Tag: Life Improvement

Bruce Lee

Away, Post-Release Hangover!

While the summer in Finland is short and usually contains more sun and warm weather than the other seasons [sic], other stuff than entrepreneurial mongering within closed walls is bound to happen. There’s a lot of sunlight during June, July, and August, which makes socializing outside much more fun.

Finland, 19th of July, 01:44 AM. Actual light balance.

My first game release, Oggipital, was on June 6th, right in the beginning of the summer. After that it’s been quite slow on the blogging side, well, mostly because it’s been slow on the game development side. There’s something cooking, don’t worry, but the progress hasn’t been as fast as I would’ve hoped. There’s two contributing factors to the slowness:

  1. Post-Release Hangover. Not particular to game development, it’s a common thing for any project you finish – you get that “finally it’s finished, I have no energy nor interest left to push any related issues forward right now”. Perhaps the best example is graduation from school: the month following the graduation is seldom a high-energy one.
  2.  A little known fact outside the game development community, but releasing a game does certainly not mean that the work on the game is done. Quite the contrary – you need to do marketing and sales follow ups, fix bugs real users might have reported, you want to start implementing those new awesome features, plan that next update. So, starting another game development project means that you now have TWO projects going on at the same thing. Which essentially halves your throughput.

I’ve overcome the first point already, I’ve kicked off Pixelem, the next game. Coding notwithstanding, it progresses quite good on the art and audio side, thanks to my awesome subcontractors. But I’m still struggling with point 2 – I have not only two, but three projects going on a the same time, on top of the general entrepreneurial stuff one needs to do to keep things rolling.

Well, my good old 1200-step life improvement plan to the rescue! There’s one point on it I had neglected – the “staying fit” part. It’s funny how quickly one forgets how much good one gets from getting out of the office and do some sports. So I threw my jogging shoes on and went out in the awesome weather. Bam, back in business!

Focus, Man, Focus!

I have a bunch of draft blog posts from the time I was planning all my life-improvement shenanigans. One of them was about focusing what’s important when starting out a side project – which can be the path towards becoming an indie gamedev, and is a pretty good fit to be published as-is now. Especially as I’ve had difficulties to focus on programming today. Here you go!


So you’re all exited to go indie and what’s the first thing you do? You buy unnecessary stuff and set up your home office because it “needs to be super cool for me to do super work”.

I’ll give you some advice: no, you don’t need to buy all that stuff and no, your home office does not need to be anything more than a computer, a decent monitor, and a corner of a room. Comfortable enough for you to avoid physical illness in the next six months. I say physical just to point out that you don’t need to be psychologically fit in there, because then you’ll get into a comfort zone where you actually focus on the wrong things. But if your back is screwed or your wrist hurts due to inflammation from overusing the mouse, you cannot write your app.

I started my sole proprietorship in 2004 while I was still studying. And yes, the first thing I did when I got the papers sorted, was to say ‘yes’ to all kind of business- and entrepreneur-related magazine subscriptions, which I got bombarded with from day one when the company contact information was published on the registration authorities web pages. I designed my own business card and spent hours on browsing for good deals on the printing of those. Hey, one subscription came with a present of a stamper with my company name and address, w00t, now I’m in business!

The thing is – focus only on what you really need to make it happen. Everything else is a waste of time and money – the two most important assets you need to go indie. You need time to push out that product as fast as possible. You need money to live – or if you’re unlucky enough to go indie when old, like me, you need some money to provide for your family as well.

Everyone’s situation is naturally a bit different but I think this is a somewhat accurate generalisation. Taking me for an example, and why wouldn’t we because this is my blog, after all.

I need a lot of money to keep things rolling on a daily basis. Not me personally, but my family as a whole. I need so much that I cannot quit my day job, because I have not enough savings (well I have, sort of, but I’m too big of a pussy to cash them in for this silly journey. Those savings are for our house that we will build sometime in the future). I currently live in Switzerland, and the rents are quite insane here, and the general cost of living is not on the cheap side. But luckily I make quite nice bucks, so for me it’s only about finding the time to do this. Hence the life improvement program. You know – first, take some time of yourself because that’s for free, build the product, and cash in. Chi-ching! Spend time first, get money afterwards. In the mean time, keep on living as you’ve done, but optimise your daily routines to be able to squeeze out of it as much of that development time as possible without lessening your devotion to your family.

For others to be able to afford going indie might mean moving to a crappycheap, apartment, start saving heavily on food quality, sell some hardly-ever-used stuff (we all have that, right?), even sell something that one likes and/or needs very much, say, like a car. While I can get by, just living my rather nice life and optimise my time management, I suppose I can be regarded as one lucky bastard. But then again, I’m not anymore a student living in smelly dorms and drinking cheap beer. I’ve reached a certain point of life quality, I think I’ve earned it, plus my calculations show that I can pull this off by just managing my time better.

