I used to believe this more than I believe it now. It’s not that it’s false, it’s just an incomplete truth. I posted it in the context of posting things to social media and not letting it affect you negatively (Lessons learned from releasing my second game - May 18, 2021):
There’s a negative side of social media posting for me though, which I only started noticing recently (since about 2 years ago I’d say). Sometimes I’ll post something, and it will do really well, and then my motivation to work on it will decrease dramatically.
This happens quite consistently, so adding this on top of whatever other issues I have that prevent me from finishing games made it significantly less likely that I would finish anything.
The reason why this happens is fairly simple: I’m a human being looking to increase my status, and so everything I do is about having that number go up. Making games? A 100% status seeking activity. But why go through the trouble of making an entire game when I can just post like 5% of it on twitter and get a billion likes and have my status go up in the same way as if I released the full game?
This is essentially what’s going on. Whenever I post something and it gets popular, I get the dopamine kick from that thing already due to the status number going up. Now the thing has already been dopamined and stripped bare of all it can give, so there’s no more reason to work on it, and thus there’s a motivation drop.
It seems simplistic and maybe even crude to think of myself in these terms but I think this analysis is pretty much correct. I went into it in more detail here. And I’m not the only one to come up with similar thoughts either, I think this post is talking about the same thing and reaching similar conclusions.
And these feelings are echoed by many other indiedevs as well. In the end we’re all made of meat and bone and at the basest level we’re all driven by the same things. Being aware of this is the first step towards avoiding falling down these status traps that don’t actually help with your goals.
So over these couple of years I’ve been developing a pretty detached view of posting things online in general. I now tend to care way less than I used to about how something I post does, I mainly care about if I did my best given the constraints present.
I feel this is a much more healthy way of approaching things and it feels more true to myself too. Ironically, this view has helped me reach the results I want much better so far, but that’s how things go sometimes.”
It’s true that when creating things you should mostly care about doing your best and emotionally ignore how others respond to it, since their response is out of your control. It’s true that when something that you make does well, there’s a negative effect due to your desires for attention being met which thus results in lower motivation.
However, what was happening to me was primarily that when I would post something and it’d do well, the thing’s scope would instantly increase. In my head, it doing well automatically meant it deserved a higher and more ambitious scope, and that was what would lead to it dying.
There’s also the fact that feeling like posting progress to social media naturally comes out of a need to see what others think of it. This need only exists when you don’t have a strong vision for what you’re doing, and this lack of strong vision is what eventually leads to failure.
This is clear to me now because of super emoji pop’s prototype (Twitter - Dec 5, 2022):
not gonna keep working on this prototype anymore for various reasons, but i think its an idea with potential so here are some brief design points on it: (this idea was inspired by stuffed wombats tweet below) https://t.co/p2MCWDjrsW pic.twitter.com/SmRwX5KCek— adn (@a327ex) December 5, 2022
When I posted this I had already decided to drop this prototype due to very strongly not feeling like working on it anymore. Back then I didn’t know why I felt like that, but I was already intuitively honing onto the fact that I shouldn’t try to force games to happen anymore.
It wasn’t until Cursorblade released 1 year later and I got to play it with some distance from working on its design, that I realized why exactly I felt like dropping it (Twitter - Nov 28, 2023):
The reason why super emoji pop and Cursorblade don’t quite work 100% and why my intuition told me to drop it 1 year ago is because the problem with the game are the enemies. They exist in either hittable or attacking state; when they’re hittable you can spam your cursor over them to deal damage, when they’re attacking you have to wait/dodge.
This is a problem because what you actually wanna do is just mindlessly hit things with the cursor without having to wait at all. Waiting is unfun, dodging with the mouse is also kind of unfun, you really just want to go fdbvchvuhsjbtjrbekjtbnkjter with the mouse everywhere, and not have anything break the flow of doing that. The correct version of this game is to have enemies as always hittable and to add challenge in other ways.
In my original version I was intuiting this and added a timer, but I couldn’t figure it out completely back then and thus followed my stronger intuition to drop it. But if I were to do this again I’d add challenge with timers and enemy HP, in which case the game becomes a DPS check, but DPS check games can be fun, and in fact allow for more builds than the current version of the game which actively prevents lots of types of builds due to how enemies are structured.
I’m not about to make this modified version of this game anytime soon, and Cursorblade seems to be doing reasonably well too, but this is something I thought while playing it and it intuitively feels like this is a correct observation to me on why the idea as it is feels wrong.
There was something mechanically wrong with the design, I intuited this but couldn’t make that intuition conscious, but it still manifested itself to me by very strongly removing my will to work on the game. In retrospect, looking at almost every game I dropped, this was what actually happened instead of anything else.
The game has a lack of vision and focus, it exists on shaky foundations, and thus one setback or another eventually makes me feel like dropping it. Over and over again this repeats itself and only now I’m able to see it clearly (Twitter - Dec 16, 2023):
Q by @melipefello: what was the difference in your approach afterwards that led you to releasing bytepath/snkrx? the gist on how you worked on them were in your devlogs, but how does it compare with the previous attempts? what changed?
A: The most important change is a realization about creativity that goes something like: “doing things you don’t want to do is incredibly bad for you, all the advice that says to grind is bullshit, as you just end up teaching yourself that you don’t value your instrinsic motivations, and over time those vanish, leaving you empty.”
The way this manifests itself for me is that whenever my body thinks an idea for a game is bad, it will communicate this to me by removing my will to keep working on it. Looking back on everything I worked on, it’s obvious that the things I kept working on were good ideas that my body supported, and the things I dropped were bad ideas that my body kept screaming at me over and over to stop working on them but I wouldn’t listen.
Because I wanted very hard to not be lazy and thought that was my biggest flaw, I just wouldn’t listen to my intuition, and would keep working on deadend projects and prolong my misery for months or years, only to eventually drop them anyway. It wasn’t until I started working by myself, without anyone’s else input, that I finally started to be able to realize this more clearly.
And the realization is one of listening completely to my intuition. My intuition/body is very smart, very clever, I should take its input extremely seriously. If I’m working on something and suddenly I don’t feel like it anymore, that should give me pause to think and consider the idea from a high level perspective again. If this was a temporary setback and the idea is truly good, I’ll keep coming back to it and finish it. But if the idea is bad then I should drop it forever and move on to something else, and I should do it in a fast and ruthless manner.
This realization happened slowly, completely internally at first. I wouldn’t have been able to have given this explanation 4, 3, 2, 1 year ago, but I was already going through this process internally. But now this realization is deep enough that it has been made conscious, and thus I am able to explain it in words like this.
So yea, that was the biggest change. A realization that being lazy isn’t bad, that following my intuition is important, and of valuing good ideas. It’s clear to me now that this is the path forward, that this is how I work, that this is who I creatively am.
This was hard-earned wisdom, years of wasted time and effort, of pain and doubt, but I’ve earned it, and the future now looks bright. The brightest its ever looked. Sometimes I temporarily blind myself from peeking at its pure, golden light of glory. But I can’t help myself, I have tasted a drop of the nectar of victory, and I will soon gorge on it. I will become intoxicated by victory, I will become victory itself.
This realization was made conscious at some point this year and it had three triggers. The first was a book by John Cleese on creativity, which had this passage in it:
My friend Brain Bates, who used to run the Psychology department at the University of Sussex, once told me that during the sixties and seventies some really good research was done on how people can become more creative. But after that, the research generally hit a wall. Because so much of creativity is about the unconscious, there is a limit to what you can say about it!
He did, however, tell me about an experiment of fundamental practical importance that was carried out during the sixties at Berkeley, near San Francisco. A remarkable psychologist called Donald MacKinnon (who had been a spymaster during the Second World War) had become fascinated by creativity, not among artists, but among people like engineers and journalists.
He had a particular interest in architects, because he could see that they needed to be both creative and highly practical. After all, it’s no good designing a beautiful building if it’s going to fall down.
Donald MacKinnon asked a number of architects whom they considered to be the most creative ones in their profession. Then he went to these “creative” architects and ask them to describe to him what they did, from the moment they got up in the morning to the moment they went to bed at night.
And then he went to a number of uncreative architects (though he didn’t tell them that that was why he was talking to them) and asked them exactly the same question.
The conclusion he came to was that there were only two differences between the creative and the uncreative architects. The first was that the creative architects knew how to play. The second was that the creative architects always deferred making decisions for as long as they were allowed.
Most people are very surprised to learn that this involves deferring decisions for as long as possible. Doesn’t this mean that creative architects are, by definition, indecisive? Isn’t that a bit impractical and unrealistic? No!
It simply means that they are able to tolerate that vague sense of discomfort that we all feel, when some important decision is left open, because they know that an answer will eventually present itself. Let me elaborate.
I once wrote a script for a training film about decision-making, and talked to various experts on the subject. They explained to me that if you have a decision to make, the first question you must ask is: “When does this decision have to be made?” You live in the real world, so there is always a cut-off point.
But once it’s been agreed when the real-world decision has to happen, why make it before the deadline arrives? Why?
Well, it would be foolish, because if you can wait longer, two incredibly important things may happen. One, you may get new information. Two, you may get new ideas. So why would you make a decision when you don’t need to? Because you’re uncomfortable, that’s why!
You see, leaving a question unresolved, just leaving it open, makes some people anxious. They worry. And if they can’t tolerate that mild discomfort, they go ahead and rush the decision. They probably fool themselves that they’re being decisive.
But creative people are much better at tolerating the vague sense of worry that we all get when we leave something unresolved.
The second was this tweet by @ftlsid:
my contrarian opinion is that doing things you don't want to do is incredibly bad for you. all the advice that says to grind is bullshit— ftlsid (@ftlsid) May 6, 2023
you just end up teaching yourself that you don't value your intrinsic motivations, and over time those vanish, leaving you empty
my contrarian opinion is that doing things you don’t want to do is incredibly bad for you. all the advice that says to grind is bullshit
you just end up teaching yourself that you don’t value your intrinsic motivations, and over time those vanish, leaving you empty
The third was nanawoakari’s “Declaration of Complete Resignation”:
These three artifacts are saying the same thing: follow your intuition, trust your instincts, it’s OK to be lazy, it’s OK to defer decisions, doing things you don’t want to do will damage your creativity.
It’s a counter-intuitive set of ideas, but it feels completely right to me. It’s clear now that this is what I’ve been learning these past ~5 years, and I was allowed to become consciously aware of it now because my body had already internalized this lesson enough that the eureka moment would have come eventually.
