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Thursday, 10 May 2012

I are game developer. Can I haz cake?

I have been busy as hell recently. And I expect things will stay the same in the coming months. Blame myself for being too greedy, always want to try out interesting concept and take on new challenge. I never thought myself could be such workaholic until I start using Unity.

But complaining about how busy I'm is not the reason I'm here writing this post. Hell I'll be better off working rather than spent the precious time complaining. Or indeed play some games, which I'm ashamed to say that I haven't done so for quite sometime. I mean really sit down and play for a few hours. I've always believe that a game developer that doesn't play game will never make great game. It's just like a cook that doesn't like eating couldn't possibly be a great cook.

The reason I'm writing this, is that it's fast approaching one anniversary of me starting to work as a freelance game developer officially. Yes I got my first job around this day last year, for $100. I feel like I should really share my story. Who knows it maybe an inspiration for any eager young blood. Or at the very least it will serve as a warning.

So my story as a game developer in a nutshell. Tough! It's certainly not easy at all. I work almost non stop and that's the easy bit. The harder part is to endure the financial difficulty. And trust me I have been through some very stressing financial situation. I was earning $500 or so during the first few months. That was like £300. Trust me, it's a very puny amount when you are living in UK. How my parent always say study hard so you can get a job with good prospect. A year ago this time, I've just past my PhD viva. To others, I might have just earn my passport to any job I want. But the truth is no where near. Anyway that's another story. The point is I've op for a career path that is frankly not very promising and a millions miles away from what I've been doing academically.
I really appreciate those who have gave me the opportunity to prove myself when I was a newbie, unproven and with no experience. Of course I did work very hard to impress. I often work 3 hours for the pay of one, at my own will. I will go the extra mile whenever I can, without being told. All this regardless of the pay. Still, there are time where there is simply no work available. I filled the hours, in fact I filled every hour that I can spare, including my gaming time to work on my own project. Some of them you seen on this blog, some... I hope that one day I will be picking them up again. The problem is I'm simply not adept at 3D modelling, something those project of mine desperately need. It doesn't help that I don't have artist that I could work with. Despite my regular visiting to unity forum. I have yet to meet a decent artist and willing commit their precious time. I know this is largly because I'm very fussy but I simply refuse to let my work turn into some mix quality product.

I should make clear here that I hold one principal for my work, do my best, and it should be driven by heart and soul, not financial gain. I consider game developing an art-form, as such they should be a work of passion. Every game is a piece of art work, a brain child of a game designer. No less than a movie to a director, a piece of music to an composer. The highest reward you can get from game developing should be the enjoyment of playing the game. Of course money is a factor and no doubt a good game will most probably sell, even it it's not better than some soulless junk out there. Yes I'm quite upset at the current state of the gaming industry both as a gamer and developer. The only decent studio whose sole objective is not to milk their consumer seems to be CDProjekt. I have maximum respect for them and I absolutely adore Witcher2, a true RPG for pc. unlike some others... Skyrim interface *cough*

Gone slightly off topic there. But a word of advise to anyone intend to start making games. Get a friend or two who can do things that you cant, and learn to do things that they cant, a little help from each other can help you go far. Alternatively you can learn to do everything yourself and forever be alone. Yes it's quite lonely doing this. Especially when no one shares your ideal.

So I've started off as a freelancer, coding for others, slowly crawling my way up to become a game developer. Thanks to a year long of determination and some luck, my situation has improved. Partly due to the relatively success of TDTK. And partly due to the fact that I now have a much more convincing port-folio. Also well done job with satisfied customer goes along way.  I'm still doing freelance work though, whenever I think I can manage it. Just because it's interesting to help others and I love a new challenge. Ok, the money helps too. I wont consider myself a game developer yet, not until I have a pc title under my name. Yes I'm not a fan of console. If you ask me they are the reason why the industry is in it's current state. And it's no secret I'm not a fan for mobile platform either.

Off topic again. So the long term plan is to gather enough resource, gather the right people and get myself into a right position where I can really start making games that I love. With no compromise to financial restriction, no worries about financial returns, just games that I can truly be proud of. The road is still very very long. And just in case you are wandering where am I, I would say I've just taken the first step. Annoyingly financial status is again the key factor for me to say that. Despite being better than when I first started, I'm definitely not loaded yet. My average income is just about enough to cover my basic living expenses, and I do mean "basic", probably more basic than average people. So go figure.

