When Is A Game Developer Not A Game Developer?

I started out with an idea to make my own Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) back in January 2007, because I thought World of Warcraft was lots of fun and I wanted to learn how to create something similar myself.

After 7+ years of fiddling with 5 different game engines, several different programming languages, a few database engines, a handful of 3D modeling editors, audio production suites, network layers, GUI libraries, toolkits, APIs, SDKs, IDEs, and much more… I have an embarrassing statistic to share.

I’ve never released a single game.

The further into the future this condition extends, the more embarrassing it becomes for me.  After all, why am I doing all this?  I work on game development from 5am until midnight on MOST days, with short breaks for food and family, and an occasional nap, and then it’s back to work because something is percolating in my mind and it just can’t wait to get done.

No joke.  I am working an average of 12-16 hours a DAY on game development.

That includes weekends too, which puts me into an 80+ hour work week.  I have to admit I’ve not always been this dedicated in the last 7 years, but from time to time I have, including for the last several months.

You see, I’m desperate to get something done at this point.  However, the project I’ve been working on for the longest time is the huge Arcanoria MMORPG project.  Anyone will tell you it’s nothing short of crazy to expect to produce something like that without a 7+ figure budget and a team of 20-50 people.  But here I am, doing it myself.  And it’s taking a really long time!  No surprise I guess.

But from time to time I start to lose self-confidence.  What if all I can do is fiddle around with development tools?  How do I know if my creative ideas are any good?  Maybe my artistic style is terrible, or my music is unpleasant, or my stories are boring.  Maybe my game systems aren’t engaging.  Maybe my marketing efforts are insufficient or misdirected.

The only way to know for sure is to let the public decide.  That means releasing games, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.


To that end (and on the advice of indie dev peers like Jason Smith and Fernando Ribeiro), I joined a game jam.  Something that would be done in 10 days and then I could finally say I’d published something.  I created CyberGhost (pre-alpha web player preview), for the Cyberpunk Game Jam, which is essentially a game development contest where people create a new game in a short period of time and submit them all for judging by their peers.  There were 266 games submitted to the jam, including CyberGhost.

Unfortunately, however, CyberGhost isn’t even close to finished yet, even though the jam ended two weeks ago.  I was too ambitious in my design and decided to create an RPG, which are apparently notoriously difficult to create quickly.  Live and learn.

Anyway, I’m still working on CyberGhost.  It’s getting closer to done.  There are still many bugs, not to mention whole aspects of the game yet to develop, like character skills, combat, mini-games, more quests/stories, better level build out, etc.. But if I don’t finish something and release it, I’ll never know if I’m any good.  So that’s what I’m working on.

Bottom line is this.  I will finish CyberGhost and release it before doing anything else.  Then I can really call myself a game developer.


  1. Good luck with Cyber Ghost.

    I found this website via the Irrlicht forums (you had some posts with signatures I think).

    Anyway, this post I could identify with. Although I’ve released a couple of little games, they all feel small and unfinished, almost like demos I guess.

    For me I guess it’s about having fun making them. I know I’m never going to have the resources to create the next big hit, and my games will probably only ever be seen by a handful of people (mostly my family) so if I’m not having fun, what’s the point.

    Creating games crosses so many disciplines, art, music, storytelling, math, programming etc, it’s why the big hits usually have teams behind them – because most people aren’t awesome at everything.

    Anyway good luck making games.

    • Hey Andrew, thanks for posting, and welcome! 😀

      The Irrlicht forums would have been a long time ago, maybe 7 years? Thanks for your well-wishes, and back at ya’!

      RPGs are hard to finish, so it’s a struggle for sure. But I’m making progress, and having fun too, mostly. 🙂

  2. I’m not really sure what earns you the title of game developer.. I only consider myself a programmer basically. I’ve been working with 3d engines for many years now. I originally first started with Quake Engine.

    Although I now run a full time MMORPG along with the help of my wife, http://boi-infinity.com I still don’t consider myself a game developer.. LOL


  3. Hi Chris, and welcome. I’ve arbitrarily defined an “indie game developer” as someone who wears many hats and actually publishes games that people play (which I’m still working on myself, but not yet achieved). So, in some ways, you’re more of a game developer than me. 🙂

    I took a look at your MMORPG BoI Infinity and (please correct me if I’m wrong) it looks like it’s a mod/branch/hack of the existing Japanese game BoI. I hope you don’t take offense at this, but I think of such projects as game development-related (obviously modding takes some skill and creativity), but not quite the same thing as creating a whole new game from scratch.

    The key difference is that a “mod” starts with something that is already a working (and presumably tested) game, which you then partially deconstruct, then rebuild. With an original game of your own design and implementation there is no such blueprint, making the process a bit more challenging (and rewarding), IMO.

    That being said, it’s probably not all that different from what I’m trying to do, except that we’ve chosen different compromises/shortcuts. I’m sure you still have many of the same issues as I’ll (eventually) have with respect to deployment and community support, not to mention game-specific issues like ongoing storyline development, game system tweaking/balance, etc.

    So, how is the experience working out for you? Do you find it worthwhile? Fun? Educational? Profitable? 🙂

So... what do you think?