You Are What You Build: The Dangers of Developing in Isolation

November through January, in both 2012 and 2013, were rough times for me. Those same three months, a year apart, had me crunching harder than the breakfast cereal Cap’n.

A typical day went like this:

  • Wake up (barely) at 10 or 11am. Open the laptop next to the bed.
  • Work from bed. No shower, no breakfast … just work.
  • Loving wife feeds me and the family lunch.
  • Work. Possibly relocate to the living room.
  • Loving wife feeds me and the family dinner.
  • Work. Possibly relocate back to bed.
  • Asleep by 4am.
  • Repeat for three months.

… excellent?

i wouldn’t leave the house for days on end. i think my record was ten days inside the house. i put on a lot of weight. i pictured it all ending like that Geraldo episode where they remove the side of the house to transport Hambone to the hospital via crane and flatbed truck. This was all in service of a government deadline for my game Spellirium, a project which had gone terribly terribly wrong by its fourth month of production, and had stayed wrong for the ensuing three years.

No Man is (the Size of) an Island

Needless to say, developing in isolation like that is not a Good Thing™. One of the biggest benefits of agile development is getting your creation out in front of playtesters early and often. But when you’re stuck at home Hamboning yourself with an impossibly-scoped game and no team or budget to speak of, important things like Finding the Fun fall by the wayside.

i warsh mahself with a rag on a stick.

That’s why the spellcasting system in Spellirium ended up like it did: bloated, ineffective, and tough to love … much like its developer. This week’s Spellirium Minute developer diary outlines the problems in the system that became obvious once it saw the light of day (which was approximately the same time i – quite literally – saw the light of day).

The good news in all of this is that, thanks to the kickender, the problems with Spellirium have been exposed. When i launched the campaign with the alpha version, i joked that it was like letting a bunch of people into your bedroom without first being able to tidy it up or hide the embarrassing bits. But i’ve had a really positive, helpful response from the community. Every Spellirium backer is automatically signed up for an account on our bug-tracking system, and i’m happy to give people an extra “Playtester” credit if they log a bug or two. The players’ feedback has been extremely valuable to me, and i’ve spent the last few weeks fixing design issues, addressing their bug reports, and preparing Spellirium for a solid 0.37 release.

Lately, i’ve taken up running. i’ve also given up drinking soda pop, which once sounded a death knell for an already-overweight guy like me with such a sedentary lifestyle. My “You Get Fat” campaign sees me donating any and all sugary beverages to friends, family and office mates, passing the calories on to them so that i don’t ingest them. In this way, i’m slowly relying on other people, making changes little by little, and am now on the right track to professional and personal improvement. In this way, i hold out great hope that both my game and my life will get better and better.

Become a Spellirium Backer

Spellirium recently achieved its first crowdfunding goal – Pretty Decent Voiceover. You can contribute to goal #2, Act III Adequately Animated, at the Spellirium kickender site.


6 thoughts on “You Are What You Build: The Dangers of Developing in Isolation

  1. Pingback: You Are What You Build: The Dangers of Developing in Isolation ‹ Spellirium

  2. manny

    woah, this brings memories when I was developing my own projects.

    My health was on a downward spiral.

    Taking up running and getting out of the house a few times a week does wonders with stress and the circular system. Also getting some sun is very important.

    And getting rid of the Sodas was the best thing you could do. I remember I almost developed type 2 diabetes (which was also really affecting my eyesight) till I started exercising and getting rid of as many sugars as possible during the week and eating more fiber. I also did a 12 to 24h water fast once or twice a month right after a day of exercise, which helped a lot too.

    About your “kickender” goal #2, I believe you should have links to your first goal, so people (specially newcomers) can see the contributor history, pledges, etc. which adds more depth to your project’s history.

    Also embedding some user activities from the boards (or different sources) could give the page even more dynamic and engaging / social which drag people in. :p

    Anyway good luck and stay healthy !

    p.s. Am an Ubuntu linux user, so am wondering if the game works with an old version of Air, or with WINE (windows emulator that doesn’t need windows) ? or maybe you plan to port to many platforms, part of HIB or web in the near future by porting to html5 or chrome Apps ? Am asking because Adobe seems to be losing more and more their interest in the development of flash/air so the future of that platform is becoming less certain.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      Thanks, manny!

      >Also embedding some user activities from the boards (or different sources)

      Tell me more?

      As for Linux, we’re going to try exporting the game using the last known good version of AIR for Linux (2.5?), but i didn’t want to make any promises to people. The game will definitely not be in HTML5. It’s not set up to be a freemium game, so we can’t possibly release it for free. You’re right about Adobe abandoning the platform … just one of the perils of being in development for so long on one project.

      1. manny

        Seems to be 2.6

        Here’s a vid with links to the binaries in the “about” (so the use of the terminal or CL is optional):

        Also am not sure if this packager(64bit) still works:

        About Html5 I just meant that there’re also ways that it can be packaged into an executable as an alternative for when ever you need to switch away from adobe:

        anyway hope it helps, will try to stay updated and check back sometimes :)

  3. Roger Precious

    I just did a huge release of my own – spent a year at it. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the groin. Too much time and expense, a surprisingly low number of sales, and too many angry emails of bug reports.

    I am trying to get out, stay positive and fit – even left the MacBook at home for a change this afternoon in exchange for a book.

    I sincerely hope this game is delivering. You deserve good things!



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