So, why do I care about saving a few hundred bucks if I don’t seem to mind to blow $200 on Swiss chocolate alone, in one go? Because,  it’s about managing yourself, right? Learning as we go, improving oneself. And one lesson we all need is to focus on what matters and just ignore what doesn’t. Really, just ignore. You’re allowed to mention those things in a sub sentence, but if you start explaining them and giving reasons why you need to ignore them, then you become one of those annoying persons at work who always digress when something important is being discussed. Why would I want to listen five minutes to some idiot rambling on an item that is to be ignored? I already know it’s going to be ignored.

Learn the technique to quickly skip unnecessary things, and reflect that in how you handle things. To continue the example of discussing: skip the unnecessary things efficiently by using short sentences like “it’s not an issue“, “we’ll skip that for now“, “not important“, “good, skipped“, and “for fox’ sake, Jake, if you’re not gonna shut up about how it’s sometimes OK to skip the acceptance criteria when defining user stories, because it’s never OK, I’m gonna shove this boot so deep up your ass that you’re gonna write the acceptance criteria to your dentist“. That last sentence may or might not be OK to use at your work, depending on your employer.

I notice the irony in the text above as I’m writing a rambling set of digressions as we speak. But there’s a time and place for everything and rambling digressions fit very well in a blog. I think.

Using me as an example once more, this is what I did to get started. Minimal stuff.

  • Bought a monitor
  • Bought a mouse pad with that gel padding at the wrist, as I get RSI without one
  • Bought a keyboard
  • Bought a Bamboo Stylus pen for my iPad (this was completely unnecessary but it turned out to be a great help in using the iPad for designing screens for my app)
  • Bought an Apple TV

None of the above I had before. I had a mouse, and a MacMini as a living room computer which my kids use to watch TV and movies on, that’s why the seemingly unnecessary Apple TV on the list. One of the rules of my life-improvement program is not to piss my family off.

This all drained about $400 from me, so I recon that is quite a cheap home office. It’s still stylish as every piece goes nicely with the white Mac look, and putting all that up in a corner of our guest bedroom on a cheap IKEA frosted glass table we had from before, my wife haven’t complained a bit about it looking horrible and not fitting our interior design. Win-win.

So you will not be seeing any blog post from me about how I built my desk, computer setup with N monitors, decorated the room, bought silly USB toys, and still did not get further in developing my app. Because all that is unnecessary right now. You actually need only a cheap, used laptop to write software and you can do that at the kitchen table or on the floor if you cannot afford a table.

Well, all that is unnecessary until you can afford it nicely. Rest assured, I will also set my home office to a code monkey’s paradise, but only when I know it makes sense – and that is when I’m sure my app will bring in some sweet cash. And that is when I see the money on my bank account, not a minute before.

I use RTM as a To Do list and I created a list in there called “Wishlist”. On it I put all kinds of stuff I would like to have in the near future, but stuff I will not buy just because it’s cool to have. It’s the list for stuff I will reward myself with when I’ve done good work. A bike (for commuting and for fitness), a 55-inch TV (“for the family”), a good office chair (I’m thinking Herman-Miller’s Aeron or a saddle chair), or maybe an electronically adjustable office desk. Stuff like that. Stuff that’s cool to have.

Stable Development

Avid readers might remember that – now very faint – idea of a tongue-in-cheek life improvement plan I had. 1200 steps and all. What’s up with that? Another one of those “I knew it would go the way of the dodo” things?

Not really. Well, yes, I had a pause in sports and activity, but it was merely a pause. I’m not jogging or skiing outside when temperatures hit -20C, that is just not me. Suffices to say that I started jogging again as the weather starts to be nice and sunny (occasionally), and I’ve done light weight lifting every now and then. The gym is only three steps from my office door, I counted, and it’s included in the rent!

But first and foremost the life improvement plan is active and working – on the level it needs to be. See, I am enjoying my current game development tasks so much that I do not need to think about various aspects to improve in my daily business.

That’s a good thing.

Hi, I’m an Indie Gamedev

Why on earth would someone give up a nice career and/or great, stable income to sit at home doing childish stuff like making video games? Well, there are probably as many stories about that as there are independent video game developers.  But what is indie gamedev and who are those people?

There seems to be certain types of indie game developers. There is the young, hippie-looking guy who makes pure games (according to himself, at least). Often still in school or recently graduated, very often with badly groomed facial hair, he mingles a lot in various big and small indie video game meetings and conferences, and makes those retro games. His games are purer than yours because he tunes his game mechanics a lot and the game is not about fancy graphics like in that triple-A FPS everybody loves to hate. His life is good enough that he can get by making games and posting pictures of his hipster beer on Twitter. Often he lives in a shared apartment which looks like a bunch of hobos lived there. I have no idea how these guys get by or had enough money to start their gamedev journey in the first place. Ranting aside, there’s a lot of awesomely great games coming out from these gamedevs.

