What’s up with me lately!

So then, anyone following me on twitter will have been witness to a few freak-outs of late. The truth is things aren’t that great. Lately it’s been kind of a perfect storm of screwy hormones, stress, mood swings and actually having good selection of reasons to be depressed all at once.

Ultimately a lot of “what’s the point” thinking has led me to some decisions. One is swift*stitch becoming free (see below) and;

Leaper★, and a commissioned game (that I can’t talk about yet) may be my last games as a full time indie.

I just can’t afford to keep going like this, I haven’t been able to afford the past three years really. Sales have paid for food but I’ve just racked up debt when it comes to everything else. It has gotten to the point where I try to spend time working on short projects as an attempt to make enough money to pay for the stuff I really care about making, but it doesn’t work and it’s making my games worse as a result.

I want to make my dream games. I enjoy all the jamming, the short projects and all the other interesting gamedev stuff that builds my skills and is just plain fun to do. I also enjoy knowing I can afford food, not crying myself to sleep and the thought of not owing friends ridiculous amounts of money sounds kind of neat. If I can’t work on the things I really want to work on, then all of this ‘full time indie’ stuff is just a waste of time. I’d be better off just getting a regular job and making stuff I care about in my spare time.

I have enough money left to eat for a month, maybe two. I’m going to work on Leaper and this commissioned game. These are things I want to do. I’m going to do them how I want and fuck the money. – this is my attitude normally, but there is always the hope that money will come. I’m sure it would if I stuck with it long enough, but I can’t afford that, so fuck the hope of getting paid.

Either Leaper will sell enough to cover all the money I owe or it won’t. I’m not going to hold my breath either way because I *do not* need the stress. If it sells enough I’ll stick to this indie thing, if it doesn’t I won’t. I’ll at least have made a game that I care about as more than a ‘project’.

(If anyone is wondering, the commissioned game has already had the payment decided and most of that is going on software to make it, it’s not going to anywhere-near save me from my money troubles but it is also a game I want to make).

So that’s where I’m at right now, I also have the following updates:

 

ssfree

Swift*Stitch:

Swift*Stitch has done more than well really, having been in a couple of bundles and having had the nice ‘pay-when-you-want’ sale in January 2012. however… outside of sales, nobody is buying it. and even with the sales the game has not paid off any of the debt I hoped it would, and it’s not really covering the costs of living while I develop other games. It has paid for food and bills, some software and even got me the opportunity to work with the awesome guys at nicalis for the iOS version.

My relationship with the game is thus; the game has paid for itself (more or less), I think it is kind of neat. But I also hate it because it’s not the kind of game I want to spend my time working on, especially if it can’t pay for me to work on the games I really do care about. It is a fun little arcade thing, with a couple of interesting design and mechanic things happening. I don’t think the world is significantly better for me having made it.

That hate has only getting worse, I’ve been wanting and wanting it to sell, but nobody has been buying it. I can’t be relying on something I hate to feed me, and pay rent and bills. So now you can download it or play it in the browser for free.

Now that I’m not expecting anything from the game, I don’t hate it anywhere near as much. I still kind of wish I’d spent my time working on something else, but I am proud of what I did accomplish and hope some more people can enjoy it now.

The iOS version is still a paid-upgrade for $1.99 (you get the first few levels free) and I expect that will stay for quite a while because despite my feelings towards the game, the guys at nicalis put in a lot of work for that version and they deserve to get some money for it. if you like the PC version please do consider buying it for iOS too so you can carry it with you :)

Android is still a possibility, and if it happens it will likely be with nicalis again, because frankly, they are pretty cool guys :)

 

ratupdate

Rose&Time:

I recently spent a couple of days fixing up Rose&Time’s graphics, I also fixed a bug and released a Linux version too. you can check it out here.

I considered making Rose&Time free also, however I don’t hate the game so much. whilst I was hoping for cash when I was making it, the game is all about a bunch of themes I care about (emotionally and mechanically) and I still think it’s worth the money. In fact lately I’ve been loving the game more and more, I think I made something a little special just by accident on this one ^__^;

 

Lottie’s Dungeon:

So if I do quit making games full time, what happens to Lottie’s Dungeon? honestly I don’t know. This is one of the games I really want to finish and most everything I’ve done since taking a break from it has been in the hopes it would pay for Lottie. maybe I’ll work on it after Leaper, maybe I wont. I want to but don’t need the stress of worrying about something I care about so much. I have to put it out of my mind for the time being, I’m sorry.

