The Overly Critical Developer
Teddy Lee of Cellar Door Games was recently interviewed by IGN, in a piece called “Independent By Design: Art & Stories Of Indie Game Creation.” In this article, it is explained that Lee has never truly enjoyed a video game:
“From his earliest exposure to video games, Teddy Lee, co-founder of Cellar Door Games and creator of seminal roguelike Rogue Legacy, excelled at identifying, arriving at and explaining solutions for design problems that he came across in games. This eye for critiquing games in a very fine, precise way means that there are very few games that he has ever, genuinely, enjoyed.”
Can you imagine what it’s like to never truly enjoy a video game? If you can, that’s because you’re probably an overly critical developer yourself! But is that so bad?
Well, consider what it is you do for a living. Creating games means creating entertainment. It’s something people do after work, to unwind, relax, and escape reality for a while. A hobby that is both fun and filled with challenges. It promotes hand-eye coordination, improved reflexes, and overall, a message of, “Work hard, keep progressing, and you’ll succeed.”
Does your attitude match your work?
The Joyful Developer
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the joyful developer. This is someone who loves games, and everything to do with them. They got into the industry in the hopes of sharing that love and joy though art. They make games, and rather than focusing on money, they focus on how many comments they read describing the game in a positive light.
It is these developers that come into work decently cheerfully, do as their told, and then go home to play more games. They spend the majority of their lives in a virtual setting, and they don’t get jaded.
But that’s not entirely a good thing either, is it? Being too joyful means they can often miss glaring mistakes in their work, mistakes that the overly critical developers wouldn’t so much as dream of letting slide. They might take negative comments poorly as well, as they primarily love working on games to share a positive experience with avid players.
The Balanced Developer
Finally, consider the balanced developer. This is someone who is both critical and joyful. It is someone who loves what he/she does (creating video games), but always feels like they can do better. With every project, they are desperately trying to be better than they were on the last one. The writing gets better, the coding improves, the design is more jaw-dropping.
And notice, these developers are the type that really do play games for the sake of entertainment. They understand players, because they are players. And they consistently think in that mindset while creating games. What do players want? How can I achieve my goal of giving them an experience they talk about years down the road?
These balanced developers understand the power of both negative and positive comments. They don’t miss glaring issues during development, but they also don’t let the critiques go too far. They have fun with the whole process, but shine in terms of work ethic as well.
Lessons to Learn
When developing on a team, it’s crucial to have people who lean toward both ends of the spectrum. Some should criticize, others should simply love what they do. And others should simply be balanced! By adding a few of all of these different types of people to your team, you ensure your projects get completed with quality and fun in mind, not just one over the other. Deadlines get met, work gets done, and mistakes are carefully solved.
The key to successful game development isn’t meeting deadlines or kickstarting a game. While that might be important, the key is to have a successful team. One that is made up of people who love games, love players, and are committed to providing quality, entertaining art. Once you have that, everything else follows.
The Zen of Development
Imagine being in an office where someone is playing your game on Twitch in order to market it. They’re being friendly, chatting up players, and working on Kickstarter. Now imagine someone else in another corner of the room, just getting work done. Deadlines are being met, issues are being resolved in a timely manner, and overall your ship is functioning at 100% (or close to it).
For many developers, especially indie, this seems like a far-fetched dream. It’s oftentimes regarded as a myth or something that few people can attain. But the truth of the matter is that it is entirely possible. Every good studio should have those overly productive, overly critical people, as well as the ones that view it less as a job, and more of an exercise in creativity and connection with other like-minded people. In doing so, they guarantee their productivity and their game quality.
If you’re currently developing your team, keep this in mind. Look for people that are more than just talented. People who can design, code, or write are a dime a dozen. The trick is focusing on the people who will mesh well together, making the experience a much more valuable one. You might be surprised to find that what begins as a common game jam might quickly become a brick-and-mortar game studio in due time!