It’s obvious that I’m not actually hopelessly lazy. Both my games have quite a bit to them, it’s not what someone hopelessly lazy does. Look at this blog post, or this one, or this one. These are not the kinds of things someone hopelessly lazy produces. I have plenty of evidence to myself, both public and private, telling me that I can sit down and do something thoroughly and well.
But there had always been a mismatch between my wants and my intuition’s wants. And now I’ve finally learned… that I should simply give up. My intuition has proven itself, over and over, a better guide. It’s more intelligent, wise, and prophetic. I should listen to what it says carefully, and I should follow it.
I often get frustrated when I can see something that other people take years to see. Imagine how frustrating it must have been for my inner me, all these years, to know so strongly what was right, and to watch me ignore it year after year. How much needless pain I put myself through out of sheer arrogance! How so strongly foolish I was!
(Spoilers) Hunter × Hunter’s episode 58 marks the end of the Yorknew Arc, and it ends with the scene below. It shows the memories of a character who died but who shared her memories (that was her power) with her friends before dying, one of whom is the blond character in the video:
This uses what I call in my head a “memory sharing device”. I don’t know if it has a proper name in storywriting circles, but it’s a common enough device in stories. When done well, and particularly when it appears in endings, it very consistently gets me and makes me cry.
Whenever anything in a story evokes any particularly strong emotion in me, crying being the most obvious one, I try to figure out why. Generally I’ll get to a reasonable answer quickly enough, but sometimes it takes longer.
For instance, there were scenes in Shin Sekai Yori (my favorite piece of art ever) where 7-8 years after watching it, just thinking about them would very consistently still make me cry. Eventually I figured out why and now they don’t anymore.
But the point is that sometimes it can take a long time. This memory sharing device one was one of those, it eluded me for years. And it’s particularly interesting because it’s something general that applies to multiple stories.
I would read/watch something, it would use the device and do it well enough, and it would make me cry. The details of the story weren’t necessarily irrelevant, but I could clearly feel that most of the reason I was crying was due to the device itself and not the particulars of the story.
It wasn’t until I listened to Dream Theater’s “The Count of Tuscany” that I finally understood why the memory sharing device worked:
Lyrically this song is no masterpiece, but it’s very pretty and melodically strong. More importantly, it’s an effective song. It sets out to tell a story and it tells that story in a way that you can understand, and it happens to use the device at its end.
For whatever reason, its use of the device made me realize why it works. Maybe it was the “fables and the tales all handed down through time” or “go and tell the world my story” or the title drop. Maybe it was just a really good use of it that finally made it click.
But the reason it works is that stories themselves are memory sharing devices. One of the purposes of a story is literally to share the memories of characters and places to the viewer so he comes to a complete enough understanding of what happened.
Artists will work very hard and dedicate their entire lives to making sure that that memory sharing is as effective and emotionally convincing as it can be. Because, you know, you can always read the summary of the plot of a story, but that doesn’t have any weight because it’s not immersive.
You get all the facts but you don’t get any of the emotional load that comes when you experience a story fully. When a story is told well and skillfully, it’s able to bring you into it as if you were there yourself. In a sense it becomes more real than reality because you get to see more angles than you ever could in reality.
And so given this, the logic of the memory sharing device is fairly simple. You are watching/reading something and you reach an end. Be it the end of an arc or of the entire thing. If you watched up to now, it must mean that you’re engaged to some extent, or you’d have dropped it.
This means that the story has already had an emotional effect on you and most likely your body is still processing it. And then things are wrapping up and the device is used. What happens here is that you are now watching something that just affected you emotionally affect a character in the story in the same way.
And the effect this has is that it emotionally brings the story closer to you and you closer to it. It bridges that emotional gap that is everpresent, and thus it makes you cry. Using the Hunter × Hunter video as an example will make it clear.
(Spoilers) Hunter × Hunter’s Yorknew Arc is very good but also very conflicting. The bad guys are actual bad guys, they kill people casually and so on, but the author spends quite a lot of time on making their perspectives visible, so it’s expected that by the time people reach the clip above they’re emotionally confused.
Here is the blond guy, unfortunately I don’t remember his name, but he is a bad hombre. He’s always serious, looking scary, quick to anger and so on, and then he looks at the protagonists and immediately goes to that one memory that was shared to him by his now dead friend.
And that memory touches on all the conflicting aspects of the entire arc, loyalty, killing, friendship, etc. It’s a memory that’s essentially a very good summary of everything on top of being a touching moment.
And then it comes back to the blond guy, and he drops his guard and thanks the two who were previously his enemies. And here you have the device in action. You are watching a character in the story be emotionally affected by the same thing that just spent tens of episodes affecting you.
The chosen memory, which was not shown before in the show, also makes you empathize with the bad guys more, makes you empathize with the protagonists more, makes you empathize with Kurapika and Pakunoda more. It’s a scene specifically built to bring you, emotionally, as close as possible to everyone in the story.
You are now emotionally as close as possible to the full truth, with all of its conflicting complexities, and so when this happens, it’s too much, you can’t process it all, and that overflow just naturally comes out as crying. And all of it is orchestrated by the device.
There’s also the fact that the device will have a stronger effect on artists or artistically oriented people, as it validates the craft itself. When you witness this meta reflection in the story it also hits you at that “so this is what stories are capable of” level, which is that memory sharing truly is capable of changing people’s perspectives and actions when done well.
And so if you’re an artist or artistically oriented, this adds another layer of emotion to it and thus it should affect you even more than it does other people. And so this is why the device works, took me years to figure it out, but this explanation makes sense to me.
Could you do all this without the device? Yes, and many stories do. But the device is particularly effective because as the author you get to pick the memories to show. You can always pick the maximally effective memory for the given situation.
One way of writing stories is by starting from their end, or by starting from particularly strong or emotional visions and building the story to support those visions. Many stories I have in my head started like this, and I’m not the only one who does it like that:
When you make stories like this, the memory sharing device is useful because it gives you more freedom to build the story around those strong memories.
Consider the Hunter × Hunter example. Suppose that the first idea the author had for that arc was a very strong vision of the memory that’s shown in the clip. For whatever reason, he would think of that memory and it would make him extremely emotional. A sign of a good vision.
Then he decides to build the entire arc around that exchange, that conversation, where the two main characters are talking to an enemy about how they’d prefer to deal with some situation without killing and so on. And then he creates enemies that are perfectly fit for that particular exchange.
They are enemies that are extremely loyal to each other and kill mercilessly, but maybe they have some conflict internally where some members of the group think they should be less brutal about how they operate. And then the entire arc is built with that conflict as its base, where they meet the main characters who already have the non-killing mentality, and eventually it ends with that particular memory being one of the most important things they learn.
The point here is that the emotional memory comes first, and everything else is built to support it. Ideally things are also made to be a draw. You want all sides to have solid arguments for why they do the things they do. The whole truth should be something conflicting, where you leave unable to clearly tell who was right and who was wrong.
I think that this is a really good way of making stories. Most stories I enjoy seem to have been made like this, where the whole truth is as complicated and nuanced as it generally is in real life. Where multiple conflicting perspectives are true at the same time.
Shin Sekai Yori was made like this. It starts with a draw and ends with a draw. Both sides of the conflict have perfectly reasonable reasons to act as they do, and the viewer gets to see all this laid out clearly. Just like the viewer gets to see all perspectives laid out clearly by the end of Hunter × Hunter’s Yorknew Arc.
The whole truth is a floating, shapeless and formless object, just out of reach. From every angle you look it looks different, yet it’s the same thing at all times. This is the truth, it doesn’t fit anywhere, it doesn’t serve anyone, it’s just this alien artifact. In a story you should get to see this whole truth, and it should make you cry because of how complicated and beautiful and mesmerizing it is.
This year I had many good insights, but some negative ones as well. I think the most negative one had to do with realizing that the general quality of the indie developer is low. This was always something that was in the back of my head, but this year it really came forward in a big way.
I think it started at around February to April, when I decided to learn how to trade. Those 3 months were really intense because I spent like, actual 16-18 hours a day, every day, learning and trading nonstop. This was another piece of evidence to me that I’m not lazy, that when things are aligned I will sit down and do things thoroughly and properly.
One of the many lessons I took out from that experience was that the quality of the average trader, as a person, was much much higher than the quality of the average indie developer. This was undeniably the case.
And I’m not talking just about the technical ability. I’m talking about everything. Simply put, as people, they were better. Not only smarter, more driven, and obviously wealthier; but also they were better communicators, they had a broader range of interests, they handled setbacks and dramas as adults should handle them. Everything about how they acted and how I saw them act was, in general, better.
This stuck with me for months and I really couldn’t stop thinking about it. There were many triggers that subsequently solidified my opinion on this. The first was this tweet by @stimhacked:
What is an *actually* controversial game design opinion you hold?— Anthony Giovannetti (@stimhacked) July 13, 2023
What is an actually controversial game design opinion you hold?
Many people responded to this, but out of all gamedevs who responded, the majority of them didn’t actually respond with anything controversial. If you’re a game developer your job is both knowing the truth and knowing what other people know, don’t know, or think about it.
The entire job of the game developer is one of AoE mindreading. You need to understand groups of people, why they do the things they do, how they respond to this or that event, and so on. So the people failing to answer Anthony’s question correctly are failing at the very thing their job demands of them.
They’re failing at knowing what is true and what isn’t true, they’re failing at understanding what other people’s opinions on these truths are, and they’re thus failing at correctly identifying which of these truths are controversial. This really ticked me off because it was further evidence of their low quality.
But whatever, it’s not that big of deal, surely. So months pass. Every day I’m watching these people. Every other day I’m reading some really retarded shit that they’re saying. Every other week they’re collectively focusing on something completely meaningless and unproductive.
And then the Unity event happened. I covered it in my previous blog post so I’m not going to repeat myself here. But I really went into this event with a fairly negative opinion of indie developers as a group.
This opinion changed to a more positive one for exactly 10 days, until the GitHub TOS tweet event, which just destroyed any hopes I had of having been wrong about the quality of the indie developer.
And then some more time after this passed, every day another barrage of stupidity from these people, and eventually I decided to start posting on twitter more actively because I had to write a fairly big blog post on emoji merge’s codebase (it’s finished now and you can read it here), so why not spend some time posting as well. This was around a month ago.
