Greetings. My name is Steven Hugg, and until recently, I was a mild-mannered software engineer. A few months ago, I got this insane idea that I should become a game developer. I said goodbye to my cushy but unsatisfying web-consulting job, cashed in some stock to provide living expenses, and set out on my new crusade. I'll try to document my journey here, as kind of a "Truman Show" for game developers.
I have a minor gaming background -- way back in 1992 I made a shareware game called "Comet Busters" (see it at http://cometbusters.com). It was your typical rock-blasting game, with a neat multiplayer option that was heavily play-tested in my dormitory. It was good for its time -- a Windows game when there were no decent Windows arcade games. WinG wasn't even around, much less DirectX and 3D acceleration. Heck, 2D acceleration wasn't even prevalent! Still, it was fun, and I sold about 3,000 copies over the years.
Then college and a Real Job(TM) took over, and I put down gaming for a while. I still dabbled in side projects such as Apple ][ emulators, MAME, and a few 3D experiments. But I never again tried to develop a complete game. That is, until now! (evil laugh)
But I was eight years out of date, and though I had been keeping up with technology and trends, I never had any real contact with the gaming industry. So I attended the GDC last month to bask in the glow of accomplished game developers. I had a great time, and came away with two main revelations: "Boy this is a neat industry, I sure do wanna be a part of it" and "Boy am I a newbie, it's tough just to land a job in the gaming biz, much less make a profit on an independent game!"
Still, I am ignoring all good advice given to me by practically everyone, and am developing a game independently. My goal is not only to produce a good game, but a game that sells enough to justify the opportunity cost I am taking by not working for the dot-conomy. If you've been keeping up with the stock market in the technology sector, that's a LOT of copies.
But how can a lone developer (plus any poor schmos that he got to drink the same Kool-Aid) hope to keep up with the latest multi-million dollar polygon-fests? Good question. I'll tell ya about my upcoming game and its incredible feature set that will amaze the industry.
Think they'll go for it? My inspiration is on pages 32 and 33 of the April 2000 PC Gamer. See the top-selling game of 1999, "Rollercoaster Tycoon"? That was created by a lone developer, Chris Sawyer, and his team of contractors. It's got simple isometric graphics, no gore (unless you count simulated vomit) and no groundbreaking technology. It's not even an original concept. It's just a simple and fun game that lots of people dig.
Now Chris Sawyer is an industry veteran, and I am just a poor schmoo. My spreadsheet tells me that I'll be in the black if I sell about 3,000 copies -- so I just have to be 1/200th of a Chris Sawyer. I might be able to swing that.
Well, that's enough raving and drooling to scare most people off, so I'll stop here. If you come back I promise to have some stuff about event-based simulation, prototyping games in Java, stupid C++ tricks, and other tasty technical topics. You'll also witness my dramatic struggle to produce a game that's better than, er, SimCopter. Stay Tuned!