Life as an Indie Game Developer.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Let's see... it was towards the end of October 2014 when my computer catastrophically failed. And that precipitated the construction of a completely new computer rig. Then, I needed to find all of the old serial numbers, registration codes and keys for my old programs, with the oldest dated back to 1996, an audio recording program, CoolEdit96. And with some of these programs now, they need to be deactivated before they can be reactivated on a new machine, and that doesn’t happen with a complete system failure, nor is it simplistic without any internet access.
But first, to begin to hope in the retrieval of any data off of my old rig, I needed to figure out just what was the reason for its untimely death. I called the makers, Digital Storm, http://www.digitalstormonline.com/, and they went through the process of diagnosing the trouble. When all was said and done, it was my motherboard or the i5 processor that was fried and not my hard drive, so I was able to turn my sadness into a bunch of rigorous archive searching. But to even begin digging the data off of the old hard drive I needed to find a USB IDE reader, for me an ICY DOCK, but that meant that I must purchase a new rig all together to be able to recapture the old drives data. So my next thought was “To Indie or NOT To Indie”, but of course, To Indie.
Financier & Web Domain.
Continuing on after a victory of financial opportunity cost self-debate, and therefore a new computer from Digital Storm, I had to get a new suite of programs so I could continue working on my website, http://www.farniche.com/, FarNiche, on my new rig. That was right at the time my old website service providers, Concentric, were changing, upgrading and moving their software and access points to XO Communications. So in trying to hook my new software into my sites’ domain, I found that, magically, my website vanished, poof, gone. That took a good week or two of dedicated nattering back and forth to finally get that squared away with my new provider, XO Communications, retrieving my old backups from Concentric, where they had my websites’ archives to finally get those reinstalled under my domain name.
Circa: December, 2014. Then it was back to installing my old programs where I found that nearly all of them would still run on Windows 8.1 but there were some issues of *.hlp files that were no longer supported, even from the jump from Win7. With these, there were a couple compatibility issues that needed to be figured out. Also, I found that there where programs, "freebees" from the old rigs’ initial software preinstall time or from hardware purchases, that I couldn't find. These missing programs needed to be recognized as "preinstalled" before the next upgrade of my programs would allow what I was trying to reinstall now, so sadly, yes missing, gone, irretrievable. Those prerequisite programs were, luckily, still available for me to re-purchase in the "Web-O'-Sphere".
Then came the problems of the new rig itself, being a multithreaded quad core i7 with the capacity of USB mass storage. This issued in some new overload impasses, which needed to be accommodated through some new self-imposed "traffic light" protocols. Programs need room to store, build and compile the assets without running out of memory and some programs kept writing to my C:/ tempfile location on the 120GB SSD, solid state hard drive, which couldn’t find the room. I found this out after installing all of my working programs and ended up with about 30GB left of free storage on that C:/ drive. So you guessed it, crash, boom, bam, no new file with just a whole bunch of “???” in return with a whole new set of troubles to figure out. That turned into a “Who uses the most memory” and “Where do YOU, new heavy memory usage program, like to build and keep your temp files” game. After figuring out which programs are memory intensive and which were speed intensive, I resituated some programs off of the zippy SSD and onto a higher latency Raid1 IDE set, which opened up more room, free space, for that ever lovin' use of my C:/temp file location.
Now it was off to do some final tweaking of different drivers. It was mostly the audio programs that would require or prefer to have their dedicated driver running along with the use of their program. That meant that I needed another “Think-It-Through-First” protocol before I could start to try to get my work done, in an orderly fashion, a necessitatively obligatory orderly fashion. Moving in between FL Studio with its ASIO4ALL v2 driver and the Blue Yeti USB microphone driver, became one hurtle of Playback, Recording, Sounds and Communications property settings that now require a specific set of "selected" settings. For each to playthrough without conflict resulting in either time-shifting, echo or feedback, these settings would need to be in place before the action of the program is set into motion. Then come the challenges between dedicated In-Line FL Studio and Cakewalk Music Creator5 banks of VST's and plug-ins. Each program would invoke wonder, through a message box of course, about the priorities for which VST bank or plug-in set to either share or not to share between each program, which made for another layer of time not being an Indie Game Developer, per se.
So now I'm up to speed on Circa: February, 2015. It's been about four months getting back to where I was before my prefailure and catastrophë date on around late October 2014. Feeling some normalcy again, I can start getting back to the business of forward progression by figuring out how I am going to build my video games. Having advanced through the rebuild and acclimation phase of my new computer rig and accompanying programs, the majority of "What new problems are keeping me from building my video games" is just about over. At least I am able to be my own I.T. maintenance guy, and my own financier. I would guess that these are good strong suits in being an INDIE, more of a necessity. Programming is another good thing to know than not to understand, then having an artistic eye and hands, along with musical abilities and of course a couple of other secret tricks to rely on to get me through each game build. This indie game creation endeavor sure seems to fall, a lot, into the lines of being an independent carpenter, or at least that type of mindset, in which a, see it, fix it, kind of carpenter, as I can draw from my past experience, proves true in being very helpful to me now.
Back on Track.
With everything shaken down where it has fallen back into place, I can get back to some more realistic use of my problem solving time, like, ... "What am I getting at this time around?" "Where am I going with this new computer rig?" "How can I further my potential as an Indie?" In answering these questions I found that I will be continuing with the One Game A Month game creation challenge which is highlighted on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hashtag/1GAM.
At One Game A Month, http://www.onegameamonth.com/ , I submit my game builds, where in my case it will be one Unity Game Engine Webplayer video game, per month, strait into the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.
This is the beginning of my third year with One Game A Month, where along with the game creation process, I'm looking to converse more with other game developers through Twitter. So far, mostly, Twitter seems to be a "Yell into the darkness" mechanism, with the hopes of some intelligible reply, or a blind outburst of "Hey, look over here at my #hashtag stuff". What I would like to accomplish, by helping out with the play-testing of other indie game devs’ games, here and there, and in giving constructive criticism from what initially comes to mind, I hope to get a better grasp of what other indies like myself think about gaming and gamification.
I will also be continuing my WordPress Blog, https://farniche.wordpress.com/ with at least one post per month. My WordPress Blog has become more of a mind-dump of free thinking, full of, "Where do I want to go next", "How will I get there", in between a bunch of, "Let's just jot down some ideas and see where it goes", kind of blog.
Something else that I have been meaning to do is to create a video blog on YouTube. I have finally picked up a https://plus.google.com/+Farnicheé name, page and badge. This is the place were my ideas of a video blog have turned into the "FarNiche ~ HowTo: GameDev Series". This Playlist is being filled with videos that compel me to recall the processes that I have used most recently to built with. For each successive video topic, I run through my project or research highlights to make those my Milestone subjects so I have a video lineage of past ideas. I can then refresh my memory of how I just did what I did, look back and see the basis of what I have been up to, rethinking of how I got to this point and so be able to critique myself more easily and clearly.
So as an “Indie”, it took about four months to get back to the point where I think I am over my first real bout of, "Holy Crap, what just happened!" I am now on track with a better understanding of the pitfalls of bad file backup practices. And, I have more wisdom that actually means something greater to me than just so-an-so academics. My hope is that this will get me through the next round of "No man, this ain't happenin’, again, is it?", more quickly. With all that behind me now, I can restart the fulfillment of my intentions where I am building video games, and have that become what will take up my concerted time and efforts, mostly.