In general whenever I’m posting publicly anywhere I try to be very honest about my thoughts (except for the shitposts, but those should be obvious), so naturally a lot of those thoughts had to do with the indie developer question. Here’s most of the posts that had to do with this topic (Twitter - Nov 21, 2023):
Interesting video (randomly served by YouTube) and why I always found it weird how some people in games are very strong proponents of static typing and/or extremely “safe” languages and practices for coding games. Ultimately this is a personality issue, some people are just wired to be more cautious, more orderly and more risk-averse, and thus they simply do not like the idea of things not being clearly defined and not being sure that certain kinds of bugs are 100% solved in their program.
One common argument in favor of static typing is that it makes refactoring easier. For instance, if you want to refactor a set of structures you can intentionally break them, fix all compiler errors that appear, and when that’s done you know for sure that you went from program A to program B and that you didn’t break anything along the way.
Compare that to Lua, for instance, where when I want to refactor a set of structures I can change them and then I can fix things until the program doesn’t crash anymore, but once it’s up and running I don’t know for sure if I got 100% of the code covered, because there might be some uncommon codepath that just hasn’t been run yet. This uncertainty makes refactors harder and more error prone and would be one argument against dynamic languages.
But, and this is where the video comes in, games are just games, right? If the program crashes, it just crashed and nothing bad actually happens. No one dies, no one loses money, nothing explodes, the game just crashed. The uncommon codepaths in my refactors will eventually be run, because before release I’ll play the game a lot (as any dev does) and fix most of those bugs. And in case some of those bugs still make it to release, they’ll be uncommon enough that they’ll affect a small percentage of users, and when they happen they get automatically reported to me anyway and I can just fix them.
The ability to live with a program that is 90% correct, 95% correct, 99% correct, but never 100% correct is the same ability you need to be creative. As John Cleese says in his book about creativity: (it’s what I quoted at the start of this blog post)
The kind of personality who can be at peace with the discomfort that things aren’t 100% correct and aren’t 100% clearly defined is the same kind of personality that can withstand the uncertainty and undefinedness needed for high creativity. I think you need this sort of lazy evaluation mentality for everything for increased creativity.
Out of all my problems with Godot, the one truly good thing I think it does is that it moves indie developers to a dynamic language. This environment of a dynamic language is cosmically aligned with the goals of creatives, which is being creative. As Godot’s resources are spent on making C# support better to accomodate for Unity users, the world is made worse. But it is what it is, Godot’s developers want a popular engine and don’t really have that many very strong convictions, which is a good thing if you want to make popular things.
In response to this, @caseyyano said:
lol at all this creativity gatekeeping— Casey Yano (@caseyyano) November 21, 2023
lol at all this creativity gatekeeping
To which I replied (Twitter - Nov 22, 2023):
Apologies, Casey, for the quote tweet, but I ended up getting carried away with this reply, and it ended up touching on lots of relevant topics that I thought should be more visible. Also apologies if you meant nothing bad by your reply, but… I can’t help but read it in a negative tone, as though I’m being accused of “creativity gatekeeping”, so on that assumption allow me to expound on the issue further.
From my perspective, there is an objective way to tell if a game is good or not, and that way is the market. I’ve mentioned this in multiple blog posts and tweets before, it’s really what I believe and it’s not something I’m making up now. So whenever I’m talking about general issues of quality such “is this game better/more creative than that game”, the fact that the only objective way to approximate an answer is through the aggregation of millions of player’s opinions - which happens through the market - always underlies such discussions. Submitting to the market like this is inherently gatekeepy, in some sense reality itself is gatekeepy, but it’s not me who’s doing the gatekeeping, it’s the market, and all I can do is sit down and listen.
Your game, for instance, Casey, is very creative. It’s highly successful, it pretty much created an entire genre, it’s not winning on its visual qualities alone (not meant derogatorily), which means that most of its success loads on its design/creativity, right? I have absolutely no say on these facts, even if I wanted to (which I don’t), because the market is the market and who am I but an insignificant brazilian boy to disagree with millions of people.
So ultimately what this means is that I am in no way declaring from my throne “this is creative”, “this isn’t creative”, “if you are like this you are creative”, “if you are like that you aren’t creative”, because, from my perspective, I have no control over any of that, it’s completely out of my hands and in the hands of the market, and at no point do I think that I have any special say on it. Which brings me to my next point.
In my latest post I mentioned that the truth is multifaceted, it has a weird shape, when you look at it from one angle it’s one thing, when you look at it from another angle it’s another, and yet they’re somehow both the same thing at the same time. And what is the truth of indiedev creativity? Perhaps more specifically, what is the truth of increasing indiedev creativity? There are/will be indiedevs who are consistently more creative than others. What are they like? What are they doing differently? What can others do to improve and reach them? What is the path? What is the way? I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity this year and the creativity question, which is all these questions and more, is one of the most important problems to be solved in my opinion.
I don’t know the answer to all these questions, but I can go from my own experience. And I’ve learned over the years that the idea of lazy evaluation that I mentioned in the post, and that John Cleese also mentions in his book, for instance, is a good, solid idea. From my perspective, it’s as true as an idea gets. In his book, John Cleese also mentions that one of the things he does for generating new ideas is sitting down and just mechanically writing down ideas, no matter how good or bad they are. Many comedians mention doing this as well.
I know for a fact that this will never work for me. I’ve never done it, but I simply know it won’t work. It’s just not how I get ideas. I get ideas when I’m walking around my room listening to music, when I’m in the shower, when I’m doing the dishes, when I’m walking outside, basically whenever my mind is wondering sometimes BAM!, a good idea hits me. I also get a lot of good ideas from dreams. This is how I work. So this idea doesn’t work for me, does that mean John Cleese is wrong?
No! It simply means that that particular avenue doesn’t work for me and for people who are wired like me. It might be that for other people who are more disciplined and/or orderly, the list generation method may work better than anything else, and that’s how they get their ideas.
Implied in all this is the fact that what I know is my perspective, and this perspective is useful to me and to people like me and no more. And what you know is your perspective, and that perspective is useful to you and to people like you and no more. Any issue as open as “how to get more creative for making games” inherently deals with people’s personalities, which are different, and thus each type of person will have a different path to the answer. But all paths lead to the same answer (an increase in creativity as it relates to making games), while being different paths regardless.
Think of it like those different houses/clans of mages you see in fantasy stories. Each one of those has its own tradition in how they teach magic to their apprentices. Some clans will have more open and loose ways of interfacing with the world’s magic system, which gives them an extra amount of flexibility and improvisational ability at the cost of more mana spent per cast. Other clans will be more rigid and structured, all their spells are practiced beforehand, they can’t really deviate from what they spent their life practicing, but their mana efficiency is extremely high because their spells have been optimized over centuries. All these groups reach the same end goal (becoming good mages), but their paths there are different and have different advantages and disadvantages.
The same applies here. What is true to me and people like me will be different than what is true to you and people like you, but that’s only a difference in pathing, while the end goal remains the same. When it comes to topics like this that no one is discussing, I can only speak to my own perspective because figuring that out is already hard enough, and so this is the overall framing implied in everything I said in the post: “This is what is true to me, and to people like me, and no more.” Those who are not like me should be doing their own thinking, coming to their own conclusions, and sharing their conclusions with their peers in the same manner I did, as though it were true for everyone, because that’s how people with conviction think.
You can read that as gatekeeping, but it’s much more correct to read that as truth-seeking. The truth is multifaceted, it has a weird shape, when you look at it from one angle it’s one thing, when you look at it from another angle it’s another, and yet they’re somehow both the same thing at the same time. The problem of increasing creativity is multifaceted, it has a weird shape, for some types of people it will entail dynamic typing, lazy evaluation and dreams, for other types of people it will entail static typing, planning and idea lists, and yet they somehow both reach the same end goal despite opposite paths.
Often when I’m faced with the thoughts of someone who differs a lot from me, I will think things along the lines of “OK, this person is clearly wrong about this due to the kind of person they are, but they bring up a good point here, what would be the equivalent of this point translated to me and to people like me?” And then I will ponder on this for days, weeks, sometimes months. And eventually I’ll reach a truth that is true to me and people like me.
But this process, to do it correctly, you need to know who you are, you need to know what you’re like, you need to have a very strong sense of self and you need to be unaffected by what other people think. You need to be someone who doesn’t instinctively reach for the hivemind’s opinions in their mind. You need to be alone, on your own, in your lane, you need to be monkmaxxing.
And when you do this correctly, and you reach a conclusion that you think is true with true convinction, you’ll naturally speak it out in the world as it is true to you, but also as though it were true for everyone, because that’s what conviction means. You’re not going to couch all statements in ifs and buts and maybes and be less direct because that’s just not how people think. For these kinds of open topics like creativity, your conclusions will never be true for everyone because people are different, but they will be true to a subset of people who are like you and they will thank you for the insight.
I bet there’s at least one person who read my post you replied to and said “holy shit I thought this all along and this guy just put it into words”, because this is what it feels like when you receive insight. It feels as though you already knew it all along and things just click together, it’s a very nice feeling. Every indie developer should be constantly reaching their truths and producing insights for others like them, as that’s how knowledge advances and how the quality of participants in the trade improves.
If no one is concerned with producing insight, if no one is concerned with finding out the truth, if no one focuses on the truths that are harder to discuss, if no one has enough conviction to speak out those truths as though they were true for everyone, if the culture punishes people for speaking their perspectives as they see it (such as with casual dismissal) then in 10, 20 years, indie developers will be the same as they are now. An 18 year old then will have no better advice given to him than I was given when I started, and that will be sad.
Guilds in medieval times generally had the idea of masters, journeymen and apprentices. The apprentices spent years training under masters, and they were given food and shelter while giving complete dedication to learn the craft. At some point they became good enough to become journeymen, who could actually go out into the world and use their skills to earn money for themselves. And eventually they became masters and could open their own practice and have apprentices themselves.
There are almost no master indie developers now. There aren’t enough people with enough games released and with enough consistency of results. But masters will emerge. In 10, 20 years, there will be a few of them. What will those masters do? What will they say? If they come from a culture that absolutely doesn’t care about the truth, about producing insight, about sharing knowledge, they will die without doing any of those things, and that will have been a huge waste and a missed opportunity.
