How much time do I have left?featured

Hello! My name is Vladimir, I’m the owner of Latvia-based Coldwild Games studio and one of the Weather Factory mentees. As an unconfirmed ruler of time and even less confirmed master of life, I wanted to share my views on what’s important.

Every one of us has a thing that we like to focus on, either full time or on a hobby level of commitment. Maybe a game. Or colouring Warhammer models. Some other pet project. Perhaps doing some home renovations or car tuning? My concern is: how many of these things can we complete in our lifetime?

According to Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, the remaining life expectancy in Latvia for a 30-year old male (my age!) as of 2018 is 40 more years. Let’s assume that nothing bad happens and I survive to see myself at this age.

Game making process as time measurement

Since I make games, I use them to measure my life time. If I make one game a year, I end up with 40 games. Not too bad. Double the development time and you get 20. Some side-questions appear. Should I work longer on a more successful project that other people like? Or, skill-wise, are 20 games enough to get good at making indie games? Do I need to take a break?

My 40 remaining games. I treat these as my personal battery cells.

By themselves, numbers mean nothing

If life was a simple series of projects, it would be easy. Alas, there are other factors of time measurement. Here are the ones that I am worried about.

My father’s remaining life expectancy
My mother’s remaining life expectancy

With every release, I mentally take off a square from these images, left to right. I’m happy to have my parents support me all this time, but I know it won’t last forever. I can’t imagine not being able to show screenshots from my new games to my mother, even though I know this day will eventually come (unless I leave this world first).

Convenient time to have kids if I want to see them graduate and actually be able to help them study / get on their feet before I (officially) retire even though I know I won’t.
Superhero movies being made and Hollywood milking movie franchises. At least one thing has me covered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stressing about this 24/7. But whenever I undertake something, I consider how many boxes am I going to need.

Larger Projects

Say I want to make something grand. Maybe 4 year game? I see a lot of gamedev beginners want to make something grand. I’ve spent 2.5 years on my first amazing turn-based-game™. Spoiler: it did not turn out amazing and I would be better off making smaller projects and learning much more. I don’t want to judge any artist and, by all means, follow your creative vision. However, consider which situation would be better for you?

4 year project at the beginning of your career
4 year project in the middle of your career

Which one of those do you think is a better time / money investment? Would you want to undertake your one-in-a-lifetime work in the beginning of your career or in the middle, when you have much more knowledge an experience? Those things are not exclusive of course and of course you can do both, but be weary of the opportunity costs. Also bear in mind that you give 20% of your battery life if you do both. Subjectively, I think completing 4 games in 4 years is better for your game-releasing experience compared to one big game in 4 years.

Merchant of the Skies, the game I am currently working on. A sum of my previous gamedev experiences and lessons learned

I’ve displayed these blocks as a 10×4 matrix, but they can also be interpreted as a ladder. Each block should be treated as a step. Make sure it’s a meaningful one.

Life?

Every time we undertake a project in our life, these cells keep fading away. There are a lot of articles with financial reasoning not to do long games / projects unless you are absolutely sure in success and they are equally valid. But the time boxes concern me way more. Until I was 25, I never thought about it this way. Then, as your life gets a bit more stable, you start questioning the long term effects of doing or not doing something. Should I quit my job or should I give away 2 more cells for better security? Should I work on that game rather than on 10 other ones I want? Each decision you make reduces your life battery charge. How many more moves can you make?

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