 


35 Comments on “What’s up with me lately!”

  1. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I may have mentioned this in the past, but I dislike the concept of “free”. Make things cheap… that’s cool… but free is IMO not a way to run a business (and you need to view yourself as a business person).

    Since you have an ambitious idea in mind, have you thought of putting together some work of it and posting it to Kickstarter? You already have a good track record of completing stuff: a lot of people don’t even have free projects completed.

    If you’d like to just bounce ideas off someone or talk or vent, send me an email. I don’t check this email account too often, but I’ll check in over the next few days, and can give you a better address to reach me at.

    You have a lot of good ideas and have finished a lot of stuff!

    • Sophie says:

      I have actually considered kickstarting Lottie, if Leaper covers my debts, but not lottie dev costs then I will certainly give thought to kickstarting it.

      but I won’t kickstart something now, kickstarting something to pay off debts that have nothing to do with a game would be tacky and make me feel worse.

      as such the whole thing falls under the category of “maybe after Leaper is done” and therefore is going to be filed away in some part of my head where I don’t think or worry about it till then.

      • GabeTHEGeek says:

        I’m posting this comment because I feel sometimes people need a harsh reality check. I say this with love! Okay first, you are not good at business. 99% of indie devs suck at it, only 9% of indie devs make a profit, 88% of games downloaded are free. Those are real stats btw.

        Example: Hard Lines, First week: 14 reviews, all were good, 22 user ratings, all 5 stars, 452 sales in 8 days, grossing a total of $292. The math is $36 bucks day. So, if you say one dev worked 8 hours a day, then you made 4hr.

        Livings expenses, food, bills cost etc IS YOUR DEVELOPMENT BUDGET! So you have to plan for that. Your games also have to hit a market. Make your product standout. A very good friend of mines left Firaxis Games to start E-Pace games. He made a rule to produce games every 2 months. After now seven game releases he finally has enough income to sustain himself through each game. Are his games original, not really, but he can produce products that people will buy.

        You have finished games and that a plus, so you know the process but I do feel while you have a bunch of games in your portfolio, they are lacking the mass appeal. I could go on all day about mistakes many indies make. You have a find a market and fill a need.

        My last example is Megaman. Why, because there is no megaman on the market right now. A company called Or1gio made a game called A.R.E.S (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oGUyeOjcY8) to fill that market and did well enough to start production on a sequel. Great strategy, decent product.
        To many times I talk with Indies and they aim small which is fine, but too small is the issue.

        I hate to be a downer but I like you and your post. I just thought I would offer my 2 cents. I would suggest knowing your market more and looking at all platforms. You have to put in the work for it to pay off, completing the game is just the start. Anyone can email me questions at Gabriel@baltimoregamer.com

        • Sophie says:

          I appreciate that you’re trying to help, that what you’re saying makes sense and you’ve put a lot of work into typing it out, but do fuck off :P

          your advice would be perfect for me, if I wanted to make profitable games more than I wanted to make games that make me happy.

          I know making money as an indie is crazy difficult/unlikely (I’ve been at this for years now after all, I’m not that dim :P), I know only a few types of games ever get traction, and of those games only the ones that are well marketed and *lucky* ever get noticed. I know how I could make these games and I know how to promote them too.

          I don’t because those aren’t the games I want to make, and I’m super cautious about how I advertise since I am *crazy* conscious of the ethicality of that (no, even more conscious of it than you think, way way more; I couldn’t live with myself if I bought ad space somewhere)

          Like I say, I appreciate the advice, but you’re missing the point entirely. Yes I’m not running a good business, because what I want to do *isn’t* good business. I’ll just keep doing what I want to, until I can’t anymore :)

          • GabeTHEGeek says:

            I would have a reply to your direct comment but as you seem to disrespect someone who took the time to offer advice all I have to say is goodluck.

            Anyone can email me questions at Gabriel@baltimoregamer.com

          • Jeff Plum says:

            Your curt reply to some well-meaning advice is precisely the attitude that makes you fail. That guy could have been a valuable resource to you. Maybe not. But your immaturity and flippant remarks mean you will never find out. Oh well.

    • Sam Batista says:

      I think it’s a great privilege and joy working on games you personally enjoy to play. I lucked out and landed a job at Firaxis Games, which make kickass games I like to play, but I also have the drive to create games on my own time and make a difference.

