On Hobby Projects and Teams

OK, this is sort of a more personal entry where I blabber without reaching any kind of conclusion.

When you work for some company, your primary concern probably becomes money. Of course, you might like the people, the work you do, the game you are making. But you need money, and you are working on that game for money. If you aren’t making that game, you will be starving. On top of that, you have resource limitations, like time, money and people. Eventually, the game takes shape around those resource limitations; features added or cut, parts of story being cut, some parts of the game itself being cut, voice-overs being cut etc. Even with all the initial planning and designing, you witness a great deal of sacrifices for the game to be released, and, you guessed it right, to make it bring money.

I’m in no way an industry veteran, but I think I can say that many people feel sad over the job they do. But they get their bellies full in the end, call it a day and move on and hope that they’ll feel better on the next project. That’s why hobby projects exist — at least a part of why.

Everybody has that dream game to think about when they have nothing better to do. We game developers, contrary to many other people, have the chance to make it real, thanks to our skills. We can analytically break the game down into parts, come up with a to-do list and start to get cracking. We do this in our spare time, before or after a hard day’s work, on weekends, every other occasion we can think of when we can slack off and have some stress dissipation. Why? Why do we burn more process cycles when we are too tired of regular work to think straight? Because we love it. We give it as much time as it needs. If we are not happy with the current version, we spend hours / days / weeks and refine it. We iterate over and over again until we are satisfied one way or another. Why? Why eat away the precious sanity slowly, instead of saying “This isn’t what I want, but I’ll move on. I’m not getting paid anyway.”? Because no matter what, what we want to come up with in the end is something close to what we dreamed of. Dreams of individuals, I’m talking about. Forged of hopes and fears that we scoop out from the depths of our very souls. We, sometimes, come to establish a bond between the project and us. As time passes, it grows more and more personal.

Fabric is a hobby project. At the time of writing, we, torreng, are 5 people who practically work on it.

So, we have come to what I really want to talk about.

We all have ongoing lives in some way or another; making a living off Fabric isn’t a concern for us. What we want is to make a game as good as possible (and Fabric has the potential). For this, obviously, there needs to be a lot of work done, and this work must make its way to a final product — a theoretical one, for the time being. The problem occurs when there are those ‘theoretical final products’ as many as people are there. Everyone on the boat sees this game, rightfully, as the one they wish to make, has thoughts and designs on it. But, maybe naturally, they differ from each other a considerable deal. From what I perceive, although they can’t come to speak of it, everyone thinks we should be making the one they think, or something close to it, because “reasons”. If you ask for these reasons, I’m sure they would tell you perfectly justified things that make sense. Mine, too! I ‘think’ I can convince you why we should make a more linear game where player has less freedom, with no voice-over or dialogues or whatsoever. But since teammates spend a great deal of thinking about the game, it would be harder to convince them. That’s probably the main reason why the design of small-to-medium games are done by one, at most two people. There must be precise boundaries, if the team is to ever come up with a complete game. One brave soul should stand up and assert that “We will to this, and not that, OK?” I can be that person, claiming that being the one who worked on the project most by far, my thoughts on Fabric have more weight than others’. I don’t know how rational would that be, besides, I’ve never been the kind of guy who decides on important matters affecting other people, especially when it’s about pure trust of friendship and not some supervising relation at the workplace. Maybe I should be, but for now, I don’t want that responsibility.

It’s easy to point fingers at people when there is little or no progress, but what we need to do is to get things done, whether it’s coding or communicating with people.