marketing is still hard to do, because it takes a lot of time and consideration and it is a highly consuming creative job, at least for me. It gets even harder when I have to constantly switch between development and marketing because, while they have a lot in common, doing marketing and doing development is not the same. When I started to work on Heart. Papers. Border., I underestimated the tole this constant role switching would take on me. I constantly find myself suffering and being extremely frustrated because I can’t prioritize, I cannot chose what is more important to do. Everything is important to do….
Solution: Get help. BUT…
Creative ownership’s a peach
If I have too much on my plate, get help, get someone to take care of a part of your load. That’s easy, right? WRONG.
When I started Heart. Papers. Border. I thought the hard part would be to find people and/ or money to get help. But that is actually the easy part (more on that in a jiffy). The hard part is Letting Go. And I find it extremely difficult to let go of design, even if its just a small bit of it, like designing a minor, tiny subsystem. I find it hard to let go of the artistic direction, even though I trust Pontus way more than I trust me on the whole art part. It is the same with the sound design, and marketing materials, and promos, and business cards, and you name it. But its as if everything in the game needs a bit of me and if there’s even a minor thing I am not at least a little involved in, it just doesn’t seem right.
Solution: Get off your freaking creative pedestal and think from a business perspective. BUT…
Business is emotionally difficult
I don’t know if this is just me, or its valid for many others,but when you pay someone to create something for your game, its… weird. On the one hand, the clearer the spec, the easier the transaction. But on the other hand, when you work with people as creative as game developers, you need to find a way to empower them to give their best. This means you need to give them autonomy, which kinda clashes with the creative ownership problem mentioned above. Add an obligation on top of that (you ARE paying, after all) and you got yourself in an emotional conundrum. How do you empower and trust people while paying for their service and giving up your creative ownership?
Solution: Focus on Finishing, keep your eyes on the prizeee! BUT…
Feature creep is real
…and it has a lot to do with creative ownership and trust and letting go. Of course, you want to develop the best game possible. Heart. Papers. Border. was started because we thought the idea can easily be evolved into the perfect game to let us learn and experiment with everything we wanted to learn and experiment with in gamedev. Sebi wanted to learn how to code and he needed a doable game project to make his efforts real and tangible. I wanted to learn vector graphics, and to have a way to test out all my marketing & PR theories about making games. I really missed UX too, and since its my idea, I just naturally took over the entire design. But for the first few months or so, all our gamedev progress was determined by “OK, what do we want to learn next?” and “How do we design this thing so its not overwhelming, so it’s actually doable or at least start-able for our current skills?”
Until we realised we have no gameplay.
It’s true, Heart. Papers. Border. is boring right now, but people get energised by the idea and by the way the game looks and feels. We have something there, we really, really do! It would be a shame not to perfect it with good gameplay. That is how Heart. Papers. Border. transformed from a simple interface game into a fairly complex time& resource management strategy WITH puzzles AND quests, too! YAY!
And there are so many good ideas we could do. So many good ideas people come up with, too! But its one thing to have an idea and another to truly design it and fit it in the current game. Sometimes, what seems like a brilliant solution just does not work. So you always have to keep your childish creative self in check, even for the simplest things. Its it REALLY worth it? Do you REALLY have to do it now? Does it REALLY have no impact, is it really just a quick fix? Well….
Here’s a story. Heart. Papers. Border. was really pretty static before Casual Connect. It didn’t have too many things moving, so we decided to make a really, really small stuff, which is to add and slightly animate some clouds on top of the map. They look AWESOME and they absolutely do breathe a lot of life into the game. But when they move, sometimes they cover up the touristic objectives, so you cannot click on them anymore. That’s a pretty serious problem since the game is about visiting stuff. So we wanted to fix it by making the clouds transparent while moving on top of the objectives. Can you grasp the complexity of this super simple fix? This is feature creep 101.