      I think as game creators we have a massive reach and powerful tool to communicate ideas and concepts. Games are a powerful cultural medium, and Indies are the most well positioned to explore what games can achieve.

      I also think developing games with a precise business minded approach is necessary. Understanding your market and price-to-value ratio is critical to eliminating personal debts and succeed as a game developing artist.

  2. PurpleChair says:

    When you say you won’t be full-time indie, do you mean you’re thinking about part-time non-games jobs, or full-time games jobs, or that you’re about to sign a Lottie franchise deal with Microsoft, or something else?

    This isn’t really anyone else’s business, but as someone who faces similar issues, I’m curious about how you’d approach the problem.

  3. Leaper is really amazing!
    You’ve gotta finish it!
    I feel like Leaper could be your big break.
    Both the idea and execution are wonderful!

    Keep up the great work, and don’t let bad thoughts and feelings get you down! Worst case scenario you have to get a full-time job, which I’m sure you could definitely find with your level of skill!

  4. Mabi says:

    You have a great portfolio, hope everything works out for the best! And yes, kickstarter sounds like a kickass idea.

  5. When I first went indie you were one of the first “big guns” I’d heard about (back when I actually read/cared about social networking), and at that time you were pushing Lottie’s & making regular progress on it, even getting pre-sales or dev funding or however it was.

    Then it disappeared & as I was to find out on my own quest as a full-timer that that’s what happens in this thing we do: we get gripped by ideas & projects & then when it comes down to tackling the glacial pace of development it can feel more like mucking out the Augean stables than the joyful process we want it to be.

    I hope Leaper does well for you & even if it doesn’t you’ll likely be able to easily find a job (gasp!) in “professional” development given all the skills you’ve racked up over the past few years.

    Best of luck.
    -
    DAJ

  6. henderson101 says:

    Best advice – stick at being an indie as long as possible. Being poor isn’t a sin. Once you get a real job, there will always be something stopping you from putting in the amount of time that making a good game takes. I program financial systems for my day job and it pays pretty well, but I still only just live comfortably. Life has a habit of expanding your horizons buy increasing your expenditure inline with your level of debt as you move up the employment ladder. Buying houses, getting married, kids, responsibilities – all of this costs money.

    Don’t take this as a down comment. Take it as a piece of sage advice – you will need all the luck in the world to be a success and become financially comfortable – but even playing life by the rules, it is not an easy ride. Getting a “real job” isn’t really a solution for creative people, because it saps your creativity, energy and will to create outside of work hours. Your free time become sacred and dwindles as you make more money (more money, more responsibility, more hours.) That’s why so many artists struggle till they either make money or stop creating.

  7. henderson101 says:

    buy = by, obviously.. lol.

  8. [...] a shame to hear that she’s struggling to make ends meet as a full time developer and, as she wrote on her blog, may be dropping the full time indie thing soon so that she can be less stressed in life. Of [...]

  9. Hi!
    I just found out about your games/blog (through David Rosen’s twitter), and I immediately got interested in Rose and Time. As a student who has no regular income currently, and no rich parents either, I think you’re asking too little money for your games – even if they are short. At least it should be “pay x or more”, or you need a Donate button somewhere :) really, 2.5 USD is nothing. I’ll just buy 2 copies for now… maybe more later :P it’s not like i could save you from your debts, but still. It’s not pity, it’s my love towards developers like you.

    I also think you should kickstart something later. (But be sure to “get the word out” before starting a kickstarter campaign, I’ve seen a project fail there simply because nobody knew about it.)

    Uh, I didn’t mean to sound condescending or anything, and i’m definitely not an expert in financial things, i just thought i’d share my opinion.. Anyway, best of luck!

    P.S. I also tried the unfinished linear thingy, and I loved it! :D

  10. Quinn says:

    Really sorry to hear about all this – your passion for making games is obvious and I’ve enjoyed both swift stitch and Rose & Time a lot, so I’ll be rooting for Leaper’s massive success! I think no matter what happens you’ll keep making games, but it would be great to see you continue doing so full-time.

    Are you doing any PR for Leaper? In my own limited experience I’ve seen that press can count for a lot of downloads. Maybe you can get a PR grad student to send out some press releases and what not for a reasonable fee (or even for free if they’re eager enough).

  11. No point in making game if it make you hate making game, right ?
    Maybe you should consider getting a job unless leaper is the new minecraft. What I’ve just read make me think you need it. Wage mean rent and food is less of a worry. Only working on game in spare time doesn’t prevent to think about gameplay during worktime, in transport, during bathtime, etc…

    Get a job, take pleasure on making game.

