The hardest thing about working solo is, tautologically, being solo. That lack of a team.
It’s not the lack of bouncing ideas off of. I’ve ample friends and family with whom I can carry on hours long conversations about minutia. Certainly, talking with experts has been enlightening, but not in a grand, earth-shattering way. It’s the +1 on a Bronze Longsword. Helpful, but there are better things out there.
No, the lack of a team rears its head most in the time-management aspects of game development. Though managing a large team can be complicated, and keeping everyone on a clear schedule while trying to keep creative and open can be rough, having a one-man show means that if I want 3D models, I need to not be writing, or coding, or building, or marketing, or any other aspect of game creation.
If I want models, I need to make models.
And that’s tough. Because, as is often the case, I want to polish something to a satisfactory level. I want the game to work well. I want there to be that proverbial “zing” when everything snaps together perfectly. And sometimes that also means leaving something half-baked in order to focus on some other aspect of the game.
What all this often boils down to is that everything is the bare minimum. The graphics are simple. The coding is basic. There is no polish. But it’s done.
In the world of writing, most beginning writers are given the advice to just “finish their book”. Don’t endlessly rewrite the first chapter. Get to the end. One way to do this is to write short stories. Another way is to just never edit, and free-write all the time. In the end, the act of writing all parts to the story–beginning, middle, and end–will improve the writer’s craft.
But there are aspects that aren’t covered in that process. Editing. Polish. The ways in which a book, or game, goes from being “good” to “great”.
As I work to make a portfolio, and even with The Many Sides of Ball, I sometimes get caught up on the things that don’t make sense to do. Very dynamic cameras. Interesting little puzzle components that aren’t reusable. Hand-crafting nice 3D models. All of those take time that could be spent actually finishing the game.
Sometimes, however, I need to remember that most people don’t care about the basics. They care about the polish. The little scene that was really hard to make and only shows up for 5 minutes.
What may be the case is that all my polishing is on the writing side, making something I’m really proud of. Still, even the writing is hampered by the delivery, since code dictates how and under what conditions I display it.
All that said, I’m not entirely alone, however. I shouldn’t seem like I am. With The Many Sides of Ball, I have a dedicated composer. The music that’s coming in for the game is solid, and I’m excited for that. Perhaps because, aside from the writing, I think it will be the other aspect of the game that’s above par. A standout feature.
I look forward to the day I can work on a team of experts, focusing on either writing, or game design, or programming. When I can put in 110% because there is no other aspect of the game that needs attention.
Also, it’ll be nice to work on a team with a dedicated marketing person. That’s the indie messiah.