This post contains very personal thoughts and beliefs from someone who is a stranger to you. You are not expected to agree or empathize with me and every thought in here is completely subjective and mostly unfiltered. It is my personal story, most likely too long and most likely not containing any information you can make money out of. However, I'd like to share it with you and if you'd like to know, feel free to read on. Please bare in mind that I am neither a writer person nor a native English speaker so I'm sorry if this post contains certain mistakes or is not well written.
Round about five years ago I played a little browsergame called Canabalt. I fell in love with it, even though it is a really simple game. One day after playing it, I had an idea. An idea of my own take on how I imagine an interesting Runner game to be like. I started to work on it on evenings between my workdays, hit some road blocks relatively quickly in the search of an artist, thought it's too tedious and abandoned the project.
Around two years later, my life changed drastically. Back when I started studying Business Informatics and while working afterwards my stomach often gave me a hard time and I often didnt feel so well, but I managed to get all the things done that needed to be done. That was about to change. My state went from bad to worse from one day to the next, I went from Doctors Office to Doctors Office hoping one could help. Sadly, they could not. In fact, they didn't have a clue whats wrong with me. I won't go into any further details but what it boils down to is, that I often feel sick and that my state can change from ok to bad on any day in any minute. I could not continue to work my normal Job. After half a year at home and no clues on if or when I might find a cure for my illness, I wanted to do something with my life again. Something productive. That's when that one idea I had a few years ago crossed my mind again. The only idea I've ever had to be honest. But I thought well, I have had that one Idea and gave up on it once, if I now decided to pursue it again, I must not give up on it this time. What I did not know was that this little idea would evolve into a two year project which would lead me through the depths of the world wide web around the world. From Europe over Australia to the U.S.A.
A new beginning
That's when I started research on how to program a 2D sidescroller game and I decided to go forward with a Java Framework called LibGDX in Early 2013. My little but up to now still pretty unique idea was that you have an arsenal of different skills on every run and thus the skills influence what kind of obstacles you face (I decided to be one of the only/few Endless Runners to work with Tilemaps instead of procedurally generated run forward through obstacles maps because with fully fledged tilemaps you could create more interesting gameplay situations). After a few months programming and prototyping I was at the point again where I knew that I need an artist to accompany me on my journey. I didn't have much money to spend or much incentives to give apart from my idea and my motivation, but those 2 things had to suffice. Luckily, after an extensive search, I met someone who was a capable artist and willing to accompany me. The two of us went through the early design and further prototyping phase together. Those were some months of heated discussions. Design choices are never made easy or taken lightly as they will influence the final outcome by a huge amount. In the coming months I managed to convince a few more artists to hop on board and together we went on to create a game that should later be given the name Run or Die.
Not much to give
As I couldn't pay much, I at least wanted to give every artist on board the best experience they could possibly have working on this game. That said, having such a strange illness with which you never know if you can work on the game tomorrow or for how long you are able to work on it and time differences between Europe, Australia and the U.S.A didn't really make that easier. There were a lot of times where I just wanted to close my laptop and throw the towel. I wouldn't get rich anyways because I'm a completely unknown dev developing a game in a Genre which gets associated with throwaway mobile games. But deep in my soul, I did not wanna quit. Not again. People put their trust in me, time into this game and so did I. My life literally became creating this game and making the things work to pave the way for this game to be released someday. And if that meant discussing with our UI artist how an asset gets displayed 1 pixel off or how the items in the options menu are arranged at 4AM in the morning or quickly getting a new asset in for testing in the middle of the night, so be it. Most likely the players will not care if something is one Pixel off and maybe even I didn't care at some points, but the artist did. And I felt responsible for him to be heard and that he feels satisfied with the work he put into the game. I thought, maybe we are unknown and maybe the Genre will be difficult to promote, but if we manage to create a game with that much attention to detail in every part of the game, someone might see it and appreciate it. In Mid 2014 we breezed through Steam Greenlight within a single month without any media coverage. Lucky us. The upcoming months development went on and the game started to feel more and more polished.
I thought that I can leave Sound Design for last because it won't be that difficult. How wrong I was. After some failed attempts from different Sound Artists, I managed to talk to an industry veteran (Sound Designer of the game South Park - The Stick of Truth) and I was able to convince him to accompany me on the last parts of my journey. Same for Music. The creator of the Dustforce OST and a friend of his were willing to cooperate for the Soundtrack of our game. Splendid.
December 2014 it was finally finished and ready to go. Run or Die - Out Now on Steam. I was stoked and afraid at the same time. Afraid that people might not like the game and will hate on it big time. That didn't happen. Instead, Run or Die flew completely under the radar and just got ignored by the media. I guess the game was not interesting or crazy enough to be shown. I had thought of some scenarios, but that no one even cares to review the game to see if it's any good was hard to digest. After all, this game had been my life for 2 years and I am proud of every single portion of the game. However, all in all, I feel happy. Happy because I pulled through. Despite the hardships, the nay-sayers and my illness. And I had the honor to meet some awesome people on the way which I can now proudly call my friends.
If you did take the time to read through this whole post, I salute to you. You are insane. And awesome. And if you managed to do that, I am pretty sure you can follow your own dream as well. Right?
tl;dr: If I can take on and complete the journey of forming a small international team of talented people from around the world and manage to create the game of my dreams despite having an illness, almost no funds but just an idea, my personal motivation, a couch and a laptop, you can do too. Have faith.