Well, first I’d like to say “Hello!” As this is my first post on Reddit. I’ve lurked occasionally for quite a while, but I finally think it’s time to partake for myself.
I’d like to tell you all how One Game A Month has changed my life since I found it. A little back-story first…
So, like all newbie wanna-be game designers and game developers, I started with ideas for games as a kid, probably starting around 7 or 8 years old. I made a couple of board games, and picked up my first programming book when I was 10. I saved lunch money for a month to get that $25 C++ book (I still have it, actually). Now, I’d always been an ambitious kid, so I read through most of that book. But, I was still just a 10 year old kid, so things that people said made an impact, especially what adults had to say, and all I heard was “you need to learn something practical and worth applying to the real world,” and “you just aren’t smart enough to do this kind of stuff.” That hit hard. So I eventually put it down. I picked it up again a few years later (2000), as a freshman in HS. I started with web development: HTML, PHP, MySQL, things along those lines. I started, but again, lost my motivation in an environment that consistently reinforced “do something else.”
The whole way along, I’ve been a pretty dedicated PC gamer. I’ve played everything from Ultima, Wolfenstein, Classic UT – 3, Quake 1 – 4, StarCraft, Warcraft, Total Annihilation and countless, countless, countless games since, across nearly every genre. I always dreamed of making games, and that dream has never, ever gone away. I still play tons of games (mostly MechWarrior Online since open-beta went live).
I stuck to a similar line of work though, and ended up working in IT. After HS, with no college education, I drifted between a few employers and contract jobs before ending up with a gig as enterprise field support for a major company. I’ve been in this position for a little over 4 years now. It pays well, and lets me support my family without my wife having to work, letting her raise our son. But, I’m getting burned out, and burned out bad. It started affecting my health (mental and physical) and my relationships with family and friends, because the stress is very, very high. I cover 17 sites over a geographical area of 186,000 square miles with an effective user count of ~310, by myself, no additional support. I spend a lot of time behind the wheel of my car, dealing with uncooperative or incompetent users (more than any other place I’ve ever worked), or listening to management’s either insane and uninformed decisions about the numerous sites I cover, or telling me I can’t do something that needs to be done due to some issue over contracting. I’m sure a lot of it is just me being crazy or caring to much or whatever, but overall, it’s really just not working out for me.
December rolls around, and I’m feeling pretty much at the end of my rope (no, not suicidal, too much to do for that). I couldn’t tell you how I made it through, other than burying myself in a strange mixture of MWO, Gnomoria and House M.D.
At the end of December, I started looking for ways I could change my life around and get myself moving in the right direction. I couldn’t stand feeling like I was at the bottom of the happiness barrel anymore. My best friend told me that Unity3D had gone free to download. I jumped on it and it was sitting on my file server in 5 minutes.
I occasionally browsed around on Gamasutra, IndieDB and a few other places from time-to-time, but never really dedicated my time to any of them. I started frequenting Gamasutra, I spent every spare moment I had watching Unity-specific tutorials, digging around wherever I needed to learn. The first thing I started on was a tower-defense game. I’d followed a couple of the various tutorials projects and pieced-together a prototype of the primary mechanic with my own little twists added in. I didn’t realize how big of a bite I’d taken when I’d started that project. When I started though, I set an initial goal for myself: prototype a game by the end of the year. A couple of weeks later, I bumped that date up to my birthday (may), and by Jan 20th, I’d completed that goal (had the base mechanics of tower-defense games down), but I didn’t really have a game. I was starting to hit that point where I’d been so many times before: achieve the first little goal, and sputter out. I was determined to not let that happen. I shut down my facebook account, which was simply too much of a distraction, and most of the people I followed/followed/friended were a bickering and depressing bunch, don’t need that distraction. I took to twitter, which I’d always just blown off, and started just posting my gamedev stuff there. And reading, lots of reading, and following other indie devs (I’m sure some of you are here!).
Somewhere along the line, I stumbled on #1GAM. I checked it out, and read through some of it. Then, I read the wisdom page. This is, by far, the most motivating thing I’ve ever read in my life. The first time I read it, I had a tear rolling down my face. It was -precisely- what I needed, at that exact moment. I launched Unity and started a new project. I didn’t care what I produced, or if it was fun, or if anyone even liked it. I just started piecing things together.
I read the wisdom page every single week since I found it, and I still read it. The whole thing, top to bottom, and all of the “Random Wisdom from Team SpreadTheLove” at the top. It is incredibly motivating. It’s like a coach standing behind me, telling me to keep going. Not like a football coach or drill instructor, but like a best friend reminding you that they’re right there and is there if you need them.
The project I started at the beginning of February was submitted as my entry for March #1GAM, Star Speeder, which you can find here: http://bit.ly/13lRPTe . I couldn’t have achieved all of that without the words written on the Wisdom page of the 1GAM website. I’ve started on my April #1GAM, which also uses Unity, but is much more ambitious than Star Speeder was. I’ve been digging through C# tutorials and talks and reading material, and have learned a metric boatload. The code for Star Speeder is crap, and it’s a complete mess. But I know that, and I’m using the things I’ve learned there to clean up and make a better game this time around. One of the hardest things I thought I was going to struggle with in my new game (as yet untitled) I was able to accomplish over the course of the weekend. I feel incredibly empowered and feel better than I’ve ever felt, because now I’m following my childhood dreams, with 1GAM’s wisdom to help me along the way.
Thank you @McFunkypants, @LZAntal, Team Spread The Love, all of those I’ve reached out to on twitter and the wonderful Game Dev community.
One Game a Month has made me a much happier human being, and now I hope to eventually move this into a career I am deeply passionate about pursuing. I look forward to meeting all of you and hearing from you!