~ September 2007 ~
My work is responsible for getting a
lot of people into game development, so I can't turn my
back on them when they come back asking questions! Doing just that is the
aspiring Blitz developer,
whose journey is charted in the
Indie Diary blog...
Can you tell us about
I'm Mat Dickie. Operating under the abbreviated signature of "MDickie", I
single-handedly create and publish 3D games for the PC market. Working alone
means my games aren't quite as polished as some people would like, but the
creative freedom allows me to make more interesting games, at a quicker pace,
which are sold at a more reasonable price...
Based on your experiences, what are the advantages
and disadvantages of being an indie - or more
importantly being a solo developer?
As I mentioned, the creative freedom is the supreme advantage. I get to make
the games I want, at the pace I want, and then release the results as I see
fit. Along the way, I get to change roles from one hour to the next - and
pocket every penny of the profits once it's released! The only downside is
that the games don't reach that many people or sell that many copies because
the independent scene is a niche interest. If a game isn't in stores or hyped
on the pages of major magazines and websites then it has to make do with a few
thousand people from word-of-mouth. Even if the masses do get exposed to your
work, the average person is too ignorant about how they're made to appreciate
what's going on. They get to bitching about what they're used to from
mainstream games, so it's hard to make an impression...
do you survive
as a solo developer,
since a lot of indies also have daily jobs?
Yeah, for most people making games is a hobby rather than a job. I just got
into it when I was too young to have anything better to do, and I haven't
looked back since. To be honest, I should probably join the ranks of the
responsible who have a more stable existence - but I've come too far to turn
back now! I've developed a whole lifestyle around what I do. The concept of
"independence" has transcended games and filtered into every other aspect of
my life. That's why it's mentioned on my site in such philosophical terms. It
IS a philosophy. It's about being true to yourself, acknowledging that you're
capable of anything, and then setting about building that mountain out of the
smallest molehill. That's what you see happening on my site every day - a guy
redirecting his time and resources into doing something special. That's all it
takes to achieve anything. You look at what you have, look at what you want,
and figure out a way to bridge the gap. It usually involves sacrificing a
normal life, and that scares a lot of people. But, you know, there are two
ways of looking at the world. Some people think they need to "have" something
(such as financial security), in order to "do" something (such as quit their
job), in order to "be" something (such as a game developer). I saw it the
other way around. I decided to "be" a guy who makes games first, then "did"
the things a game designer does, and now I "have" the things a game designer
has! If you think something lies at the end of a rainbow, that's where it'll
stay. If you think something lies within you, that's where it'll be...
How do you compare the
indie games market and the mainstream games market?
I usually talk about "spectacle", but another key difference is scale. For
instance, I could never make the sprawling cities of Grand Theft Auto
or the enchanting worlds of Zelda. Those projects have entire teams of
people working all year round on just that, which is a luxury I'll never have.
I have to confine things to one particular environment - such as an island, a
prison, or an arena. Even outside of graphics, there are limits to how many
storylines I've got time to write or how many features I've got the resources
to implement - so it's a constant compromise. People talk about entertainment
as if it's some sort of orgy of perfection, where you list everything you'd
ever want to see and hit the "create" button. The reality is that you grab as
much stuff as you can before the store closes, and pray that you don't drop
anything! It all comes back to making a little go a long way again...
Would you like to
share one of your moments or memories you can't
forget in your career with us?
It has to be the "famous firsts". I'll never forget the first time I released
a game on the Internet and woke up the next morning to hundreds of supportive
e-mails. I suddenly realized I was onto something and had a spring in my step
for weeks afterwards! Or the first time I was in a magazine, seeing my name in
print and spying on members of the public as they read about my work. So far
the crowning moment has been the first time I published my own game though.
I'll never forget the day when the first copy of Federation Booker
arrived at my door. It wasn't pretty to look at, but I was standing there with
something I had created AND put out into the world without the help of another
human being - and I felt like the most powerful game developer in the world.
Would you like to share a typical day flow of yours
In the early days I would stagger around doing what I felt like from one hour
to the next, but now my days are as structured as in any other job. I'm
usually ready to work by 9am and ease myself into the day by spending the
first hour checking my mail and dealing with business matters. By 10am I've
then turned my attention to the latest project - again easing myself in with
something graphical rather than technical. I might put together a few
animations (or one big animation in the case of wrestling moves), a few
models, and a few textures - which are usually relevant to what I want to
achieve later in the day. After a lunch break I'll then have a solid afternoon
of programming that puts all of those things to use, and try to make a dent in
the project's never-ending "to do" list. I'm usually done with intense work by
5pm, and break for dinner before coming back in the evening to deal with some
miscellaneous tasks. Depending on how much progress was made that day, it'll
probably involve posting something on the website. But if there are sound
effects and music to compose, or yet more graphics to draw up, I may take a
shot at those instead so that I've got even more to work with the next day.
Either way, my working day should be over at 7:30pm - at which point a whole
other kind of "work" begins on MDickie the person! I'll spend an hour
working out, learning new skills, or studying something or other before
switching off completely at 9:00pm...
generally come up with original game ideas, like
Hard Time and Wrecked, which are hard to
contemplate for most developers. Where do you find
that kind of self confidence and determination? Any tips?
That's the whole reason I'm here, so it's a no-brainer for me! I'm simply not
capable of imitating anyone or anything else. It would be like walking into a
brick wall, whereas I'm here to tread my own path - both in terms of the games
I make and the manner in which I make them. From day one I've been making the
games I've always wanted to play, and I've been conducting myself as the man I
always wished game designers would be. That's the driving force behind
everything I do. If what I want to see doesn't exist, I'm going to create it.
That's the meaning of life - to be the change. If people are churning out the
same old nonsense, that's your invitation to do something exciting. If things
are taking too long or costing too much, that's your invitation to figure out
a better way. And if you're surrounded by negative individuals, that's your
invitation to be a strong, positive individual! You can either change your
environment or you can let your environment change you...
Do you have anything you want to say to all the indie
developers and newbies alike?
We're finally here. My example proves that anybody off the street can do this
stuff. You know someone who sat down to an instrument and ended up making
music. You know someone who peered through a camera and ended up making
movies. You know someone who put pen to paper and ended up writing a book. You
know someone who opened their mouth and realized they could sing or act. As
surely as all of those things are possible, it's now possible for anybody with
a computer to make games. It's not "easy", but it is possible. Trust me, we've
been waiting a long time just to be able to say that! It's finally a decision
like any other, and it's waiting to pay off for anybody that puts the time in.
That's the pivotal moment, because it closes the door to our
technical pioneers and opens the door to our
creative geniuses. Music wasn't invented by Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson,
but it was electrified by them. Film wasn't invented by Steven Spielberg or
Quentin Tarantino, but it shines in their hands. Now scientifically-minded
people have put another art form on the table, and it's time for the creative
amongst us to take the ball and run with it...
Copyright © MDickie 2000 - 2007