Look at Jonathan Blow, for instance, very consistently passing on his knowledge, very consistently speaking as though what is true to him is true for everyone else. There should be a thousand Jonathan Blows. Let a thousand Blows bloom. A thousand indiedevs with their own peculiarities, their own strong convinctions, unafraid to speak things as they see it. Imagine indiedev twitter then, it would be wonderful, it would be fun, it would be chaotic and dramatic. There would be a gamergate every week, and that would be a good thing.
There is a truth, it’s at the center, it has a weird shape. Everyone is reaching for it through their own paths. Everyone is sharing their findings as it appears to them. Everyone is listening to others’ findings and integrating them as possible. Increasingly more and more people reach the center. Eventually a high IQ syncretist looks at all disparate paths and their findings, and he extracts a common truth out of them. This is how timeless wisdom is born, and then timeless wisdom is shared. The trade has levelled up and everyone benefits from it.
“Make small games first”, I believe this is the one timeless wisdom we have that a lot of people agree on, right? We should have 50 of those. What is the timeless wisdom of increased creativity? Maybe it is “constraints increase creativity”, and then statically typed languages actually lead to better and more creative results. It’s possible, who knows? But we’ll never know if people who are wired to prefer statically typed languages never do the thinking, wondering and talking about these kinds of things. And no one is doing it. Indiedev twitter, indiedev cohost, indiedev mastodon, indiedev discord are all a wasteland, just nothing. The problem is not the platform, it’s the people, they’re just not interested in finding out the truth.
And so what I’m trying to say is that I’m not gatekeeping, I am in fact doing the opposite. I am walking my own path and sharing the truth as I see it. This doesn’t mean it’s the only truth and the one true way, it’s just one of many aimed at the same center. A proper response to witnessing this should be “OK, this guy is wrong because of the kind of person he is, but what is an equivalent truth for me and for people like me?” and not casual dismissal. Every single word uttered matters, every thought shared has cosmic relevance. The fate of indie game development is shaped by every single post.
In the replies to this post, @Y444 said:
I guess the fact that we don’t have a hundred Blows (a situation that would terrify me personally lol) and that vibrant community you imagine is because of what you’ve discussed earlier in your blog: being risk averse and reputation conscious as a non-anonymous participant— Y444 (@Y444) November 22, 2023
I guess the fact that we don’t have a hundred Blows (a situation that would terrify me personally lol) and that vibrant community you imagine is because of what you’ve discussed earlier in your blog: being risk averse and reputation conscious as a non-anonymous participant
To which I replied (Twitter - Nov 23, 2023):
I’ve been thinking about this and I’m actually more blackpilled on this now than I was before. Perhaps I was even wrong to focus on the issue being risk aversion and reputation preservation, although I’m certain that plays a good role in it.
Now I think that the people are just not good enough to do it. They simply don’t have the intelligence, the experience, the vision, the disposition, the spirit, the virtue, to generate the kinds of insights and ideas and conversations that would come out of the kind of vibrant community that I imagined. It would be something that could actually be fixed if it was only a risk aversion problem, but I don’t think this is the case anymore. They simply don’t have the hardware to see things properly and so they just can’t, it can’t be fixed and never will be.
There are, of course, a few people here and there who are exceptions, but they’re very rare. And when they look at their peers they can either decide to play along for whatever reason, or they become reclusive vampire lords and just focus on making their games unbothered by everything else. This latter path is pretty much what I’ve concluded and resigned myself to as I see pretty much no value in interacting with indiedevs as peers anymore. There’s value in interacting with gamedevs in general (indie or not) for sharing of hard technical knowledge, in my case mostly programming, but anything softer (which are the harder and most important parts of it) is totally useless and pointless.
A few days later indiedevs started talking yet again about how Dave the Diver isn’t an indie game (Twitter - Nov 27, 2023; quote tweeting this):
Geoff Keighley has shared his thoughts on the debate surrounding Dave the Diver’s nomination for Best Indie Game at The Game Awards.— VGC (@VGC_News) November 27, 2023
“Independent can mean different things to different people, and it’s sort of a broad term."https://t.co/lTkHHF139C pic.twitter.com/2x7ggARoS3
The fact that indie developers really like talking about this particular subject and the definition of the word “indie” is more evidence to me of their lack. I just don’t get it. It’s just a word, who cares? And also who cares about awards?
To me being independent means that I can say that Gamergate was the fucking funniest thing that happened in video games and that I wished it happened again without having to worry that I’ll get blacklisted by someone or some group. And the reason I am unblacklistable is because I don’t care about things like awards, or influencers, or the press, or any of these things that are irrelevant to making games.
The fact that indie developers collectively focus on THIS for MONTHS is EVIDENCE that they’re not independent, that they’re beholden to higher powers instead of just ignoring it and, you know, actually being INDEPENDENT. The self-owns that these people engage in are unending and consistent, and the fact that none of them can see it is both hilarious and sad.
One day later (Twitter - Nov 28, 2023; quote tweeting the post above):
And let me get ahead of the “indie gatekeeping” accusations by saying that I don’t care if you want the status from the awards, or the exposure from the influencers and press, or the money from the publishers, or the help from the engines. As far as I’m concerned you can be an indiedev with all those things.
But if you’re going to be anal about the word and complain about it endlessly, as many indiedevs have done about Dave the Diver now for months, then understand that you will never be a REAL independent developer as long as you use are beholden to those things and they have power over you.
The argument here is exactly the same as the one I made in this post about artists and their hatred of money https://a327ex.com/posts/unity_godot_artists_money. If things like awards matter to you, and it upsets you that the award categorized a game wrong, you are still operating in its frame, and it still has power over you. The only way to truly win and make yourself actually independent is by transcending it instead by not caring. The more indie developers talk about Dave the Diver not being indie, the less independent they are. Those are the facts and they are irrefutable.
Ten days later, after The Game Awards happened (Twitter - Dec 8, 2023):
My favorite part of The Game Awards was the “best independent game award” - the one that indiedevs spent months discussing because of Dave the Diver - taking like 10 unceremonious seconds to happen. And then it was over, and that was that.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be in the head of the average indie developer who tweeted about this multiple times. Does watching this happen make them go “huh, this is what I cared about?” or “Why am I watching this in the first place”? I know that the answer to that is no. I happen to be a very good mindreader so I know exactly what’s going on in their heads.
And what’s going on is that these people live in the symbolic world rather than in the real world. They think the symbolic is real and they don’t know the real exists. The reality of it taking only 10 seconds, the reality of a game being tagged “indie” or not having no effect on discoverability whatsoever, the reality of the game not even winning in the first place, all of it irrelevant.
To them, Dave the Diver being nominated is a symbolic defeat. It’s a sign of corporate entities taking over the word and invading their space, and that’s why it’s bad. The actual fact that the tag doesn’t matter at all, and hasn’t mattered for a long time, is irrelevant.
Some smart indie developers manage to reach this conclusion, here’s one example:
Very good and interesting point. Maybe this does mark the symbolic death of the indie tag. But unfortunately, she doesn’t reach this (true) conclusion from a place of neutrality and detachment, which is why if you go on her profile now you’ll find her going on about how the awards are bad, how Geoff is corrupt, how it’s disrespectful to not give 10 more seconds to the developers, and so on and so forth.
And she cares about all this because, like most indie developers, she lives in the symbolic world. I don’t care because I live in the real world, and in the real world, on the market, the tag hasn’t mattered for years, so why would it matter on the award show, which is significantly less real than the market?
To those who live in the symbolic world, only symbols matter. Reality doesn’t factor into their thoughts.
It’s why when Jonathan Blow tweets about lab leaks, they all pounce on him, despite the fact that it’s very much a debatable issue, and for those who were paying attention since the start the argument for it being a lab leak has been pretty clear since then. But to those in the symbolic world, all of this is irrelevant. If you say something that is not symbolically aligned with them, you must be made fun of and attacked.
It’s why when I say “Guys, NFTs are decentralized digital objects, this is a cool new technology and it’s obviously something that should exist on the internet, as it would make a lot of things easier. Maybe it will only catch on 10, 20, 30 years from now, but it’s a good idea regardless, all the negativity towards it is unwarranted.” somehow I’m the demonlord who just killed 1000 children.
To those who live in the symbolic world, if the facts being said are true or not, irrelevant. All that matters is if those facts are symbolically aligned. And in 2021, saying any true and positive facts at all about NFTs was about the worst thing you could do, which is why I did.
It’s why, to them, the symbolic death of the indie tag via Dave the Diver matters, but the reality of caring about the game awards at all making them less independent is somehow lost. They’re not operating in the real world where they should aim at being independent, they’re operating in symbolic world where the tag is somehow a magic symbol that confers them with a special “indie” aura. They say this on their arguments all the time, “you’re stealing our thing”, right? How can the fact that you’re independent or not be stolen from you by others? If it can then it’s evidence that you aren’t independent. The purest contradiction.
It’s why when this happened yesterday, none of them said absolutely anything:
To those living in the symbolic world, the only thing that matters now is pwning Unity, so of course Godot getting money from angel investors is a good thing. Why would it be a bad thing? W4 Games is a separate entity, Godot is open source, absolutely nothing can go wrong and money has never found a way to distort incentives around open source projects before destructively. And even if anything bad happened, you can just fork it! Just fork the million lines of code, it’s open source! JUST FORK IT!
So no comments, complete and utter silence. To speak reality into being as it appears to you now would not be symbolically aligned with the goal of destroying Unity, so nothing can be said, and thus nothing is said by anyone. Not that anyone even sees the problem in the first place, because those living in the symbolic world can’t see the real world. Everything I just said about Godot here is gibberish to them. If I quote at them the exact same inevitable seeds of destruction of the past, it’s a foreign language, they can’t parse it:
“Sequoia Capital Invests in Unity
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - October 26, 2009
Unity Technologies the leading provider of the multi-platform game development platform for Web, PC, Mac, Wii and iPhone today announced that it has secured Series A financing of $5.5 million. The investment round was led by Sequoia Capital, the venture investors behind well-known technology brands such as Apple, Electronic Arts, Google and Nvidia. The financing round also included David Gardner, the CEO of Atari and Diane Greene, founder and former CEO of VMware. Roelof Botha, partner at Sequoia Capital, and Greene will be joining the board of directors.”
To those who live in the symbolic world, only symbols matter. Reality doesn’t factor into their thoughts.
