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Making videogames without killing yourself

Videogames are great and life is short, we're going to make the best of both.

As any regular readers of my blog or followers of my amazingly sweary twitter feed will already be aware, the past couple of years have been marred by illnesses, both my own and the onward march of Mrs B’s collection of them.

Now, aside from the obvious “man, it take its toll” things and the occasional comedic “Rob turns up to give a talk off his face on painkillers, sorry about that but at least he can still draw a mean knob on demand” things, nearly snuffing it two years in a row really makes you sit down and think long and hard about things. And when you make videogames, long and hard about how you make videogames.

Which is why, for THE NEXT VIDEOGAME when working through the documents to fire over to partner in crime of mine Andy, there’s a series of golden rules in place. Because you know the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years? I’ve never met a videogame that’s worth my health. Not a single one. Not even if I get to fulfil my life’s ambition of getting to make or collate an all new Don’t Buy This for the upcoming console gen. Although admittedly, that would make the decision tougher.

They’re fairly simple too. Nothing too grand, right? 


Our Golden Rules

Keeping the project at a reasonable level of work is incredibly important.

  • It’s OK us having all the bright ideas in the world but if they impact on getting the game done in a relatively timely fashion, they’re not useful ideas.
  • Anything that can be made an art problem absolutely should be made an art problem. Do we need to rewrite this bit or can we cut, paste and swap a texture around?
  • No videogame is worth killing yourself over. When deciding whether to implement something always ask the simple questions “will trying this push me one step closer to the grave?”, “will it consume my existence?” And “will attempting this make me want to chew my own face off?”, if the answer is yes to any of these, it is not worth it.
  • Keep the scope small but think big within that space. How much can we milk out of not a lot of work? The answer is usually “quite a bit”
  • That said, if you can add a shiny at low personal cost, always add a shiny.
  • Cheat often. As long as something can be maintained within the project, no-one will ever care how hacky or quick and dirty it is. Perfectionism is never the goal, making a good game is. 


Now, I’m not even going to pretend that these are good or useful to anyone else, they’re certainly ill fitting for anyone wanting to carry work forward for a long time to come, engine building or perhaps anyone that isn’t me or Andy working together but they’re important for us. I'm sure you can find something that fits your life, your team, your project, y'know?

But without wishing to sound insulting, neither myself or Andy are spring chickens, we both have families and challenging lives at times and living those lives is exhausting enough. Making videogames can’t be crunch, can’t be nose to the grindstone, making videogames has to be around and within our lives not our lives.

That’s how it always should have been anyway. Now I’m just making sure.

That’s why I put these rules in place. They, along with the ethical guidelines of what THE NEXT VIDEOGAME can be, are the most important part of the documents, the most important part of making this game. Because for all the thousands of words on how THE NEXT VIDEOGAME works, what enemies do, how they work and whatever else, we can always make that stuff up as we go along if push comes to shove.

We can’t buy the time in our lives back we hurl down the drain if we don’t make games nicely and comfortably and I don’t want to be sitting here in 20 years time, just before the last vestiges of our western collapse play out, sitting staring out to the sea that wouldn’t have been quite so inland if we’d only paid attention, I don’t want to be sitting here going “shame we threw it all up the wall on making a videogame when we could have been holding the ones we love dear”.

That’d be terrible.

So we make games the best we can but we don’t kill ourselves.

Them’s the rules. They’re non-negotiable.

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