Aussie Developers: How Do You Juggle Passion Projects And Life Balance?


Gizmodo’s Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: how do you balance a successful job, a young family and your passion for developing great games? How does one maintain their passion with so much other important stuff going on at once?

Who are you and where do you work?

My name is Douglas Warouw I'm a broadcast graphic designer by day and an indie game developer by night. Or should I say after midnight, once I have sorted out all my family commitments.

Why do we know you? What have you created?

Some of my work in the broadcast graphics space you may have seen before, namely for ABC News 24 and design for ABC Federal Election coverage. In July this year I released my first game for the iPad called Tesseract.

What platforms do you develop for?

Currently I'm developing for mobile namely iOS but intend to branch out into Android.

What are you working on right now?

My current project is an iPhone and iPad game called Zombie Tales. It's a first person zombie shooter creator. The focus of my games is democratising the FPS genre that's why all my game have included level editors and incentives for the user to create levels and share them.

Why do you make the games you make?

As a player I come from a console background and I love my console but as life moves forward my commitment to playing games gets put to the bottom of the pile and I've embraced mobile games. However as I discovered 90% of mobile games are dumbed down for mobile and so my focus is on creating games that try to reproduce a console feel.

What’s your favourite app that you didn’t create?

The app that inspired me to create games is Dead Space for iPad. Once I played through it it was clear to me that games can be immersive engaging and impressive all in the palm of your hand.

What phone do you use?

Currently I have an iPhone for my main phone, and in all honesty I would have a Samsung Galaxy if I wasn't developing for iOS.

What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there?

One the things I learned since I started my quest 2 years ago to make games I care about, is that motivation and inspiration are the key. Be self-motivated, know one will make your game for you. And I know that isn't always easy so get inspired by playing games especially indie games. But don't just play. Use that inspiration for motivation.


Comments

    Was actually hoping for more on the headline subject instead of just "work after midnight". The questions in the first paragraph don't appear to have been answered.

    Instead of just complaining though here's some of my thoughts:

    If at all possible, work on your passion project first thing in the morning. The motivation to work on side projects is really low after doing everything else you need to do in a day like your job, dinner, bath-time and putting kids to bed.

    Further to that, make sure you're getting enough sleep. It's hard enough keeping your energy levels up without skipping sleep to work on your project at 1-3am.

    And finally if you don't feel motivated to work on your side project don't. As soon as it becomes a burden, take a break and come back to it in a day or two. Side projects are about enjoying your craft and furthering your skills. The more it feels like your day job with obligations, the more you're going to start resenting it.

      I agree, I don't even have kids and find it a struggle to work on my own side projects!

      Dude, that's what I needed. I come into the article looking for answers to that very question, but yeah. Working after midnight is about as good of a solution as packing my job in, or kicking the girl out. I'm currently trying to work out how to do my 9-5 job, pay attention to my girlfriend, relax and work on projects. The hardest part is with the girlfriend, because I can easily neglect her an entire night before I even care to notice. I feel terrible about it but working on my projects is always on the front of my mind.

    Yeah work, family + make apps. It's tough and work happens in spurts.
    The passion work tends to happen first, and the stuff that I want to do to make money happens very very slowly.

      In relation to work happening in spurts, Patrick Mckenzie of kalzumeus.com's advice is to set aside a fixed window for the side project each week that you know you can stick to. In his case, this was 4 hours on Saturday. He managed to maintain this for years while working insane hours at a Japanese day job.

      I've been following the same approach and while it makes progress painfully slow compared to full time development, it beats going all out for a few weeks, flaming out and then doing nothing for a month.

    What's is this life? And balance that you speak of?

    Wow I stumbled across this write up and realised its exactly a year since publishing. So the big news is that I actually released my Zombie Tales FPS Creator for iPhone/iPad a week ago and I have some genuine advice that helped me get over the finish line.
    1. Make small lists of tiny tasks that only take an hour to complete per task. Things like: Finish the artwork for the splash screen and NOT finish the artwork for all the menu screens. Guaranteed after about 40 minutes of work you will be pulled away to feed a child help with the groceries or change a nappy.
    2. Plan big development chunks. At some stage you'll have to do a solid 5 hour session. If you see an opportunity where the whole family will be away its worth going for it. Over the course of a year I probably took about 3 weeks leave. A day off here and there when kids were at school/Childcare and when my partner was at work. These sessions helped me break the back of some development bottlenecks.
    3. Your game is nearly finished and the best bit of advice someone gave me was fix all the bits that make the game seem broken and don't worry about features that aren't added. Get your game out there. You'll find that players won't miss a feature they don't know about, but if your GUI looks broken or your game control does weird things you'll hear about it.

    Good luck to any new parent that has the passion to make a game!

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