It’s why I’ll often get into arguments with indie developers about the value Steam provides, and they’ll reveal to me that they don’t understand it. Sometimes even developers with released, successful games on Steam:
If I could run a poll on all indie developers asking them what’s the most valuable thing Steam provides, I bet >50% of them would not answer correctly that it’s the advertising. They would say what everyone always says, oh they provide hosting, downloads, friends list, controller shit, etc. Over half of indie developers simply does not understand the value proposition of one of the most important platforms they use.
Because they only live in the symbolic world, they simply never bothered to check. They never looked at the stats, they never paid attention to actual reality. All they know is that their peers are saying that Valve is taking 30% and it’s unfair, therefore they also think that, without ever checking for themselves. “Is it actually unfair?”, a question that only occurs to those insane enough to actually care about the truth.
It’s why indie developers are often surprised, or simply don’t know, the kinds of numbers that Steam can generate. Just yesterday I saw this:
A very good achievement from a developer who, based on our conversation, is very young. The idea of releasing some games on Steam for free to gain visibility and amass followers, instead of just releasing them on itch, is rarely discussed, because most indiedevs simply don’t actually know what Steam does.
It’s why when I say that good = popular, the reactions I get would have you assume that I’m speaking insane incomprehensible tongues, as though I were the instantiation of some lovecraftian horror. To those who live in the symbolic world, the idea that their games could be objectively judged by reality - the market - is completely unnaceptable.
The idea that the most objective assessment of quality for games necessarily has to use the market, as that’s the only way you can reasonably get everyone’s opinions, simply cannot be. It’s not symbolically aligned to the vision that artists have of themselves as the true keepers of high art, and therefore no matter how true the market might be, it cannot be considered seriously.
All of these examples are as clear as water to me. The thread that runs through all of them is the fact that people want to live in the symbolic world rather than the real world. They want to have symbolic victories rather than real victories. They want to avoid symbolic defeats rather than real defeats. They care more about words said than actions taken. They care more about appearances than if someone is actually acting righteously or not. They can’t see reality, they can’t see righteous acts, they don’t even know they exist.
Consider the problem of gambling. Have I contributed to the problem of gambling? To some degree. SNKRX has a rerolling mechanic. No real money is involved, but the mechanism is there all the same. There are 25 levels, there’s a shop with multiple rerolls between each level. That’s a lot of rerolling and a lot of gambling.
I don’t regret making the game this way, and I certainly don’t regret the money I made from it. When I was making SNKRX I wasn’t thinking that much about game design, I was primarily trying to solve another problem (how to make decent enough game quickly), so it is what it is.
But now I have the time to consider things more carefully. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that this is a creative field, and so I can and I should use my creativity to solve any problem I want solved. And for this problem specifically, the frontloaded power distribution idea solves it.
It allows for all the same things that you get in a roguelite, but it decreases the frequency of upgrades and moves them to a deeper and more interesting gameplay environment. It both solves the repetitive choose 3 problem, makes gambling-like dopamine hits less frequent, and also makes the game itself more interesting due to the addition of a (generally) more strategic component to power distribution.
I don’t know if this idea works yet, it has to be tested in the market, but if it does then it’s objectively better, more elegant, and with less negative side effects than the alternatives. This is what good ideas look like, they’re different, they work, and they solve multiple problems at the same time.
If I released my next game and it used a similar gambling-like mechanic to what SNKRX had, that would be one action. If it used something more like the frontloaded power distribution mechanic instead, that would be another action. These are both very different actions, one is clearly more righteous than the other, but it’s easy to miss the difference, right?
When you first read the frontloaded power distribution idea, did you also think “interesting, this also helps with how gambling-like these games can get”? Chances are you didn’t, because it’s an easy thing to miss. But undeniably this would be the case in actual reality.
Paying attention to the real world instead of the symbolic world, seeing that one action is different from the other, takes effort and work. You have to constantly be on guard, you have to constantly be aware, you have to constantly be noticing things. You have to have vision, you have to SEE.
It doesn’t escape me that here I am, talking about the symbolic versus the real, and what’s true versus what’s false, and yet I am a game developer. Games are symbolic artifacts. They’re taking real impulses people have and converting those impulses to nothing. Anyone interacting with games is operating entirely in the symbolic world, by the very nature of the activity. All games are black holes of the real. If the real is good, then games must be bad.
You can’t escape from this fact, it’s as true as a fact gets. And I don’t have some clever response to it. I’ve simply learned to live with the contradiction. But if I’m going to have to live with the contradiction, I should at least be aware of it. I should be aware of what’s real and what’s not and not ignore it for my own convenience.
Three years ago I wrote this blog post https://github.com/a327ex/blog/issues/69 with my thoughts on making small games. This was about 2 months before releasing SNKRX. At the time, there was some amount of discussion on twitter about making and releasing small games. Everyone knew that the advice of “make small games first” was broadly true, but people were trying to grapple with the fact of making small games while also trying to make money from them.
You had initiatives like 10mg https://store.steampowered.com/curator/38713864 which was a collection of 10 minute games that were trying to “make the case for spending money on small, weird, and short video games.”
“The primary goal is to create an appetite for short games.
The challenge of developing for 10mg is to reconsider what we “know” about game design. Instead of facilitating endless dopamine hits, 10mg aims to explore new, nourishing ideas. Inspiration and originality are king.
Secondarily, 10mg desires to establish a recognisable format and brand for games that dare to push back. Together, the voice and presence of underground micro-game creators can reach more people than they ever could alone.”
I disagreed with ideas such as this pretty strongly, but things like this were the “vibe” of the time, regarding discussions of making small games. And my argument against this was that just because you make a game in a short amount of time, it doesn’t mean the game has to last the player a short amount of time as well. I made a distinction between big (long development time) and small (short development time) games, as well long (lasts the player a long time) and short (lasts the player a short time) games.
10mg games were small and short, I made the case for the then unexplored small and long quadrant. I acted on this belief of what I thought was true about the world, I was prepared to act on it for years, but immediately after, on my first attempt, it yielded very positive results in the form of SNKRX.
People like saying that this was mostly luck, that I got lucky. For all the shit I give the luck believers, I think they kind of have a point now. Does making lots of small long games actually work as a career building strategy for indie developers?
It is more clear now than it was then that it’s possible, but it’s not clear at all that this is a general viable strategy. You had the Vampire Survivors example and all its clones, very small and very long games, but that might also have been a fluke of some sort. It’s not clear that outside of the VS-like sphere that there are many developers making small long games and succeeding.
I see the opposite of it all the time, though. The wishlist hoarders that put their games up on the next fests, most success in indie development right now seems to come from them. The idea of wishlist building is, to me, pretty unworkable if your goal is making small games, as it necessarily balloons the development time up by at least a few months.
No one has actually run the experiment of starting over from scratch, releasing only small long games with minimal wishlist building, and seeing if they can amass followers and succeed in the market just by doing that.
Start a new dev identity with only your skills and $0. Release a game on Steam, make some money, repeat. When you reach $100k made with that identity, drop it and start a new one from scratch. Repeat this like 5 times.
By the end of this not only would you have made $500k, but you’d have also answered the question. Is the small long strategy a viable career path for indiedevs? And the answer would be yes.
It would be a hard experiment to run… A great challenge, a great effort, a great display of skill and creativity, a great new journey to embark on. But no one has done this, and no one ever will. Who even cares about answering a question like this?
Regardless, the real is the real. The truth is the truth. If you align yourself to it, good things will come. They must. I’ve believed this all my life and I will forever, because it’s true.
“The most important thing is to never lose the thread. Money is secondary. Public opinion is secondary. Social status is secondary. Power is secondary. All nice things to have, but they can never be primary goals; they’re indirect by-products of living truthfully. If you seek any of those things as primary goods, you must eventually lose your thread and get lost, which is spiritual death. If you just seek the truth, and tell the truth, and give all of your energy to living as truthfully as possible, then it’s impossible to lose the thread. To the man with a real thread, good things come, but only because a truthful life catches many imperceptible tailwinds, all kinds of implicit alpha you’ll never be able to fully explain. What I’m describing is real and empirical, you can very loosely see the causal pathways, but there’s no dataset for singular events, and the causal efficacy is so unreasonably tremendous that you realize this is why the New Testament three times refers to God as”the Spirit of Truth.””
The most important thing is to never lose the thread. Money is secondary. Public opinion is secondary. Social status is secondary. Power is secondary. All nice things to have, but they can never be primary goals; they're indirect by-products of living truthfully. If you seek any…— Justin Murphy (cath/acc) (@jmrphy) December 3, 2023
Three days after this post, @W4Games made this announcement:
We're excited to announce our pricing model for @W4Games Console Ports for @godotengine, which will be released in 2024.— W4 Games (@W4Games) December 11, 2023
We're also opening a second wave of Early Access for #NintendoSwitch and #XboxSeries, planned for public release by end Q1 2024.https://t.co/ejHTRdnM6H
It took like 2 days, but eventually some developers took notice of this and made enough negative comments (check quote tweets) that people’s attention focused on the problem properly, which can be summarized by this tweet from @epyoncf:
It is in the interest of Godot Foundation/main godot devs to provide free/cheap porting possibility to Godot. Which is in conflict to the interest of W4Games. These are led by the same group of people.— Kornel Kisielewicz (@epyoncf) December 12, 2023
It is in the interest of Godot Foundation/main godot devs to provide free/cheap porting possibility to Godot. Which is in conflict to the interest of W4Games. These are led by the same group of people.
One day later I said (Twitter - Dec 13, 2023):
I think this Godot situation highlights the importance of just sticking to what you know. No engine is perfect. If you have been using Godot for years, stick with it. If you had been using Unity for years when the drama happened, you should have stuck with it.
Changing is always costly and should not be a decision taken at the height of some drama that YouTubers are making videos about. It should not be a decision taken publicly, what if you change your mind? The public isn’t spending 10 hours every day in front of the computer making games with you. It should be a decision taken with care, at least months after the dust has settled and events have transpired enough for you to be able to look at it all in context and go: “OK, clearly this is the direction things are going, changing makes sense/doesn’t make sense”.
I am very particular about how I do things, so for me changing tools always has a very high cost. Had I been using Unity for 10 years when the drama happened, I would have easily just kept using Unity because ultimately the runtime fee is just not that big of a deal.
This also has the advantage that 5 years from now, when/if the Unity offices are closed and you’re finally forced to change to something new, alternative engines like Godot will have had 5 years of time to them. The long term direction of Godot will be much more clear in 5 years than it is now (except if you’re me, the prophet seer sage who can already see its direction clearly (it’s the direction of certain doom)), so delaying the decision-making on this now makes the most sense.