So here I'm, I could be working as an engineer or hell even a lecturer in a university and lead an luxurious life, with plenty to spare in pocket. But I've choose this over anything else. For one very simple reason. I love it! I love the challenge, I love being able to create something enjoyable, and it's damn satisfying watching something you work really hard slowly coming together. Also, coding is just so much fun. I can make cool stuff happen with a few lines of code. It's so simple it's magic! It's quite simply, perfection.

That pretty much sums up the reason why I'm doing this, the seeking of perfection, in the form of gaming.


  1. Im your fan. Every day when i wake up first i go to unity forum then your blog. Im always happy to see new post. U are really good! Keep it up.

  2. Thanks man, It's good to be appreaciated. I hope your own work goes well too.

  3. Song, as a satisfied owner of TDTK -- and an even more satisfied customer regarding your support and the way you back up your work and go the extra mile -- I can definitely attest that your post is more than just empty words; you really do follow through and do the best job possible.

    My own background is far more 3D art-based (actually, it's based in being a physician and getting my MD before shifting to writing and finally to game design!), but I'm slowly and painfully learning coding -- with no small help from your well-documented scripts in TDTK! But my point is this -- really two points: first, that I can definitely relate to shifting gears from your academic or career focus when you get bitten by the game-dev bug. But none of that other stuff is wasted, believe me! I'm using my MD background to work on games for the field, both patient-education and also med-school games (e.g., So, be patient and stay confident even when the chips are down -- the work you've invested in your PhD is probably contributing more to your work and success than you realize at the moment. ;-)

    My other point is more practical: regarding 3D art and artists, you said that you're having trouble finding someone with the same attention to detail and perfectionism/work ethic/etc. to partner with on your projects. I can definitely understand that; on the other hand, though, it's quite possible to be too demanding in terms of 3D art - especially early on in a project. I'm sure you're aware that the 3D design process is ENORMOUSLY time-consuming, especially for relatively inexperienced artists -- and perfectionism can be quite counterproductive at the iPhone/Android levels anyway, given their display requirements (and limitations). For what it's worth -- not necessarily much! :-) -- my advice is to focus more on the long-term regarding a potential art partner (or partners): a halfway-decent artist whose committed to improving and to sticking with you and your project for the long haul is probably a better partner than a brilliant but flighty artist (or, worst of all, a perfectionistic artist who works at a snail's pace!).

    I'll stop lecturing now and get back to work. Hang in there -- and good luck!


  4. Thanks for the "lecture", Bill. Appreciate that. :-)

    You are absolutely right. I'm well aware that I couldn't be possibly doing what I'm doing now without the know-how and some other experience I've learned in my academic pursuit. I'm merely stating the funny fact that not all path leads to the obvious outcome. Of course a hint that anyone can and should try to do whatever they really like to do.

    Maybe I'm a perfectionist. I do have very high expectation of others. And it doesn't help that when I'm committed, I can work at a relentless pace. I guess that puts a lot of pressure to anyone who have worked with me before. Plus I've very strong opinion of what I want. so I guess I'm partly to blame. I've almost given up hope trying to get someone to collaborate with. Instead I hire someone whenever I need it, if I can afford it. Still I appreciate you input, maybe someday I will try to work with someone in a more casual project and see how it turns out.

    Anyway, good luck for your work.

    1. You too, Song! Believe me, we appreciate your perfectionism and work ethic (and have benefited from it greatly!). I just meant to point out the practicality issue, that's all: it's something we've bumped up against ourselves many times -- we could either produce the game we want to produce, with all its idealistic perfection (and settle for releasing it in ten years, if all went well), or else compromise on some of the visual quality or features, etc. (and only take FIVE years! :-D ).

      Something I've really learned a lot from is the "Post-Mortem" feature that's always the central article in Game Developer Magazine (the IGDA publication, I believe). Dunno if you get it, but it's nice to read those articles and see that even the pros with the big-$ studios (or the indies with the niche hits) still wrestle with the same kinds of issues.


    2. I juggle with this quite often with TDTK. The dilemma becomes even more obvious when you are working on a engine or a tool-set, not a game. It's like what Todd Howard (I have massive respect for the man!) said about Skyrim, "We can do anything. But we can't do everything". If I'm really anal about it, there still wouldn't be a TDTK!

      Still I guess it's still better to take some planning and avoid putting myself in those I really need to get this crap out sort of situation. And hence for now, I'm still hesitate to commit myself to a full fledged game of my vision. Until I feel like I have all the right ingredient I guess.

      That day will come, I believe, with the right support in whatever shape or form, if I just keep preparing myself for it.