This article isn’t perfect, and that’s okay, just like a game – or anything else for that matter.
I’m writing this article today for a handful of reasons, but mostly because I think now is the right time. Over the last 30 days, I have seen many people talk about how imperfect their game is and that they dare not to release it for the harsh judgments that may rain down upon them. I have also received a few judgments in some shape or form on a level of perfection that I know isn’t realistically achievable.
This is why I’m here to write this article today because every once in a while, we all need a reminder that there is a balance to make a “PERFECT GAME” vs. “BEST SELLING GAME” – and quite frankly, most don’t realize how thin that line actually is.
Let me start by saying this: Release your game anyway. No matter how you feel about it, release it. While others are judging you on your game, continue to make another one while they judge that one, and then make another as they judge your last two. After a while of doing this, you will have multiple games released, each better than before – but never perfect, and that’s a great feat of accomplishment. Why? you released multiple games, and no one is ever going to release a perfect game, as games are subjective to taste.
After being in and out of the games industry for years, I can’t tell you enough to know how important it is to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. (Thank you for that one Ms. Frizzle)
This is a core fundamental that all businesses are built on, and even more importantly, the iteration of a product. Not only that, this is essentially the creed to live by as an entrepreneur or anyone in any facet similar to this.
You see, no matter how perfect your art cohesion is, your writing, your code, your story, your lore, your world, your game design, your mechanics – or anything else for that matter… someone, somewhere, is going to be extremely dissatisfied with what you release. In some cases, they will hate what you released. This is important to remember.
Remembering this is not to say that you should focus on the negative here, but it’s saying that you can balance the positive of what you feel is good vs. what others feel is good. You might remember a couple of articles I wrote a year or so ago about product validation and its importance. Product validation is still extremely important. Without it, failure is imminent.
However, while product validation is critical, it’s also extremely important to balance it with what is realistically possible to release so you can take chances, make mistakes, and get messy – because those are the key ingredients to product iteration.
I’ll start with a great example of my own world and game, Paths: World of Adia. Paths: World of Adia releases this year, and I’ll be honest, it has taken us way too long to get here – but here we are.
The art cohesion, while similar styles are there, it’s more like a quilt – and in some ways this was done entirely on purpose. I’m not going to justify the reasons why, but I am instead going to explain how it can help you as an indie game creator, publisher, or anyone for that matter looking to release your game into the wild.
Paths: World of Adia early days vs. today in 2021 clearly has some art differences that I’m going to post below, and I am purposely quilting them in this way because I, personally as a games publisher, feel it’s super important to show our roots here with Paths: World of Adia… and even some of our other titles – regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Early days of Paths: WoA Artwork
Current, 2021 Paths: World of Adia Artwork
To some of you reading this, you may not even see a difference, but to others – this stands out like a sore thumb, and I’m okay with this.
The Good, the bad, the ugly … and the perfect imperfections
I’m using this example because I think it’s extremely important to understand the difference between product validation and the need for it vs. the need of feeling like you have to be perfect.
These are two extremely different things, and there is a balance between them. In some cases, release a word document at the end of the day is better than releasing nothing at all. This goes back to the core thought of “While they judge my current release, I’m going to go make something else so they can judge that too.”
It’s so much better for you, as a creator who is trying to get into the industry, to release your imperfect perfections than to hang onto them because something is hanging you up at the end of the day. It’s important to have that end goal in sight and strongly consider where you’re hoping to be in 5 years, instead of letting comments, unwarranted advice, and beating yourself up, hold you back.
Now, does this mean you will smash a home run out of the park on your first release? Heck no. It’s extremely rare that something like that will happen. Even the most gorgeous of artwork or the most profound skillset of a perfectionist flowery writer will not – and absolutely not always make $1million straight out of the gate with their first release…and even in most cases that is too high of a first goal and unrealistic.
The concluding question here is the following. “How can I as a designer, publisher, indie individual, be okay with this knowing I’m going to release something like this? Won’t it hurt my reputation?”
Anything you release could hurt your reputation. If you live in the fear and anxiety of other’s judgment, you will never move forward and become forever stuck.
I was once there in that very same spot… for years. Almost a decade. It was a terrible feeling, and quite frankly I refuse to go back to feeling that way. There isn’t one thing someone can say, do, or otherwise to convince me that it’s okay to wait for something to be perfect to release it – because it doesn’t exist.
I was wallowing in my own self-hatred for years, and that’s a terrible place to be. It’s better to move forward and push through than stay sedentary in a choice based on fear due to some minor comments you might get about animation being incorrect, or art pieces being slightly different to those that aren’t artists, or to writers that have a master’s degree with no published works other than dissertations of non-fiction about how a duck lay’s an egg (What the heck?) – you get the picture.
This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to do well either but instead find the balance between perfection and nothingness. While it is good to strive to be great at writing, artwork, and cohesion, writing great code, animating superbly, or elegant game design – it will never be perfect, and that’s okay.