This goes back to the point about creativity from John Cleese’s book, that you need this sort of laziness to delay decisions so you can get more information, but also a kind of emotional stability so that the feeling of things being wrong doesn’t bother you enough that you make premature decisions.
This emotional stability is not only useful for creativity, but also obviously for any business decisions. I think looking back on it all now it’s clear that the correct decision for Unity users that had been using Unity for, say, 5+ years was to either stick with it or go the complete other way and make their own engines.
Changing to another similar enough engine like Godot is cope. You could counter-argue and say that saying anything, doing anything, is, at the most basic level, pure and undeniable cope. Cope over the chain of causation. A cope to a cope to a cope. Buddha wasn’t wise, he was afraid. Afraid of people saying “cope” so he sat in total silence, realizing his every move was cope.
That would be a fine argument. Still, I don’t like coping. I like facing situations head-on with some dignity. “I chose Unity 10 years ago, it is what it is, I’ll just keep using it”. “It is what it is” is dignified, mature, beautiful. “I’m just going to make my own engine, I’m tired of not being in control”. Amazing, high test behavior. “Godot is just like Unity and it’s open source and the projects load so fast and Juan is such a NICE GUY”. These are the words of pure, unaltered, high-grade cope.
In the replies to this, @wackytoaster asked:
Why do you think godot is doomed? It didn't click with me but overall it looks like a solid engine.— Wackytoaster (@wackytoaster) December 13, 2023
Why do you think godot is doomed? It didn’t click with me but overall it looks like a solid engine.
To which I replied (Twitter - Dec 13, 2023):
I described the problem in a 2018 post about Unity https://github.com/a327ex/blog/issues/31, and also in a 2022 post about both Unity and Godot https://a327ex.com/posts/unity_godot_artists_money. The problem is fundamentally main developers not finishing games with their engine, which leads to focus on new features instead of robustly fixing old ones.
If only 5% of users actually finish games with the engine, and 95% of users are beginners who are just trying it out but never finish anything, and you want to make the engine popular as a developer, then naturally your focus will become appealing to the 95% instead of the 5%.
The 5% that are actually finishing games have feature requests and bugs that are harder to track, harder to fix, harder to understand, harder to work on, it’s just hard, boring work. But the 5% are the ones finishing games and what they need should be a priority. A great example of this are Cyangmou’s bug reports with Godot’s stuttering for pixel art: https://github.com/godotengine/godot/issues/84137 https://github.com/godotengine/godot-proposals/issues/6389. He’s been at it for months and he seems frustrated about it. This is the kind of thing that Unity users have had to deal with as well for years. And this is just one example, there are many more.
The point is that if the developers aren’t actually shipping products with the engine themselves, they’re unlikely to make features robust. It’s not impossible for it to happen, but the incentives are just not aligned. Focusing on the 5% yields less short term results than focusing on the 95%, that’s just how things work out in reality.
And then everything follows from this. Do I see Godot developers focusing on how popular their engine is? I do, often, this means they’re focusing on the 95%. Do I see features go unfixed for years, and only be fixed by the rewriting of entire systems? I do, often, this is also what Unity does. Do I see developers with shipped Godot games complaining about the engine? I do. Not as often as I do for Unity (mostly because Godot is still in the honeymoon phase with people, if you go back 5 years you rarely saw anyone complaining about Unity too despite the problems also existing then), but it still happens, and I assume it will only increase in the future. This means the engine has the same problems as Unity where the back half of a game’s development sucks because many features are unfinished/broken.
All of these problems, both with Unity and Godot, stem from the same core issue: the engine’s developers are not incentivized to do things robustly because it doesn’t affect them. The incentives are not aligned. When incentives are misaligned you can be sure that things will go wrong, unless you have exceptional individuals involved who are aware of these misalignments and pay attention to them and care to combat them. But I don’t see this being the case with either Unity or Godot, therefore I can be pretty confident about their certain doom.
This is the end of my tweets on this topic. And you know, all of this was one month, right? The one month I decided to post, all of this happens, and all of it further solidified my thoughts that the quality of the indie developer is low.
This last one was especially tilting. On December 8th I made a tweet about The Game Awards that pointed out how W4 Games getting angel investment was a bad thing. If you go look at that W4 games tweet, no one is talking negatively about it. I think there was a total of 1 negative comment that I saw, from some random dev.
No one who had just spent the past few months pushing Godot as a response against Unity spoke about this investment and its potential problems. No one! And then 3 days later the stab comes that immediately makes the problems with it clear.
When things like this happen I really question myself. Do I have special prophetic powers or is no one else paying attention at all? Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person who’s actually awake, alive, looking at what’s happening and seeing it for what it is.
And this kind of thing just happens constantly with me. It is so frustrating to see things so clearly, yet others take weeks, months, or years to see it. This entire year it’s been this over and over and over again. Every time it happens I take mental damage because it just feels like I’m going insane.
I think this tweet by @visakanv captures it perfectly:
few things make your brain hit the frying pan harder than being right when everyone else was wrong, especially if it was about something consequential. it might be the single quickest way to go literally insane, if we define sanity as being well-adjusted to social norms— Visakan Veerasamy (@visakanv) March 18, 2023
few things make your brain hit the frying pan harder than being right when everyone else was wrong, especially if it was about something consequential. it might be the single quickest way to go literally insane, if we define sanity as being well-adjusted to social norms
I just feel a very strong sense of frustration that others can’t see as I do. It’s a very odd feeling and I don’t know why this year I’ve felt it so strongly.
Here I am, sharing my thoughts on creativity, which, as I mentioned at the start of this post, are probably some of the most important thoughts I’ve had about my growth as a creative in the past ~5 years, and I get back something like “lol at all this creativity gatekeeping”.
And this is obviously not the only time I get such dismissive comments. These kinds of comments by themselves don’t bother me. I’m used to it and in some sense I’m asking for it due to how I word things. I’m not some poor faultless victim.
But for the past 5+ years, every time I talk to these people about things that are not obvious, both privately and publicly, it’s always the same response. People ignore it and dismiss it, people make fun of it, people think I’m trolling or joking, people just don’t engage truthfully with it at all.
Time passes and the things I said are inevitably proven to be true, but it doesn’t matter. Clearly I’m the problem due to my abrasive nature. “Maybe I should just try to be nicer”, sometimes I think to myself.
But it doesn’t matter. How nice can you be when you have to keep telling people over and over, year after year, that they’re fucking losers for thinking that luck is real? That if they want to succeed they obviously shouldn’t look at their games like lottery tickets?
I just don’t have the patience for it. My sense of frustration comes from the realization that it’s pointless to keep talking to these people, as they will simply never learn. They will collectively make obvious mistake after obvious mistake, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
Can I look at them as my intellectual peers, who are on the same journey as me for the acquiring and sharing of knowledge and wisdom? No, absolutely not. They are beneath me. In some sense they disgust me. So why would I waste my time with these people?
This is arrogant. But it is how I truly feel. I started this section by saying it was a negative insight. And isn’t this very negative?
It is funny that this is the conclusion I reached. My profile picture online as “a327ex” is this mask:
This is Aonuma Shun, one of the characters from Shin Sekai Yori. He is the high IQ one from the group and I always identified with him the most. In the story he becomes a karma demon and dies.
It is fitting. Luckily in real life I don’t have any power to leak.
Ultimately I think Yarvin is right in this interview:
MR: Is it weird that this community has made you its leader?
CY: Well, I try to avoid any leading or contributing to any community. I don’t think there should be a community. I think communities are not bad, but poorly adapted to the modern world. The modern world is not a world of community. It’s a world of atomization.
MR: Yeah, it’s terrible.
CY: It’s terrible. And the thing is that it’s terrible, but you can’t put your head in the sand and make it go away. It’s terrible, but it is what it is. And you have to live in the world as it is and live up to its spirit.
So there are all these attempts to start a community or a political party or something. My God, it’s horrifying. Go ahead, just start your militia or whatever. Right? How’s it working out for you? Great.
He’s been saying this and variations of this for years, and I’ve been reading it and going, “yea, true”. But I only truly actually get it now. When he says that this is an age of depreciating human capital, this is what he means. The people are just not good enough.
For some reason I thought that I was a part of a community, the community of indie developers, and that I could help people and that they could help me.
(And here “help” is used in the sense of finding the truth, not in any sense of networking, which I absolutely abhor. If you ever think in terms of “I’ll use my platform to give this guy’s game some visibility because he deserves it”, for instance, you are my enemy and an enemy of the truth and I don’t like you. When you do that you are producing noise instead of signal, you are muddying the waters for your own personal reasons. I am aware that some people probably shared SNKRX partially with thoughts like this in their heads, and I am thankful for it, but that kind of distortion of reality is not desirable and it only serves to confuse. It’s not a correct or truthful way to act if the goal is spawning better games into reality. The correct way to act is by only sharing games that you genuinely think are good, regardless of where they come from, who made them, what tools were used, etc.)
I genuinely believe that the more indie developers succeed, the more likely it is for me to succeed in the future. In the long term, competition isn’t real and every indiedev benefits from other indiedevs succeeding and finding truth and wisdom from their experiences (and also sharing those findings with their peers).
But now all of this seems silly and pointless. Very few people are interested in any of this, so the conclusion I reach is one of retreat and isolation. I am unbothered, moisturized, happy, in my lane, focused, flourishing. Being a reclusive vampire lord fits me better.
(Twitter - Nov 29, 2023)
The “choose 3” mechanic in roguelites has become played out. Power distribution happening by choosing between 3 upgrades is just too common and boring now and any game I make in the future I’ll try something different, just for pure contrarianism’s sake, as I can’t stand seeing this specific mechanic anymore.
In roguelites currently, power distribution is spread over a run with roughly equal distance. You kill some enemies, you get a choose 3 prompt for an upgrade, repeat forever. One way to mix this up would be to frontload power distribution instead. All power distribution happens before a floor, and then the player plays the entire floor without any upgrade prompts. This both forces the gameplay itself to be fun without the constant dopamine hit from the upgrades, but also separates action and strategy segments more cleanly. First comes strategy of choosing all upgrades, then comes action of just playing the build out.