  12. Brad says:

    Nice post, I hope the best for you! Stay strong :)

    I feel I want to share this video with you, maybe you’ve already seen/heard it (its some Alan Watts :D)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L_cGjQSR80

  13. Namey says:

    Don’t give up!

    Back in 2008 I was in a pretty bad car accident. I was left with pretty much nothing and it was the lowest point in my life. I knew that I needed a reason to live so I decided to rely on the one dream I had all of my life … to make video games. Writing this now it sounds kind of childish, but it is the reason I get up in the morning and the reason I am still here.

    To feasibly make a living doing this, I figured my best bet was to make flash games. They were simple enough that I thought I could handle it, and I knew of a couple of successful developers so I knew it was possible. I struggled so much with Flash and Actionscript, I quit time and time again but I kept trying to figure things out. iPhone development then became a more possible option I thought. I gave up on Flash and tried teaching myself Objective C and Cocoa. It was actually much more challenging than Flash and I was back to quitting and quitting again and again.

    In 2011 it had been a few years and I had made no progress. All of this time without a job, and more and more debt piling up… all because of the circumstance I found myself in. I was Depressed obviously and convinced myself that playing more flash games during my quit phases was good research. I stumbled upon the little Unity symbol on Kongregate and read about the competition going on. I looked through a couple of the games and saw Sarah’s Run. I decided to install the unity plugin and see what it was all about. I can’t possibly explain how great it was to play that game.

    I couldn’t believe I was playing a 3d game in firefox and I was absolutely amazed by it. I did stalker-esk research and found out that it was made by … You. Just one person with a lot of skill and passion for making games. I knew that Unity was what I had to learn, and I’ve looked up to you ever since. I did a few tutorials on using the Unity Editor and gave myself a simple challenge to see what I could create in a day. And I made my first game, as simple as it was, and as crappy as was is it was the greatest feeling in the world to know that I was able to build it. After years of struggling it felt like it wasn’t for nothing, and I hadn’t made the wrong choice in pursing game development.

    So I kept going, I kept learning more and more. I was surprised to find a local unity meet up group. I joined and have made a few good friends. I have been a member of that group for about a year and a half now. I am the most prolific member in the group and I am always able to help out anyone with questions about Unity. Slowly a community of developers is growing in my city and it is a really encouraging thing. I also did some looking and found that there is a game development program at the local community college. I joined with a bunch of Unity knowledge, but have gained a lot of knowledge about working with a team and using Scrum practices to build games. Through the program I was also given an opportunity to do contracting work at a local indie company run by a AAA guy.

    Unfortunately things haven’t been completely rosy for me. The meet up group is very very very slow to gain traction. The guy in charge of the game program is a real asshole and I am currently out of classes because of it. The team I have worked on games with at school is kinda shabby and they are convinced that they need to build a game using Cryengine. The contracting gig I was at for several months came to an end; the project was a mess, the team was demotivated and there was no chance of shipping a game so I left. And along all of this, I have had no real source of income and I am yet to ship a real game.

    As of the beginning of this year I have decided to drop all of these extra activities and focus solely on ONE project. Just one game that I want to complete and show that I am capable of making games. I have used all of my knowledge to create the best game possible. I am on my seventh week now and the project is looking very nice I think. So now, hearing that you are giving up really troubles me. I really look up to you as a developer, and I would hate to think you are giving up on making games. I’ve learned first hand how difficult it is to make games on your own. I’ve struggled to try and get a team to work with, but I can’t seem to meet anyone committed to making games.

    I hope I didn’t bore you with all of my story but I hope that you understand that I know your situation all too well. Except you are in a position to inspire lots of people. I am just one of them. I just wanted to let you know that even though it isn’t worth anything at the bank, your hard work has had a positive affect in my life. I wish you all the best.

    • Sophie says:

      I’m super glad you have found something you are so passionate about, and that you have found some focus and direction with it! :)

      to be clear; there is only the possibility of me giving up on being a full time indie, I’d never stop making games! and as soon as it became a viable option again, I’d go back to making games full-time :)

  14. Adam Coate says:

    Reality is a tough game to play. Just because you haven’t been successful financially doesn’t mean you haven’t been successful creatively. It is incredibly difficult to make a living as an independent developer, even if you’re talented. Curators like Apple are actually stacking the deck against us small timers, not making it any easier. Working for someone else sucks, but just think of it as a temporary necessity to help you towards your goals. Maybe one day us indies can band together and overtake the game industry.

