How ambitions affect releases?

Redboon
3 min readNov 22, 2023

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Hi everyone! GreenAnti is here, I am a game designer in the Knock on the coffin lid game development team.

Well..

We had two bags of ambitions, 75 variations of gameplay, 5 liters of tight deadlines, a saltshaker half-full of crunch tears and a whole galaxy of multi-colored creative fellas. Not that we needed all that to release a game, but once you get locked into gamedev, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

Nowadays I reflect a lot on ‘Why did it take us so long to make a game (4 years)?’ as the development of our game is coming to an end.

I came to the conclusion that ambitions were crucial there. Game developers have it in two ways: either ambitions work as a power engine for creating impressive and modern games, or they may become obstacles and even break up the team.

So far I have brought out the following points that complicate and extend the time for development.

  1. Trying to make a game with a complex concept right away. The more complications you add at once, the more you get lost in them. And this is the fastest way to burnout. In addition, this can overfill the project with functionality and lead to almost endless development and possible financial difficulties.
  2. Paying no attention to processes, time and other resources. I saw how development began to go in circles due to the lack of management (even such trivial stuff like trello). As a result the team lost six months. Although PMs and other positions with support roles are typically considered insignificant (I actually heard things like ‘Why do you need a PM for this cost when you can hire a game designer or developer and divide the responsibilities between them?’), but still it seems that such people unite the entire team.
  3. Refuse to search for compromises. What can I say? It hurts. Every person in indie dev is creative, be it game designer, programmer or artist. Everyone believes that they know what is best and what is needed. Making a simple decision can take hours simply due to persuasion of one of the teammates, because they go into hard refusal. It’s customary in indiedev to share all responsibility equally among all teammates, which means that no one really takes it :) Here I can only advise to choose the one who will make the final decision. For example, the person from point 2.
  4. Ignoring the needs of the players for the sake of your own ambitions, it’s not so much a complication, but a dead-end. The idea that you know what players need better than they do is quite dangerous. Especially if you don’t have successful cases under your belt. Maybe I’m wrong, but I agree with this idea more and more. Speaking of us, we were lucky as we immediately focused on the desires of the players and worked closely with feedback.
  5. The desire to do it perfectly the first time. I admit, we still haven’t overcome it. But we treat the symptoms: set several months for polishing.Cases show us different options, for example, polishing and refining Stardew Valley made it an incredible game, and release of raw games undermined players’ trust. Redfall comes to my mind speaking of recent releases. At the same time, we, the players, are completely okay with the “first week patches” and take it as a matter of course.

To sum up philosophically: although ambitions can be a powerful motivator to create something new that will blow up the market, it is always important to find a balance. The team should be realistic about its capabilities and limitations in the context of the project’s goals and audience expectations.

Long story short, I still don’t understand where this balance exactly is.

Who had the same? How did you cope with that? Or is it still worth giving in to your ambitions and keep polishing the game to perfection?

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