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Dev Log #1 - The Work of Art You've Never Heard of

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

I got some deep thoughts for you today. Relatively, of course. But I've been thinking a lot about art and artistic expression, and how a piece of art swirls around in the massive whirlpool of art, in which the centre is made up of the public eye. Basically the ever present relationship between the art, artist and public.

For me, there are two extremes on a line when it comes to your own relationship with your artistry and your art by extension. There are those who create art because they love the creation in itself. They do it for themselves, to express emotions, work through dilemmas or any other reason. Your art is yours. On the other end of the spectrum lies those who create art for the sake of fame. There is no room for the self, you create because it is what the numbers say the people want. Empty, one might say, but art none the less.

Being a person who has both written a book (almost) and is at the start of creating a company around a game, I hang around and frequently interact with people in the sphere of trying to be noticed. Some succeed, earning followers on twitter, catching the eye of a publisher and getting into the sight of the public eye. Some don't. Some don't mind not being noticed, and is just happy for having their art out there for someone other than themself to appreciate.

But I would say that most people lie somewhere in the middle of that scale, the creator who wants to be noticed, to have their art affirmed by the public, hoping in some way that it will validate the art and the artist for doing it. But the whirlpool is large and the eye so small. Or in other words, there is a massive heap of games and books and movies and all other kinds of media, and very few ever reach the public eye.

Games released on steam 2004 - 2020

The reasons are many, not least of all being just the amount of games released. If you look at Steam alone, over 10 000 games were released there last year, and that is not counting every other distributing channel on PC (lets keep it to PC since that could be said to be one target audience), like itch, Game Jolt, Epic, GoG, Humble Bundle and so on, and so on. When you start to hang out at places like the multitude of indie game and dev subreddits, along with diving into the massive amount of indie game companies on twitter, you start to understand that there is a lot that you are not aware of. A lot that flies under the radar that might deserve not to. Then again, I think most people are just happy to have their game out there for people to try. But there are also many, like me, that is dreaming of a time where we can make games for a living, to be part of the successful gaming industry, to find our way to the public eye. So how do we do that?

Like I would know...

But I can share my experiences, as someone who have been trying to get a video game company off the ground now for one and a half years. (Here starts the actual dev log part of this). We, that is Twin Wisp Arts, a team of 7 devs, started with a completely different idea. But it grew into a beast we could not handle, so we scrapped it. It will be the best and hardest thing you can ever do, to fail. And we have failed many times. But through the fails, we learned.

We realized that we needed to look at our strengths and weaknesses and create a game that accommodated that. We have no dedicated animator, so we needed an idea where that wouldn't be a problem. We had a dedicated writer, so we wanted an idea that would produce a good story. We had two designers, so we wanted something heavy on mechanics. That was what made us decide on the atmospheric mystery puzzle game that is Some Wait Dreaming. But that alone was not enough. We did our work, looked at similar games and where they fell in terms of success and if making the game into a product is viable at all. For there are truly three things you and your team (if you are lucky enough to have one) need to ask yourself when starting development on a game you want to be successful.

- Is it a game you are passionate about? (Because if you aren't then how would you expect

your players to be?)

- Is it a game you are able to make? (Do you have the knowledge to see it through?)

- Can you make money of this product? (Probably the most boring thing to think about, but

important none the less. If you want to be able to support yourself with your development,

this is vital.

So we checked off all these boxes, and we started work at the game, while at the same time trying to support ourselves in our lives, working extra jobs, studying and the like. We worked on the project when we had the time and created a prototype and tried to make room for us to dip our toes in marketing. Then something happened. We failed again.

We made mistakes that led us up to a point where we could not get the buzz we wanted. So we looked at where we went wrong and came up with a few things. Firstly, we needed to work on communication, planning and pipelines. Especially in a year such as this where most of us work from home, we needed ways to communicate with each other that wasn't just a general chat in discord. So we created a separate channel for daily stand ups (what did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What stands in your way?) where everyone writes at the beginning of their workday. We started to keep a document where everyone logged their times. We started to have weekly meeting over the voice chat, and encouraged people to hang out there so that we could talk with each other. On the planning side we set up two week sprints in the planning tool hacknplan, and made pipelines and routines for how to use it, among with pipelines and routines for implementation and a bunch of other things. We took a few weeks and did only this. No development on the game itself, only planning and pre-production.

But more importantly, we decided to be warriors. We needed to fight for this project and realize that even though we have extra jobs to sustain ourselves, we need to put in at least 20 hours a week if we wanted to get this thing off the ground. We needed to realize that this wasn't a game for us anymore. Well it was, but you know what I mean. We needed to take it serious, work as if this was already the job we wanted it to be. If you want your game to be successful, then there really isn't any shortcut for just putting in the hours, blood, sweat and tears that comes with it. With that we wanted to finish a Vertical Slice of the game, something that could represent the game, a demo of sorts, that can introduce the gameplay, the sound, the graphics, the mystery and the narrative. That is supposed to be done at the beginning of April, hopefully, if our planning holds. This is it, we fight for what we believe is sellable, for what we have passion for and for what we know we can do.

But unfortunately, that is only one part of it. I would say that the part that represent at least half of the work comes down to luck or divine intervention (whichever you happen to believe in, I say, as a believer in both). However much you polish your games and market it through the right channels, you'll need that part that just isn't much up to you. That might be the most infuriating part of this. And it's easy to blame luck (or God) for failures, but as we know, through failure we learn, and are stronger for it.

I'll never stop being passionate for art. I love creating in so many ways, if it is through work or as a hobby. I lie and flow in the middle of the chart, loving the creativity, but love when people can take part in that creativity as well. I'll keep updating you here on our progress and our failures, so that you hopefully can learn something from it, and not repeat our mistakes.

Also, here are some of the games that are under development that you probably never heard of (That can be seen in the first picture)

- Some Wait Dreaming (My game btw)

- Ripout

To finish off, I give you the appropriate song (or just the song I happened to be listening to right now), the struggles of the working person where the money always seem to run out, through the lens of Swedish Punk Rock.

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