The mechanism I like the most in my head for doing this is drafting, because I’ve been playing Artifact a lot lately. Drafting is just fundamentally fun by itself, and I feel like it would work well as a frontloaded power distribution tool in any roguelite. But of course anything else could be used, as long as it allows power to be distributed semi-randomly it’d be fine and serve the same purpose. The only real drawback of this I can see is that it’s a riskier type of game to make, because if there’s no upgrades happening while gameplay is happening the gameplay has to be pretty good to keep people engaged, and that’s harder to achieve. But this is the kind of good risk to take since it only forces you to try harder to make something better.
(Twitter - Nov 30, 2023)
A few ideas for frontloaded power distribution mechanisms:
Dequivsia is a minesweeper dungeon game, where you control a character in a minesweeper grid, and you have to move from room to room while avoiding hole rooms (mines). Each room has a number that represents how many 8-neighboring hole rooms it has, and you have to figure out where to move based on the numbers of all rooms you’ve visited (non-visited rooms’ numbers are hidden).
It’s a very simple game, you could code this in a day (or a week), but it is surprisingly engaging to play. It’s also very simple to turn it into a power distribution mechanism. Dequivsia’s goal is that you have to find keys and then find the exit of the current map, harder maps are bigger and require more keys, meaning you have to explore more and risk dying more often (you have 3 HP and lose 1 whenever you enter a hole room).
To distribute power, instead of finding keys you find items/upgrades, and then either give the player a timer, or let him play until he dies or finds an exit. The entire game would be structured as minesweeper dungeon item hunting -> actual combat gameplay -> repeat. You could also still have concepts like keys that open special rooms with particularly strong items. You could even just drop the minesweeper concept entirely and have the game be like the dungeon exploration part of isaac, except without any combat in each room, it’s just the pure strategy of going through various types of rooms and trading resources smartly so you can get more and better items.
The main thing is that the distribution of items is semi-random. It should have some strategy to it so that if you’re smart about things you can create better builds, but it shouldn’t be such that the player can completely choose whatever build he wants everytime. Unless, of course, that’s what you want. But personally I find that not as fun as semi-random type of strategy gameplay, so it’s not what I would do.
#2 Mini Metro/Mini Motorways
Both Mini Metro and Mini Motorways have a mechanic where new nodes spawn randomly, and you have to connect those nodes to each other to fulfill whatever they need fulfilled. This could be turned into power distribution with a few small changes.
The first is that each node would represent an item/upgrade, and if that node is connected it will be granted to the player when the current session ends. The second is that nodes should be overspawned and resources should be constrained so that player has to constantly choose between which ones he wants to add to the network or not based on its position, the resources they have, and on the other upgrades they currently have making up the build. This second change also necessitates the removal of the game’s losing condition (when you don’t connect nodes and they overflow).
This idea is slightly harder to do than the first because it needs more changes and is less clear for players to understand compared to just enemyless dungeon crawling, but I think it would also work well. And similarly to the previous idea, and to all frontloaded power distribution mechanics, the entire game itself is structured as node connection gameplay -> actual combat gameplay -> repeat.
Slipways is a very fun strategy game, pretty hard to explain its rules so I won’t even bother trying, but as it pertains to frontloaded power distribution, it could work very similarly to the previous example. Every other planet would have an item/upgrade, and planets that are connected to your network and have upgrades have those upgrades granted to the player when the session ends.
Somehow, someway, I really don’t know how, gameplay would need to made simpler, because Slipways has a pretty steep learning curve and I personally think it’s too much for being half the game. At the same time, Slipways gives me the vibes of being an extremely tightly crafted game, such that any small changes made to its design would break it completely in one way or another. So it just seems like a hard game to use for this, but I think it would be interesting to try.
What all these 3 examples have in common is that they’re strategy games, and they have hooks somewhere in their design, sometimes with small changes needed, for turning them into an item collection sort of game. This item collection process is semi-random and is no different from the drafting I mentioned as another possible example of doing this, the point is just giving the player a number of upgrades at the same time via some strategy-like gameplay.
This essentially means that all these frontloaded power distribution games would be 2 games. This is something else that makes them riskier. Not only do you have to make the actual combat gameplay fun by itself because it can’t rely on constant upgrade gets, you also have to make the strategy section engaging enough that people actually feel like they’re not doing something pointless and arbitrary.
But one advantage is that this allows you to use otherwise weaker ideas that wouldn’t be able to be full games by themselves, especially on the strategy/power distribution section. Dequivsia is a good example of this (the other 2 less so, given they’re already full released and successful games).
Dequivsia is an engaging game, but, to me, it’s not a deep enough game that if I made it I would be comfortable releasing it on Steam. It just doesn’t have that much to it. It’s a good idea, it’s not really a good full game. But I would absolutely use it as a frontloaded power distribution mechanism in a bigger game, because, despite not being able to be a full game on its own, it’s perfect in this scenario where it’s only half of the game and it only needs to serve as a base for power distribution.
There are many ideas I’ve dropped before where I thought “this is cool but it isn’t deep enough for a full Steam game”, and frontloaded power distribution allows all those ideas to be used because they don’t need to be super deep and allow 5 quadrillion builds, they just need to be engaging to play. There are lots of games on both itch and Steam for which this applies to, they’re interesting games, but they don’t hold your attention for long because they’re just interesting but not deep. All of those ideas can be reused and remixed in this context.
This is one of the main reasons I like this frontloaded power distribution idea. It’s another way of structuring your game that has some drawbacks, and might take a bit more work, but it has quite a few benefits to it. And it’s also different. How many roguelites do you see that have a similar structure to what I described here? I can’t remember any, although I’m sure they must exist somewhere.
(Twitter - Dec 12, 2023)
Had a simple frontloaded power distribution game idea to this song (black midi - Slow). Every run starts with this song playing in its entirety (5 minutes and 33 seconds) and that constitutes the power distribution portion.
Graphics don’t matter. Top-down view and you’re driving a car moving up through a city (say early GTA style (not visually but just camera-wise) but with a way more distant camera such that everything is a lot smaller) and escaping from the world collapsing and disintegrating behind you, at the bottom of the screen. The collapse’s speed roughly matches the song’s intensity.
When it’s slow enough you get out of the car and scavenge buildings in the city for items before it starts going fast again. When it’s fast you get into your car and outpace it through the city’s streets or you die. When the song ends the power distribution part ends and you start the run with whatever items you were able to find and take with you during those 6 minutes.
What makes you go fast doesn’t necessarily have to be a car, since with a car there’s the issue where the collapse can’t be too fast when it’s slow otherwise you have to get in and out of it all the time and just makes those situations more awkward and forces things into either being really slow or really fast. It could be just that the player can run really fast at will. This is something that would have to be tested to see, I can’t play in my head what would feel better.
Rough map of collapse speed based on the song:
[0:45-0:51] Faster but only to scare the player
[0:51-1:16] Slow but slightly faster
[3:11-3:30] Slowly increasing
[3:30-3:56] Fast increasing
[3:56-4:30] Very fast
[4:54] Fast and increasing until the end
As the song approaches the end, there’s one short slow section that naturally makes for nice gameplay, as it could have way better items than the other slow sections, but it’s between two very fast sections and thus would be more dangerous and risky.
(Twitter - Dec 12, 2023)
Just occurred to me upon having this idea that “60 Seconds!” https://store.steampowered.com/app/368360/60_Seconds/ also does the frontloaded power distribution thing. I knew an example existed. There probably are many more and I just haven’t thought of or played them.
(Twitter - Dec 12, 2023)
This [black midi - Slow] idea is another good example of the frontloaded power distribution idea solving multiple problems at once. Another problem it solves is that because gameplay sections are more cleanly delineated, there are more opportunities for the creation of music-led gameplay.
This is something I think about often. I have lots of game ideas to songs. Like way more than I could ever make. There are so many indie musicians out there creating really high quality music, it’s baffling to me how few indie games in comparison make clear use of music that already exists to build a game around it. You listen to some songs, imagine a game that fits it, make the game. The game is elevated because of the music, the music is elevated because of the game, and if the game gets popular both parties win massively.
It seems like most devs do the opposite, which is to make the game and then get a music guy to make songs that fit it. But to me this is wrong. And it’s wrong because you’re giving creative power over anything music related to someone else, who may very well be good at it and do his job well, but I’m a control freak and I trust my own creative sensibilities way more. My ability to imagine a great game that fits a song is higher than a music guy’s ability to imagine a great song that fits my game.
So to me it just makes sense to listen to songs that exist and try to imagine games to them. Some songs are very hard to do this for, others are very easy. Go with the ones that are easy and good enough and I think this kind of process would elevate any game when done well. I think most people having ideas for games are not heavy music enjoyers, which is probably why it doesn’t happen more often. But some people are and they’ve had success doing it:
I remember back then that you've wanted to publish a lot of small long games, made in 3 months. Did you changed your mind since then and why?— Alex Grade (@alxgrade) December 17, 2023
I remember back then that you’ve wanted to publish a lot of small long games, made in 3 months. Did you changed your mind since then and why?
To which I replied (Twitter - Dec 17, 2023):
Yes and no. My goal before SNKRX was to make a game every 2-3 months. I don’t think this is a right goal to have anymore due to the realization that ideas matter a lot, and so if I’m working on something and it doesn’t feel right, I shouldn’t force myself to release it.
I still think that only working on ideas that could be feasibly made in ~3 months is a good goal, though, at least until I’ve released more games of around this size. After that I can start increasing my scope more and more until it gets to some of the bigger game ideas I’ve had for a long time.
I could reach a point where I’m releasing a game every 2-3 months. But it should happen as a byproduct of consistently having really good ideas, and not from a self-imposed “I have to release a game every 2 months” constraint. Ideamaxxing is the ultimate goal.
Yeah. But also scope your projects around your skills. You can cleverly cut away very large parts of what a game normally is to focus on what you are good at and what you enjoy— Oskar Stålberg (@OskSta) January 29, 2022
@HTHRFLWRS: indie dev, especially solo, is 90% about figuring out how to get to the level of “good enough” for any given discipline
@OskSta: Yeah. But also scope your projects around your skills. You can cleverly cut away very large parts of what a game normally is to focus on what you are good at and what you enjoy
Yeah you need one or two really good things in a game, and the rest should simply not be bad enough to be in the way— Oskar Stålberg (@OskSta) September 26, 2023
Yeah you need one or two really good things in a game, and the rest should simply not be bad enough to be in the way
Two very good insights by Oskar. This is something that to me has always been quite obvious but I see many devs struggle with it. As an independent game developer, you are your own boss. You have complete control over how much work you have to do to finish a game.
