Why You Can't Play Matt's Dream Game (Yet)
I grew up playing games like the original Dragon Warrior (NES). And from the moment a friend taught me
PRINT "hello world" in QBASIC, I’ve been trying to develop my own RPG.
It started out as just a hobby, one that for whatever reason would often consume my entire life weeks at a time. Fast forward about 17 years and the passion is as strong as ever. The sad thing is I’ve just never been able to make it happen. Why haven’t I ever shipped my beloved RPG?
I’ve been writing software and shipping products professionally for almost 7 years now, so I know I’m capable of finishing a basic game. After much pondering, I think I’ve figured out the two main reasons I’ve failed for so long:
The pie in the sky
When you think about your dream game, your head’s in the clouds. You think about all the cool features you would make and all the problems other games have that yours wouldn’t. You want it to be spectacular because, after all, it’s your dream game! But the problem is it’s just too much. As an amateur developer, I’d have been better off thinking up the next Tetris or Bejeweled, because a one-man-army could make the next one of those, but not the next WoW. The good news is that the solution is easy: build a small, concise game.
Loss of motivation
- Working in a vacuum makes it feel like nobody cares about your project, and as humans, it’s easy to think “well then why should I care?” and quit. The key here is to collaborate and spread the word about your project.
- Missing assets like graphics and music can really kill your spirit. You’re thinking about all the different problems you have to solve like tilemaps, scrolling, inventory management … then you remember you need an entire game’s worth of graphics, music and sound effects to boot. Game over! (Luckily these days a clever Googler can find free graphics and amazing musicians. But most importantly, it’s not that big of a problem, so figure it out and move on.
- Distracting side projects come up. I’ve been hacking on various things like fancy new versions of my website since I was about 12. But the only project that I really feel like I let slip through my fingers over the years is my own RPG. So clearly, I’ve been spending my time on the wrong things.
That said, it hasn’t been all bad. I made a crappy little retro shooter called Spacius!, and before Geoff and I started working on our game together, I was working on a medieval fantasy RPG I call Valadria. It was going well, probably better than it had in years. I put up a playable demo on Google’s App Engine (which I really recommend trying out). So some progress is there, it just hasn’t been enough.
Summary: how to avoid these problems
I’m only going to spend my time on tasks that will get me closer to achieving my goal, which is to ship a professional RPG. There are tons of other cool projects out there, but this is the one for me. I’m also going to collaborate and try to get the attention of people who like playing (or building) the kind of games I want to make.
Do you have a project you’ve always wanted to complete your whole life? If so, what are you going to do to make it a reality?