What a great time to do this! Nothing much happened last week as I struggled to write the articles of the week, just one or two days after they should have been out. No new gifs or small games. Check out these Doodle Insights about the sprite-sheet in Pico-8 though, it’s pretty good! This week I’m doing the prototype I wanted to do last week but maybe I’ll make it a complete small game.
One year ago I decided to drop out of school and go full indie developer. Make games, make mistakes, learn, go back to step 1 and do it better. That was the idea. So how did it turn out?
First off, I’d like to say that dropping out was something I had been carefully considering for a few years. I prefer to learn by myself, I wanted to do creative work and I was not afraid of failing.
I dropped out at the end of my first year at a game programming formation. I learned a huge lot during that year, especially on technical stuff, as you would expect. And I considered that I had learned enough to be able to learn the rest by myself. The formation should have gone on for two more years. Two very expensive years of formation, plus the costs of living in Paris. Dropping out meant that even if I didn’t make any money before a while, I would not lose near as much money as I would have if I had stayed.
I had – and still have – friends, a girlfriend and a supportive family to help me not being lonely, which was also very important in making that decision.
I am a white straight male born in a middle-class family. I am privileged and do not have to face the social struggles others do. I am not saying this to sound like a douche, I just want to be very transparent here as I am discussing the decision of dropping out of school and how it turned out for me.
So I did it. I filled a deregistration form and stopped going to school. For a while I stayed at my apartment, until I didn’t own it anymore, at which point I started living alternatively at my parents’ and at my girlfriend’s place, always having my laptop with me.
I knew that if I wanted to make it I should be working every single day and that’s what I did! Sometimes it got very tiring but overall very few days went by without any new content being put out. Finishing a project meant starting a new one. I could work when and as much as I wanted and so I found myself working mostly at night, some days working nearly all of my woke hours. When I was feeling down, I generally worked just 4-6 hours a day and felt even worse about it, until my mood shifted again, often thanks to the support of someone close to me.
I finished a total of 20 different projects in these 52 weeks! Most of them are games and some of them are contemplative things like And All Is Well or Your Personal Archipel. Almost all of them were made with Pico-8!
I also dropped something like 5 or 6 unfinished projects too. Most of them were supposed to have a development period of several months but it turned out again and again that I start to get really bored after working on any project for more than a month and then progress gets really wobbly until I give up. I still want to finish one of these several-months projects though.
I made Pixel Session Vol.1, my very first (and, so far, only) retail product and it failed, mostly due to the lack of marketing I believe.
I started making the Pico-8 Doodles, tiny programs where I try out experimental code design and code-based graphics. Later I started writing about experimental code design and code-based graphics in the Doodle Insights.
And I organized Tiny-TV Jam, a pico-8 gamejam, in January and it has been much more popular than I thought it would be! The preparation of it took more time than I anticipated and has been pretty exhausting too. I’d love to organize more gamejams in the future, this one was a lot of fun!
I learned a huuuge deal in the different areas of game making! Code, pixel art and design are definitely where I progressed the most. But I also got some smaller but still super valuable experience with audio and with game marketing. And I got much better at writing in English too.
I went to my first developer event with IndieCadeEU in last November and met a lot of awesome people! Some of them already knew me from Twitter too! I really want to go to more events but there’s really few in France and travelling costs money I don’t want to spend that fast.
Until I started my Patreon in January, my only source of income was the donations on my games on Itch.io. Over this one year, I accumulated 383.03$ of donations on Itch.io, including the sales of Pixel Session Vol.1. Now my main source of income is my Patreon where I currently earn 240$ per month.
Being very careful and super restrictive on how I spend my money has let me live with the money that could have served to pay the other years of my formation, without having to take on any contract. Also, it would be much easier to find a contract now than when I dropped out, thanks to the many people actively following me on Twitter and who I think would spread out a call for contracts if I made one.
Twitter has been my main platform to share my works and make connections with other creators. I think my account was just getting to 300 followers when I dropped out and it is now at 3000! The secret to this growth has been gifs. Make gifs. Make plenty of them, make them at least slightly good, put them out on a daily basis and you’ll get followers on Twitter. (it takes a while though)
Overall, I think this has been a really good year!
Considering the state of the game market and the quality of the indie games coming out these days, I’m almost glad I didn’t actually attempt to make and sell a bigger project. Instead, I spent this year practicing and learning and that has been extremely valuable! While it wasn’t always easy, I managed to keep on producing content almost every days, which has gotten me a considerable amount of exposure! And even though I’m not doing mad bucks, I am starting to earn money! The Patreon in particular could end up sustaining my basic needs if it keeps on growing for the coming months and that would be amazing.
This year, I want to keep on getting better at making games but I also want to sell one. I need to find a workflow that works with longer projects. I also want to get better at audio and at marketing. I want to make the Patreon grow into a steady source of income so I don’t need to take on any contract. I want to make more experiments and I want to make more games!
Let’s do all that!
Thank you so much for following along!
Have a great week everyone!
Thank you for your honesty – I’m sure you will be helping many others that may be contemplating similar career paths with the information you share.
Like you said, this year seems like it’s been a “foundation” year for you (learning, networking with people, setting up your business/brand). Now that you’ve done all that (which is quite an achievement in itself!), I’m very excited to see what you do in the future. Just be careful not to burn yourself out – remember to allocate yourself some down-time to enjoy life! ;o)
Wishing you all the best – keep coding from the heart! 😀
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Thank you for the kind words! I shall do my best to keep on working hard yet not too much! ;D