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It's all right to give up on your game idea -- even if you're Notch
It's all right to give up on your game idea -- even if you're Notch
August 19, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

August 19, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Indie, Production

Anyone familiar with game development knows that, even in the face of ideal conditions and best-laid plans, some projects will never see the light of day. Players are a little less accustomed to this idea -- stories abound of developers being hounded on social media for project updates, or of players outraged over studios "hiding" the existence of a project while still early in its production cycle. These stress points only multiply if you're a developer with a considerable fan following.

Such is the case with Markus "Notch" Persson and the ill-fated 0x10c, a massive space game whose proposed scale is only outstripped by its voracious fan following. So, when a fan asked Persson during a Team Fortress 2 stream how the game was coming along and Persson answered that he wasn't working on it, "it became news."

"I understand why, and it really shouldn't surprise me," Persson acknowledges in a new blog post, "but I really really don't want to turn into another under delivering visionary game designer [in the press]. The gaming world has enough of those."

While 0x10c was always intended to be "quite ambitious," in Persson's words, in his eyes it was just another project. "If I failed, so what? A lot of my prototypes fail before they get anywhere at all."

Unfortunately, Persson says, "the pressure of suddenly having people care if the game got made or not started zapping the fun out of the project... I spent a lot of time thinking about if I even wanted to make games any more."

Persson mentally shelved the project and focused his efforts elsewhere, on smaller, simpler projects. He recently participated in 7DFPS, a week-long game jam. Persson's game, Shambles -- described as "a hectic shooter greatly inspired by Doom" -- was "the most fun programming I've done in many months." It also solidified for him a new direction for his work.

"This is what I want to do... I used to [want] to make huge games. [Now] I want to do smaller games that can fail. I want to experiment and develop and think and tinker and tweak," he says. "So that's what I'm going to do."

Meanwhile, the concept behind 0x10c is far from dead in the water, with new developers taking on the mantle in a spirit of collaboration resonant with the robust community-driven culture of Persson's Minecraft.

"Some people in the 0x10c community decided to work together to make their own version of their game, called Project Trillek. I find this absolutely amazing," Persson enthuses. "I want to play this game so much, but I am not the right person to make it. Not any more. I'm convinced a new team with less public interest can make a vastly superior game than what I would make."

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Thomas Happ
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I've worked on a little over a dozen projects in the past 10 years, and about half of them were cancelled. Tw of them were actually complete (can you guess which ones?) and just waiting for the publisher to start accepting payments. But, it was usually publishers being publishers and not because the dev team wanted them shelved.

Chris Hendricks
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Good for him. Sounds like the right decision was made.

Daneel Filimonov
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As I thought, it's best to keep your project low-key until you're sure you have enough progress on it or know you are going to continue working on it until it's done. People seem to have the tendency to show off a WIP and then ride on that sense of having it out there and then just completely stop working on it. I'm not sure where I read this, but it appears to be a psychological thing where you need to feel good about the project being made and if you tell others, it becomes less likely to be completed because you're satisfied with the revealing (or something along those lines). It's a habit that a lot of people seem to hold on to.

James Coote
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I think it very much depends on the game. As mentioned by a number of those in the gamasutra article on Alpha Funding a week or two back, some games naturally lend themselves to being developed in secret and only revealed when fully formed (particularly story heavy games). While others you need to get them out there early to build a groundswell of support and excitement

You could argue that in this case, putting the game out there was a good thing, because it became obvious at an earlier stage that both the developer and players weren't really digging it. Hence the decision to drop it, rather than struggling on, hoping things will get better

Kujel s
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I really like Notch, he seems like a really decent, nice, and open-minded guy. I think his reasons for cancelling 0x10c are resonable and it's cool he's happy about project Trillek.

edwin zeng
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Its his choice. Let him decide himself.

James Coote
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I remember when this game was announced, I was working on a similar space-themed game, and was like "doh! Now everyone's going to think I'm just copying Notch"

As it happened, I also gave up on my project (after working on it for 18 months!) because it was fundamentally flawed. So I understand it's hard to give up on something you've invested a lot of time and energy into, but some games were never meant to be

The moral of the story is Never make games set in space!

Mike Higbee
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I think a lot of the problem is the gaming news sites seem to like running every tweet about a game idea or project like it's going to be the next Minecraft, when honestly before that he just primarily thrived in the game jam scene. It's putting the pressure on him that his one major project was such a success that his next is going to have to be equal or better.

Maria Jayne
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I agree, I think this is what he is learning with this decision to cancel the project. He talked about it too early, before he knew if he wanted to or indeed could make it work and get enthusiastic about it.

Peter Eisenmann
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Well, I'd somehow wish to be in a position where all of my projects are awaited eagerly...

Joshua Pickard
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For the Indie... it's about the game "feeling" right for the developer. If the Indie isn't enjoying the process, what's the motivation? It's not like there's been an advance from a publisher compelling someone to keep working on a busted project. Hooray for Indie freedom!

Curtiss Murphy
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People write about it, cause he's famous. For now, he's turned to "Small Projects" as a way to re-energize himself. And, I suspect, given time, he will learn to navigate the waters of publicity and eventually, find balance.