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Having IndieDev Failures Can Be a Good Thing

I go over the list of my Indiedev failures, and what I've learned from them.

Game Developer, Staff

February 4, 2015

4 Min Read

My Accumulating IndieDev Failures

I started to do IndieDev full time a year ago, and started learning about it three years ago.  During that time, I've yet to release even a finished game.

Rather than letting our failures dishearten us, taking the time to learn from them will help us grow as developers.


A History of Failure

Failing is often something that we're afraid of.  It's embarrassing, and can mess up our plans significantly.

My first real taste of failure came during my first year at the United States Military Academy.

I'd done well in most of my classes, especially my math and science classes, and was looking forward to a summer vacation with my best friend and his family in Hawaii after a strenuous first year at West Point.

All my grades were passing grades going into the Term End Exams (TEE), but when I came out, I knew one TEE didn't sit right.  My primary language, English.

This particular TEE was pass / fail for the entire class, so even though I had a passing average, the failure caused me to have to go to summer school.  If I failed it then, I would be kicked out of the Academy.

Tough Pill to Swallow

I was devastated and afraid at the time.  For me, it ranked as one of my first real failures in life.

I missed my Hawaii vacation, and had no summer break since immediately after summer school, I went into my second year summer training with my classmates.

It was a humbling experience, and what I learned is that I'm not invincible, that there are smarter people than me, and that I can't let failures rule my life.  You have to look on the bright side of your failures, and keep going.

My IndieDev Failures

So in the past 3 years of learning and making games, here are the projects I deemed as failures, and what I've learned from them.

  1. Falling From Sky - My first real attempt at finishing a game.  I realized that actually grinding to the end of  a polished game is hard.  It takes a lot of effort to complete a game.  Making art assets is a pain too.

  2. Push the Brick - A game I tried doing in 30 days to take a break from, The Valley.  I realized that even "small games" can get complicated quickly.  I quit this game too.

  3. The Valley - The game I worked on for a while.  I blew up my expectations to gigantic proportions, way beyond what one person could do.  I learned that I really can't take on big projects now.  I quit this game after floundering for a bit.  I also learned that when I stopped working on it, my momentum I'd gained disappeared.

  4. LoLSum - A side project for League of Legends that I was hoping would generate some side profits.  I learned that actually finishing something and making it look real nice makes you feel good.  It's a really cool product, but it hasn't generated any money.

So to sum it up, the big lesson, which almost every successful IndieDev says to do, is start small, complete a game and polish, polish, polish it.

I guess I thought I could be the exception, or maybe I thought I should try to stand out.


Moving On

The most recent book I read in my IndieDev education, Smartcuts by Shane Snow, says

"Since the rise of the Web, the Silicon Valley crows has decided that failure in the quest to build a business is not only OK, but cool.  "Fail often" is a guiding aphorism.

This next year I'll be focusing on finishing smaller games. I'll be failing more often too, but that's a good thing.

These are the lessons I learned from my failures, what have you learned from yours?

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