• Dave@Waterlane Studios

Where to start? (Indie Dev’)

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

For me the beginning is like a vision, an idea conjured up in my mind just like a dream. Then someone asks “what’s your idea” – you try to explain it, but you know how dreams are, they shape shift as you try to look closer. So often it’s best to hold back on the explanation and relay the feeling instead, or more likely simply avoid answering all together.

Working with mixed realities brings its own unique challenges as well. When you’re used to donning a headset, it’s easy to forget that for most people VR looks very geeky. Both alien and alienating. Even the most advanced experience can look like someone placing a box on their head. A little like a fusion reactor. Sure, they exist, but do people want to get that close to the sun? Lol.

My point being that the indie’ developer probably looks more like a daydreamer, than a developer. I guess to many, that’s what I must look like.

Coming up with an idea is one mountain to climb. Building the dream is even more of a challenge. It turns out that making things is not only difficult, but expensive too. Some things need ‘cash’. It’s easy to see the cost of computers and software, headset, chairs, desks, accountants and even pencils. There are ways to seek funds, from kick-starting to venture capitalists, but going after them also takes time. Time that can’t be spent developing. It’s a catch twenty-two. You need to develop, to show a prototype to get funding, but you need the funding to develop.

There’s not guarantee of funding either, both along the way or when ‘launch day’ arrives – who can say if your idea will sell? Who knows what the competition will be at the time, what will be in fashion, or if another device has launched and your state-of-the-art platform looks like an old bucket with wires hanging out of it?

Yet in many ways, the things which need money and the problems which go with them, are the ‘easy’ things to afford. It’s the sitting down that costs the most. I suspect all indie developers are aware of when they sit down to work. That’s the time they aren’t going out to work. More importantly they aren’t walking down a street to an office, picking up a coffee along the way, chatting with the other team members before settling into their work and receiving that pay check at the end of the month. i.e. having a ‘normal’ life.

Starting out as an indie developer is a commitment like all self employment/small businesses. A ‘marathon, rather than a sprint’. It’s also a lifestyle that many will find difficult grasp, especially when they can’t see the ‘virtual world’ in front of them.

For me I’ve also the view that as a society, we’ve become so used to consuming, we’ve almost lost touch with what goes into making something. That’s the same for any product from a Hollywood Movie to a chair. We don’t need to be aware how the ideas, followed by design, lead into the ‘production’ and often this requires large teams of highly skilled people with fancy machines… Or in the case of an indie’ developer, usually one person with many arms 😉.

If we look at some of the large video games, we see their budgets skyrocketing, with teams of developers from all over the world. Even with these resources the game is likely to take years to be made. When I sit down in front of my computer and open an application, I’m often faced with blank screen, it can be daunting to say the least.

There are many good reasons why not to be an indie-developer. Firstly, it’s not easy – you’ve one pair of hands and countless tasks. Secondly, it’s a case of constant problem solving, from technical issues, creative challenges, time management to paying bills. Thirdly, perhaps hardest of all, is the personal cost. Whilst there may be many networks available, the path can be a solitary one.

How does all this relate to ‘where to start’? Well, with so many mountains to climb, there needs to be pretty good reason to set out in the first place. I’d suggest this is way before the idea, skillsets or money. Why does the mountaineer climb the mountain? - “Because it’s there”. Perhaps the mountain is a reflection of challenges within the mountaineer. If so, then there may be no one answer on where to start, other then asking yourself “Why do I want to climb this mountain?”.

I’ve named my mountain (not to steep I hope) ‘Waterlane Studios Limited’. I hope to put a little of me into what I make and show that VR can be used to enrich our lives. My families have a history of self-employment and I’ve spent over 25 years working with 3D graphics. So maybe VR and indie’ dev’ is more than tech and lifestyle for me. Maybe it’s a world I’ve grown up with. Maybe it’s ‘in my blood’. 😉

© 2019 by Waterlane Studios Limited