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Hedging Your Bets: Why I Chose The Life Of A Double Developer

In this 4th entry in my Double Developer series I explain how I chose the life of a Double Developer in order to hedge my bets to reduce the risk of failure.

Hello again everyone, and welcome to my fourth entry in my series, "Life as a Double Developer". I try to have new posts up every Monday, but up here in Canada we just had a long weekend celebrating Thanksgiving. So as a courtesy to my American friends who celebrate Thanksgiving a month late, this post is going up a little late :)

So if you've been following along with the series, you'll know that I spent a bit of time talking about what it's like to be a double developer, and also why I believe it's a mutually beneficial arrangement for the employer and the developer. But today I thought I'd elaborate a bit on why I chose to seek such an arrangement.

At a very basic level, I like programming and I like making games. The desire to have the freedom to do so in my free time, and retain the rights to whatever I work on, was pretty natural. However, there was a lot more to consider beyond that basic desire if I was serious about being a double developer as a career move and not just a hobby.

On the one hand, I knew that I was a pretty competent programmer. After all, I'd shipped a few console titles and I'd made a few prototypes in the past that people really liked. However, I had never done all of the programming on a shipped title from beginning to end. But that seemed like it would be the reality if I were really serious about trying to make a game on my own. I knew I had a lot left to learn, and as a result I wasn't particularly eager to forego any type of employment and income just in case it turned out that I couldn't hack it.

Moreover, I didn't have anyone committed to helping me. Although I was eager to handle the design and programming, art and music were two gaping holes that would need to be filled. And without a partner ready to contribute, I knew I'd be struggling trying to find someone. And if I had to pay for their contribution (as I did for the artist for Waveform), that would be very difficult without another source of income.

So in the end, my own inexperience and the lack of any partners made jumping head-first into the Indie pool seem pretty risky. Of course, the catch-22 here is that I wouldn't gain the experience I needed or find the partners I was looking for if I just worked solely in the games industry. So neither solution seemed like it was going to work out.

So to summarize, here's what I was looking for:

  • The ability to make games on my own that I could eventually sell 
    • So no restrictive contracts with a game development studio would work here!
  • A reliable source of income
  • The opportunity to enhance my skills at making games without burning away my life savings
  • The ability to find partners to make games with, and have the means to pay them out of my savings if necessary
  • The chance to make awesome games, one way or another!

And under that set of requirements, the only solution I could see was to work full-time for the games industry while trying to make my own games on the side. Despite the hectic schedule, I'd say it's worked out quite well and allowed me to more or less fulfill all of those requirements. 

At a high level I'm basically trading a lot of hard work for lowering my risk of being disappointed, either by running out of money through working on my own or by not getting the chance to see my own games come to life. Different people have wildly different feelings when it comes to managing risk, so I'm not saying my solution is for everyone. But for every awesome story we hear of an Indie team quitting their day jobs and striking it rich with their debut game there are many untold stories of teams folding up after not making enough money to stay viable. And it was those odds that didn't sit too well with me.

So after more than 2 years of employing this strategy, I now have a nearly-complete game on my hands. I've proven to myself that I have what it takes to make a fun game, as anyone who gets their hands on it can attest. But what I haven't proven yet is that I'm able to make a financially successful game! And the reality is that's a pretty important piece if I hope to stay afloat and keep making games! So I'm planning on sticking to this life as a double developer for a while longer, and continue hedging my bets until I can determine with more clarity whether my attempts at making my own games can become successful. 

And if they aren't successful, well I'll just keep working at Next Level Games on awesome games. And really, as far as backup plans go, I can’t really complain about that one!

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