The smart thing to do is to use your creativity to come up with ideas that can be done quickly and that focus on things you enjoy working on. All effort should be laser-focused on those aspects of the game, and as Oskar says, everything else should be simply good enough to not get in the way.
Indiedevs have a very hard time doing this because of how agreeable they are and how it’s hard to notice when you’re just making decisions because it’s what everyone else is doing and you haven’t really thought about if that is actually a good decision or not. The “choose 3” mechanic I mentioned earlier is a good example of this.
As nanawoakari says:
- Giving my all to what I want to do
- Being apathetic towards what I hate
- Being loyal to laziness
- Being honest in both body and mind
You can cut corners and focus on things you care about and come to better results than people who have more fixed ideas of what games should be. Oskar’s game is a perfect example of all of this:
There’s this trend among indiedevs who are more business savvy of looking at games that failed on Steam to try and gain knowledge from them. All such endeavors are pointless and, as Eric would say, are examples of people hexing themselves with negative thoughts.
Failure is overdetermined. Most things fail for multiple reasons. So when a game doesn’t do well, you can’t really learn anything about it because you will think it failed for reason 1, but it actually failed for reasons 1 through 5. And then another game you look at might fail for reasons 2, 3, etc. You never actually know. If you focus on looking at successes instead your ratio of looking at what works, what is actual signal, versus what is noise, is much higher, and over the long run that will lead you to better decisions.
Not only that, it’s easy to look at a game that failed and go “yea it failed because of the graphics” or “it failed because they didn’t do enough marketing”, which is just… This is a noobtrap. If you find yourself doing this in your head to any game understand that it’s a thought pattern that you must stop, it won’t lead anywhere good.
Let’s say that you extract 5 reasons for why a game failed/succeeded after looking at it, and you do this for every game you look at. You don’t know if those reasons are valid because you can never run this experiment again while changing only 1 variable, so in a sense you’re always blind.
In this state of blindness, your hit rate when picking those reasons from successful games will be higher, because due to failure’s overdetermination those failed game reasons will more often than not be wrong or incomplete, whereas the reasons from successful games will more often be right, as success often only takes a few right things to get going despite the bad ones. (See Oskar’s tweet above about how you only need one or two good things in a game and the rest needs to only be good enough)
Let’s use Vampire Survivors as an example. If Vampire Survivors failed you could extract many reasons out of it on why it failed, looks like trash, repetitive gameplay, etc, etc. But it succeeded, and once something succeeds it’s a signal from God/the universe that despite all the obvious bad things about it, there are some specific things about it that just work. And in this case those few specific things were copied by lots of people to varying levels of success, but it’s to some extent clear what they are.
Now multiply this effect by lots of games over a long period of observation and you’ll have a much more useful bundle of facts on what you should do that come from successful games, compared to if you only looked at unsuccessful games, where you’ll be full of facts like “your game shouldn’t look like trash”… well, obviously, but that’s not very helpful.
If you’re in a low/high risk environment and your goal is surviving, a map of which things to avoid is useful because it will keep you safe. But if you’re in a high risk environment (gamedev) and your goal is thriving and flourishing, you don’t want to only avoid damage and survive, you want to go hardcore and take risks because the upside is infinite, and in that case a map of avoidance - things you shouldn’t do, taken from unsuccessful games - is less useful than a map of action - things you should do, taken from successful games.
This is a great talk I watched ~10 years ago, and it had a very positive effect on me. The “you are not a lottery ticket” mindset, which for me became a strong sense of “luck isn’t real”, has been consistently useful.
This is another really good one that I also watched back then and it convinced further me that indiedevving was a viable career. Valve acted very consistently according to lots of things Gabe said here, which gave me a good sense of security and predictability.
I don’t think I need to praise Valve more than I already have, but I really like them. It’s very easy to take what they do for granted and to be cynical about the 30%.
But so far I’ve seen nearly no signs that they’re making bad long term decisions for the indie market, so I see no reason to be skeptical. They’ve been really good up until now, they keep proving their worth, and they show no signs of changing. Gratitude for all this is the correct attitude:
When I was releasing the game 5.5 years ago, I never thought it'd be the best investment I made (I never did any before though...)— by yeo (@shin_yeo) November 30, 2023
God bless Steam, Valve and Gaben himself for making many indies all around the world to live their dreams!
Thanks to all players who left a review! pic.twitter.com/tM3X5ULp89
@shin_yeo: When I was releasing the game 5.5 years ago, I never thought it’d be the best investment I made (I never did any before though…)
God bless Steam, Valve and Gaben himself for making many indies all around the world to live their dreams!
Thanks to all players who left a review!
If every society develops technologically to the point of being able to alter reality at will, either all of them have died due to this fact (a single individual with said powers can easily kill and destroy the entire society) or they have survived. For them to have survived they must have high control over their use of this power, which can be enforced through top-down rule by skilled and powerful individuals, through decentralized mechanisms that prevent undue alterings of reality, or any number of other imagined solutions that would apply to all beings of said society. However, all societies using such mechanisms ultimately get outcompeted by societies with no such controls, where the only control that exists is the fact that every single individual in the society is responsible and doesn’t use their reality altering abilities in anti-social manners.
Because these societies full of responsible individuals are the most successful societies, it makes sense to assume we’re their descendants. The base unit of life in said society, a being, is what we call a soul. In soul societies, every adult soul can use their powers freely, because they’ve been through a long process of childhood and adolescence where they’ve learned to control themselves when given universe shattering power. Our souls are children of soul society, going through thousands of lives until we are responsible enough to be trusted with such power. Stories about worlds with magic, for instance, are about worlds that are “above” ours, where individuals are trusted with more responsibility than we are, so they can do things like use magic. Hellish worlds where people get raped by the devil 24/7 are below ours, as they have succumbed to power’s allure and can only use it irresponsibly to cause harm to others.
Souls are a blackbox. They can’t be forcefully corrupted or messed with by anyone, they only respond to the soul bearer’s actions over time. The only thing that is real, the only thing you actually have, what is actually you, is your will (or free will). The choices you make and how they shape your soul are what you actually are, everything else is temporary. It doesn’t matter what you were born with, what matters is what you do with what you were given. Souls can grow positively or negatively in the lives of the poorest and least fortunate, just like they can grow positively or negatively in the lives of the richest and most fortunate. Consistent virtuous actions are the only things that matter.
Souls exist in all planes of reality simultaneously, thus beings from other planes can interact with beings in our plane. Demons are fallen souls who are on a lower plane of existence. Theirs is more real, pain feels worse, pleasure feels better, it’s more physical, brutal, and just more. When demons interact with us their goal is to degenerate our souls as much as possible, but for this to happen the individual has to make the decisions themselves, as souls can’t be directly modified by anyone else but the individual. This is why demons must necessarily be tricksters. This is why they are often portrayed using contracts. They have to be intelligent beings who can convince other souls to do anything with words alone, because that’s the only avenue they have for corruption. The choices must always ultimately be made by the individual, motivated by the demon’s lying words.
Aliens are demons. DMT entities are demons. Anyone telling you that there’s no good and evil, anyone telling you that it’s all relative, anyone telling you that there’s order and disorder and it’s all a balance, anyone telling you that it’s all about your perception and that what’s good or bad are just constructs, anyone telling you a shallow “let’s all just love each other”, those are unmistakably demons, or they have been corrupted by demons. You don’t gain control over universe shattering power with those kinds of thoughts. Good and evil are real, it’s not relative, there is an objective up and there is an objective down, for the very simple reason that if you have ultimate technology, good takes restraint and responsibility, and bad wants a naive freedom that is ultimately anti-social.
Reality is both causal and retrocausal. The past affects the future and the future affects the past, both at the same time. In life, you are a line that goes from past to present to future, and this line (all of you across all of time) is moving sideways through “real time”, like pages of a book folding over you. Real time is where your soul acts and where your will is manifest. You can communicate with your past and future selves, some people can communicate better than others. Intuition and prophetic visions are communications from the future to the past. If you sit down and tell your past self to do something hard enough, eventually you will find your present self doing it as though the habit had always been there. And the more you communicate with your past self like this, the more intuition and visions your future self will send you, since you’re now someone who habitually communicates with its past. And every time a future self communicates with a past self the past self changes its actions, which changes the future self’s actions, and so on iterated across real time until your line stabilizes again. The line stabilizes around key anchors that are harder to change, those could be seen as fate as it pertains to your dispositions in this life. Acts of high will move those anchors around, and that movement represents a soul’s growth (for better or worse).
The growth of a soul ultimately is tied to the soul’s relation to power. When it is given power, does it use it responsibly? When others have power over it, does it accept its position? Souls that both use their given powers responsibly and accept their place when others have power over them are growing positively. Souls that either use their power in anti-social manners, or throw tantrums like children when others have power over them, clinging to a notion of individual freedom divorced from their responsibility to others, are growing negatively. In both cases the soul is growing, because it has to be allowed to grow negatively, otherwise the positive growth isn’t real. The soul has to make its own choices, it has to go down all wrong avenues, it has to risk being lost eternally, it has to learn for itself, it has to shape itself through countless lives, it has to be incrementally given more and more power, more and more responsibity, until it can be properly integrated into soul society with no risk to its citizens.
God is the king who rules soul society, he is a literal man in the sky. I don’t know what his ultimate goals are, but we are all his children.
My favorite band is “Thank You Scientist”. It’s the only band where I like all of their songs. And what I mean by like is that, for every song, at one point or another, I’ve listened to it on repeat for days or weeks until I was done with it. It’s a very deep “like”.
My favorite songs from each album:
The Perils of Time Travel (2011): Gemini, Leave Your Light On
Maps of Non-Existent Places (2012): Prelude + A Salesman’s Guide to Non-Existence, My Famed Disappearing Act, Carnival
Stranger Heads Prevail (2016): Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook, Rube Goldberg Variations, A Wolf in Cheap Clothing
Terraformer (2019): Anchor, Son of a Serpent, Geronimo
Plague Accommodations (2021): Gigglebutton, Plague Accommodations
I listen to music a lot as it gives me tons of creative inspiration. If you’d like some of it too, I made a playlist with all the songs I listen to often:
Enjoy, and good luck! Remember to always focus on the truth… but do so with a more positive approach than me. It’s no good being too negative, or so I’ve learned. I think Eric’s words are good: