This is the first one of a series of articles I plan on posting about "the other side" of game development. Not just the "technical developer" things or the "look at my screenshots" awesomeness but more the behind the scenes stuff. I noticed that a large portion of my followers and online friends are aspiring to be full time indie devs at some point and I often get questions related to the things I hope to cover in these blog posts.
This post was originally posted on my Orangepixel blog, and I'll aim to do a post per week, at least for the next couple of weeks as I have some idea's written out. Also, if you have any suggestions/ideas for a topic like this, let me know in the comments ! This first in the series is a pretty basic one: walking you through my work rhythm and ethics.
Start the day
It's fairly normal to me, but random people often asked me what I do all day, and it's a good question! So let's see.
I'm usually awake anywhere between 7:00 and 8:30. I don't use an alarm, and haven't used one for many many years, which is one of the pro's of being your own boss. Luckily Aline (the other half) is also in a position of not really having to set an alarm as she runs her own store. She does set one for 8:15 on some days in the week, but it's extremely rare for us to not be awake before it buzzes anyway.
Often I'll be doing social media, some forums and news feeds before I actually get out of bed. So it's also very rare for me to be out of bed before 9:30 (and more rare to not be out of bed at 9:30). I don't eat breakfast, never liked eating that early in the morning, and I eat a small lunch between 11am and 12am, so I go straight to work.
For me it's really important to stick to these times, I believe that not having any strict schedule will mess up your head and work-ethic. You eventually end up working at weird hours, not knowing when you took your last break, not in the mood to work, feeling tired all the time, etc. It might work for others, but I prefer to have a few things on a set schedule to keep the rhythm in my work days. Also, I never, ever, work in my undies.. ! Outfits like that are for lazy days, and even on a lazy day I put on clothes like an adult ;)
I don't have an office! yay! I work downstairs in the "dining" area of the house at a big kitchen table (10 chairs to choose from) and the radio or spotify filling the room with music. We don't have kids, so there's very little distraction happening and if you ask Aline, I'm probably the biggest distraction in the house as I sing along with the radio and do a lot of hyper-active silly voices (especially when I'm in the creative zone, and one of the reasons I don't do streaming with webcams!).
We do have 5 cats roaming around but they are mostly sleeping all day anyway, so no distractions there either. As for hardware, just a Macbook (no mouse, sometimes a gamepad or a phone/tablet to test on) which works for me!
The hours I put into work have changed over the years. When I just started Orangepixel, back in 2004, I worked a lot but I also had a different situation. I was single, I wasn't in a great place, and I was much younger. Also, starting a business is a lot of work, simple as that.
These days I do work fairly normal hours tho, sometimes I "crunch", not because a game has to be completed but because my brain is in "the zone" and I just have so much stuff that I want to add I end up working day and night and 7 days a week. This is fairly rare tho, and I still go to bed at midnight-ish. Due to Aline having a shop, she works Tuesday-Saturdays so we sort of shifted the weekend a bit. My work-week starts on Tuesday morning, and ends on Friday afternoon but usually I end up doing some tinkering and stuff on Saturday and Sunday while watching a movie or some tv shows.
I work from 9:30ish to 4:30ish pm (then I go out for a walk/ride to Aline's store as she closes at 5pm). I read all my news feeds after dinner, and 80% of the days I don't work in the evening anymore, unless the creativity calls for it! In the couple of summer weeks I do change all that up, as I take more outdoor walks and such, but I often find my creativity improves by only working 4 hours a day in those weeks.
Also, during the summer, I often relocate my work-space to the roof terrace and work in the sun - until my laptop fans start blowing, then I just enjoy the sun and stop the work. I don't believe "crunch" is a solution for any job, but I also don't think you can do "crunch" if you are self-employed because there is a very different feeling to all the work you do, it's all personal.
The main reason I started being self-employed is to dictate my own life, I decide what I do, when I do, and why I do it. That's the freedom I've always been searching for, so there is no point in forcing myself to work my ass off beyond what is healthy or required.
During work I try to not get distracted too much. I always keep my Feedly (news reader) closed until the day is done. I do enjoy some twitter and lately the indiedev slack as a healthy distraction, as I look at that as more the office-chatter that normal people have when working from an office.
Real world distractions aren't many, it took some years, but most people now understand I'm actually working and not just playing around on a computer all day. I usually read all emails that come in when they come in, and either answer them directly (if I think they are important or easy enough to reply to) or I leave it in my mailbox until a time where creativity isn't going very well and I could use a break.
One big footnote on all this is that of course: this works for me, and might very well not work for anybody else. It's also something that grew organically in those last 12 years of being self-employed. I worked more hours when I started, and my main focus these days is just being a relaxed guy most of the time, as little stress as possible.
That said, I do hope it helps some of you out there with maybe some tips or idea's on how to get your work-flow going. Discipline is a requirement if you are self-employed, and crunch isn't a romantic thing it's really just crap and a waste of your time.