  15. Tom says:

    Good luck with whatever you do and don’t beat yourself up too much! I bought Swift*Stitch and liked it a lot :)

  16. Bob Pragt says:

    Your games are better than you give yourself credit for!

  17. Wrinkliez says:

    You know what, Sophie? Good for you. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with not being a full time indie. If it means you can make your games without having to kill yourself, I say good on ya. Game development isn’t a black-and-white thing. Just find one game you really want to make, make it in your free time, and have it take as long as it takes to make it perfect :3

    That way, everyone wins. You get to live a decent life and make the games you really want to make, and we get to play awesome games and not worry about you bailing on the game-making scene.

  18. [...] Crossroad 1: http://www.sophiehoulden.com/whats-up-with-me-lately/ [...]

  19. Aeronic says:

    Hiya :)

    I have noticed a sharp decline in happy tweets as of late (as mentioned in the post here). I think you’re a great developer with a vision and the talent to pull it off, and you’re also very honest and trustworthy (based on tweets I see and our work relationship). People like you and your games.

    However, I totally understand if taking a break from game dev is what must be done. I’d love to live off making music for games; That would be awesome. Unfortunately that is a tough road to go down when you have to feed yourself and make sure bills and rent are paid (I repair computers and such for extra cash just so I can eat weekly :P)

    If you decide to postpone game deving so you can do what you need to get out of the depressing, crushing debt cycle, I’m with you on it. Of course, I’d love to see Leaper be a success. A big reason I wanted to make music for your games is because I like them.

    Take care,
    Aeronic

  20. Nick says:

    Well that’s a bummer of a post. Sorry that neither your dreams nor your stomach have been satisfied by being full-time indie. However, maybe this’ll be a good thing in the end. My perspective on being full-time indie has never been really positive – either you’re famous or you’re DOA; there’s not a lot of middle ground.

    I recently got the ‘courage’ to pick up a ‘Learning C#’ book I’ve been terrified of starting, and it’s going alright. However, I don’t plan on being full-time indie – first of all, I don’t expect it to subsidize my life; I don’t think any of my ideas are either genius or simple enough to be the “next” anything. Also, I just don’t think I could keep on creating constantly. I have plenty of ideas, but I think I’ll keep it as a hobby rather than a ‘lifestyle’. But enough about me. I wish you all the best, and hopefully you’ll find a way to get a well-paying job as well as the time to fulfill any and all creative endeavors.

    PS I guess this means that ‘trixel’ roguelike and Metal Gear Line are dead? I would love to see more polished versions of both. Hell, you link to 30 Flights of Loving – make a similar approach; tell your story in 15 minutes and GTFO. Not every game needs to be huge and broad in scope. All I want is a 1.0 of each…

  21. Matthew says:

    I can’t imagine being a starving artist is ever worth it. At least until you’re not starving anymore.

    • Matthew says:

      That was maybe a little less supportive than intended… Comfort and peace of mind is so important though, and dreams can be pursued in your spare time. At least, that’s how I see it for myself.

  22. Doesn't matter says:

    Any idea when I might be able to buy Leaper for PC? It’s a neat concept. Simple, but fun, like Swift_Stitch, which is a purchase that I was very happy with.

    And when can I buy Lottie’s Dungeon? The free demo sparked my interests, and I got very excited reading your plans for it on google docs.

    I realize that you may not get to work on it for some time, but that doesn’t worry me. I just want to show that there is support for it.

    • Sophie says:

      Leaper on PC: I don’t know, maybe never. I’m making it primarily as a gyroscope game right now, I’ll decide if it works on other platforms once it’s done :)

      Swift*Stitch: thanks! :D

      Lottie’s Dungeon: another ‘don’t know’ sorry. I am keen to get back to it but my options are limited with regards to what I can afford to work on right now, and Lottie’s Dungeon is too big a project.

      • Doesn't matter says:

        -Leaper
        Okay, fair enough. If it doesn’t suit, then it doesn’t suit. It’d be interesting to see what you do with it, but personally, I get my portable computing from a laptop.

        -Swift*Stitch
        Thank you for making it.

        -Lottie’s Dungeon
        I suspected that much. Still, I’m very much looking forward to it. It has great potential I love the art, and the music, and your ideas for it are very cool.

        I hope things get easier for you.
        I’ll keep checking back.


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