Make It For Yourself

08 Jun / by: M&R / 13 comments /

the following excerpt is from an actual interview:

[GAMEMAG]: Speaking more generally, how do you feel about the game now?
[INDIEDEVELOPER]: We’ve been delighted with [INDIEGAME]. It did great in the reviews, and its been really popular with our fanbase and a whole new bunch of people too. It’s our most popular game to date.

Can you see what’s missing? The part where the developer mentions that they like the game they made! Do they even play the damn thing?!

It’s understandable that gigantic AAA teams are more “financial results” driven — if you’ve got dozens of employees and investors then you’re responsible, you should do your best to provide the former with a decent wage and the latter with a decent return on their investment.

However in this case, the interviewee is part of a very small team.

We’ve always operated under the assumption that the best way to create something good is by creating something that you like. Chances are that at least a very tiny percentage of people will share your tastes, and so provided you reach enough people, your game will find an audience.

It’s tempting to make decisions based on how you think they’ll be received, however this is a slippery slope which ends in the desolate plains of total creative bankruptcy. Isn’t it much simpler to just make a game that you genuinely enjoy?

Of course, games being the hot commodities they are, it’s only natural to be aware that what you’re creating is potentially lucrative. But that doesn’t mean you should approach your work any differently — the reason you’re making the game should be because you want very badly to play it.

Use a more complex metric and you run the risk of making a crap game. It might be an incredibly profitable crap game, but still — all that money’s not going to buy that really fun game you were imagining, because it doesn’t yet exist.. you have to make it for yourself.

Why do so many people approach making a game like a manufacturer designing the next product to churn out of the factory, rather than a musician writing a song (i.e following some sort of inner vision)?

We’re all for pleasing fans, but we think the best (or most legitimate) way to go about that is to be yourself, so that they like your games for what they are and not because you’re simply pandering to them in order to sell as many copies as possible.

comments ( 13 )

  • If you’re working on a game for over a year, and the development didn’t go 100% smoothly, it’s safe to say that you might end up hating your own game, or atleast be so deep into it that you lose any kind of subjectivity or objectivity.

    I’m actually more skeptical when developers come out saying that they love their own game through a shit faced sales-grin, because I know from experience that there’s always *something* you wish you could have tweaked but either your game is pushed out the door by someone else, or you reason “I could tweak this forever, and it’d still never be perfect”.

    I don’t think that “not liking the end product due to too much proximity” is the same as “not enjoying making or playing the game”. Familiarity breeds contempt, that’s all.

  • good point. I totally agree, the reason people make games should be because they enjoy games and they feel that a great game should be made.

  • Yuss, gotta’ agree with Bezzy that by the end of development I generally hate what I’m working on. Hell, I’ve reached that stage with my Wizball remake without even finishing it yet. 😛

    If you still enjoy playing N, then you obviously didn’t work hard enough on it. 😉

  • I just don’t see how anyone bothers to finish their game if it’s not fun for them to play.. the only reason _to_ make a game is so that you can play it!!

    At the same time, I really hate the actual _making_ part — programming/etc sucks! If there were any other way to get this game made I think we’d be into it.

    So, I can see how if you enjoyed the creation process part you might not care about enjoying the final product.. personally I find it to be like giving birth, super difficult and painful, and unless you’re going to enjoy the result, not really worth it 😉


  • I just wanted to chime in and say that I do enjoy the actual making part — I love programming, I think it’s a incredibly interesting and fun, and I also love seeing a game come together after its various parts have been developed.

    Yet I still care about the final product… well to each their own, I guess 😉


  • Great post! And it’s completely true that a game made from the heart is always better. Games made with love exude an intangible quality that makes them more attractive, more fun, regardless of how much polish there is in there. If you happen to put in some time on the production values, you’re golden.

    I’ve been in positions where I’m not satisfied with a game I’ve been working on after X amount of time, and it usually means there’s some kind of fundamental flaw in it and it’s time to rethink what’s good and what’s less good about the game. Once I fix that up, it’s all lovey dovey again. 😉

    But yeah, I’ll never understand the reasoning that market research makes a better game. The least risky way of making a game is to 1. make a game that you personally love, 2. polish it. Cloning, making a game in a genre that’s “hot,” or making a game for others is a crapshoot, and more often than not, some other sheister is going to release your game before you do…

    Great blog, guys!

  • I wrote a lengthy article on this very topic (located here: One of the biggest problems facing the indie “industry” is finding a balanced approach to artistry/entertainment and financial success. In my opinion, 90% of the ‘indie’ stuff that makes it to market is derivative, uncreative, junk.
    Wasn’t the indie/hobbyist gaming movement about bringing creativity and experimental games back into the industry?

    And with all that said – I’ve seen some excellent projects, including ‘N’, that make an honest and enjoyable attempt at breaking molds and experimenting with new gameplay mechanics. $ should be an afterthought for anyone serious about making a creative game.

  • “So, I can see how if you enjoyed the creation process part you might not care about enjoying the final product.”

    Well, I don’t think there’s a correlation/mutual exclusion between the two or anything. Horses for courses. Hmm. I hope I can clarify my position a bit:

    I’m not trying to imply that everyone definately ends up hating the game they make, or that this hatred is a pure one. The “hatred” I’m talking about is normally a case of knowing the game so well that you get bored of it, and irritated by its annoying quirks which aren’t quite finished. If you simply played the game as you would any other, you might like it, but to be wrapped up so deep in the process destroys your objectivity. Before you know it, working on the game just becomes a chore, rather than the passion it once was. Daily, you have to find ways to invigorate your spirit about a project. Passion is a fuel that you have to work on to replenish.

    I guess my thoughts on this are colored by having worked in a bit of a fucked development. Being the lead designer and having the design knocked out of your hands by anyone who wanted to add their two cents is not fun. Couple that with the fact that someone above you will try to ship the game as soon as it’s technically functional (but still not fun) and then you really have a right to gripe and feel pissed off while considering what it should have been.

    Working on my own game has been far better, admittedly. I don’t have to listen to people who tell me to add cheesey powerups, or new functionality on yet-another-button on the control pad. But there are still days when the frame rate’s low, and you’re thinking “auugh, this has to improve!”. And it does eventually.

    I guess my point is that there’s many a slip twix’t cup and lip, and you can’t fully know if, during development of a game, events will conspire to create a game that you don’t like. Some stuff is simply out of your control (less so as an indie, obviously. I pray you never have to find otherwise, and that you can push toward your completed vision. You deserve it.).

    Man I hate being negative around you guys. I love your positive attitude. I’m just a paranoid pessimistic kind of guy about my own stuff – it’s a mindset which forces me to think harder. Doesn’t mean I don’t love making games. It’s just that I’ve been in the position of genuinely hating the game I’m making, and wanted to make the point that it often happens despite a developer’s best intent.

  • sounds nightmarish.. *shiver runs up spine*

    @chris: nice article! we’re friends with jim who runs the cultural gutter, who i see you’ve linked. cheers!

  • -> admin … Wow – strange and wild coincidence. I’ve been reading the cultural gutter for quite some time. thanks!

  • Aubrey – Very true. I was head of Development for a game about a year back, and the development environment was just not good for anyone. I’ve tried to jump back in, and the game still launched with a very half-assed system, and I wasn’t happy with any part of the system, and I grew to hate the game. I love what the game could potentially become, because my ideal for what it should be is still pure and unadulterated in my mind, but what it is now is nowhere near that ideal, and that drains my enthusiasm for wanting to work on it.

  • It was a good idea for a competition to make the greatest level

  • I love making my own levels it is sooooooo much fun but i can’t get N to move. I am sooo confused please help me.

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