Focus vs Flexibility

On November 8, 2010, in Knights & Ruffians, projects, by bateleur

A 3D CylinderA little over a week ago I had a week off. At least that's how I think of it, but it's perhaps the wrong word. That week was school half term, but the twins (my two eight year olds) were away with their grandparents, which meant an uninterrupted week of game design!

I could have got quite a bit of Knights & Ruffians done in that time, but instead I decided to take a break from programming to do some programming. In particular with the recent release of Unity 3 I decided the system looked like it was worth playing with. So I spent the week learning to use it. As it turns out I quite like it. Not perfect by any means, but mostly seems to run smoothly and makes a lot of common tasks quite easy. That's not what this post is about.

The thing is, I find myself unable to play with languages and development systems in an abstract way. I need to write real programs to learn. So, of course, I made a game. The problem is, I think this game is good.

The reason why this is a problem should be obvious. Independent game developers – particularly one-person teams such as myself – are always short of time. Consequently the very last thing you want to do is get distracted by things which aren't your main project. This project needs to be set aside until Knights & Ruffians is ready to launch.

Except it's not quite that simple.

It's a well-known advantage that independent developers have that their development process is supposed to be lightweight, their decisions fast and flexible. All of which is supposed to come as a result of not having the heavyweight bureaucracy of publishers and other investors applying pressure to do particular things. What good is flexibility if we don't take advantage of it?

So… project switch! Right?

It's not that simple either. Instead, a bit of proper analysis is called for. What are the pros and cons of each game from a business perspective? (I'm not ready to announce my new project yet, so I will refer to it at NewGame for now and maybe come back and add a footnote to this post at some future point.)

Knights & Ruffians

  • Gameplay is known to work.
  • Deployment definitely viable.
  • Commercial potential high, but profitability far from guaranteed.
  • Heavy ongoing commitment once launched.


  • Gameplay not known to work.
  • Deployment probably viable provided size of binary does not make direct download support expensive.
  • Commercial potential average, but modest profitability almost guaranteed if gameplay works.
  • Low commitment once launched.

Weighing those two lists up seems to favour development work on Knights & Ruffians, but there are two factors which mean that's not the case. First, if Knights & Ruffians is completed and launched then writing episodes will slow down NewGame development work. Second, one of the biggest strikes against NewGame is that I'm not yet sure the gameplay works. Is it an option to continue with it until I find that out and then decide how to proceed?

Yes, it is. So I'm going to do that.

And the best thing about having a development blog is that you're practically guaranteed another post six months from now discussing whether this was a good call or not!


2 Responses to “Focus vs Flexibility”

  1. Mo says:

    The point about time commitment once launched is one that I think sometimes passes people by: I've been caught out by it myself, and it's intensely frustrating to realize you're in that situation. We need a neat and concise technique of visualizing the way that Project A if launched first will significantly slow down further dev of Project B, but the converse is not true.

  2. bateleur says:

    Good to hear of a concrete example – sometimes I wonder if I'm a bit too good at inventing slick rationales for what I want to do anyway!

Leave a Reply