There are also the professionals who have been in the video game industry for many years, often in bigger, perhaps AAA game companies. One of them gets enough of the shitty projects and insane deadlines, and nicks a few friends with him when he quits. They set up an independent game studio and push out the games of their dreams. These games tend to be the big hits as they got all the components – graphics, audio, game mechanics – on a very professional level. The game studio is financed by everyone’s savings until the first game is out, after which they are filthy rich. Perhaps they have got some funding from external investors, but how indie is that?

Then you have the guys who wanted to do something else, or always wanted to jump into their dream job of game development. They’ve saved enough money to make the jump, or they have good connections to their previous profession and do some sub-contracting to get income during the game development time. They might do full-time or part-time depending on the possibilities around their very grown-up lives. Often a bit older with a significant career or work experience in their back pocket – most likely from whole another field of work than gamedev. They seem to overuse the word “dad” in their Twitter bios.

I’m of the third kind. Too old to be a hipster hobo and no gamedev experience in my career to jump-start a professional game studio with friends. I was a bit hasty in jumping into this field, which has always been my dream work, so I did not have enough savings to go full-time indie. I resort to the pretty-good solution of doing sub-contracting into my old field of work. It has upsides as well as downsides – the upside is that the money is pretty good, and in one aspect pretty easy as well. The downside is that it eats up a lot of your precious time of game development. Now, for a bit younger guy – one without family, that is – this would be no problem as I could just code deep into the night, around weekends, around working days. But I’m not a weirdo who loves his job more than his family.

As the success of an indie gamedev is, for the lack of better generalization, the amount of games he has pushed to the market, I have been toying with the idea to go full-time indie. But there’s the income-issue to be solved. Crowd-funding? Zeroing out gamedev time to go beg for money to angel investors or VCs? Begging for investments from family and friends? Perhaps go as deep as taking a personal loan? Viable options, all of them.

But what is “indie” then? I’m not going to dig deep here, and trying to define it is only for amusement. Most people use the word “indie” as opposed to the big game studios pushing out all the well-known games (“AAA games”) with massive marketing budgets. But I’m a bit more strict than that: “indie” comes from “independent”, alas, if you have a lot of outside funding, you are not independent anymore. Sorry about that. Now, there is some wiggle room here. If your funding is mostly from family and friends, or the like, I bet they do not want to meddle with your game ideas that much. You’re still indie. If you got investors who don’t want to design your game too much, then you’re still indie. My point being, as long as you and/or your team which is directly involved in the making of the game is still in charge, you are an indie. You create the game independently of any outsider. I think such a setup gives you a lot of freedom as you are making the games YOU want, and that is why we see such a great amount of creative, weird, cool, awesome games from indie gamedevs.

Being indie is naturally no magic recipe for making great games. If you are making another clone of an 3D endless runner where you swipe on the screen to make your game character move away from oncoming obstacles, your game still sucks. Also, stop with the Minecraft clones. It is embarrassing.

Well, that’s it for some ranting. Enjoy your holidays – I will take some time off and hang out with friends and family. Even as an indie gamedev I can afford that.

Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

As you could imagine, a part of every life-improvement plan contains elements of health, exercise, and food. So does mine.

This part has actually started out pretty well, and it is one of the parts that has not stalled, well, not too much.

When it’s about a man turning middle age, having a family at home, and all those excuses, the discussion around sports seems to revolve around time, or more precisely, not having any. When do I have time to do it? What kind of sports should I do? And it’s very true. A big part of a life-improvement plan is about time management, and I do not differ there in any way. I love spending time with my family, and I will never change on that. Alas, the time for sports has to come from other places, not from the time between my homecoming from work and putting the kids to bed.

I used to do a lot of gym and roller skating, but those have been dismissed since years. Going to the gym is a bit boring and I do not hold the discipline to do it with the energy I had when I was 22. If I go to the gym today, I tend to compare myself to the 22-year-old myself. And today’s myself tend to lose that comparison.

So, what’s a good sport one can do by minimising the time he has for it? Jogging is a good candidate. So is cycling, and other sports which you can do a) by just stepping out of your front door b) replace a part of your normal routines with, such as job commuting, or c) something you can do while working.

Weird enough, cycling seems to be a sport that every 35+ man who works in IT or computers, seem to get interested in. I could imagine it is partly because one can build his own bike, assemble it from different parts (“Do you have Shimano XT or Deore or… and what disc brakes do you use?”), thus fulfilling the geek factor, much like building your own computer (when we used to do that in the 90’s – no-one does it anymore, right?). On a physiological note, cycling is better than running – old men don’t want to strain their knees, heels, and feet.

I’m interested in picking up biking, I even looked up the bike I like to buy, but then my {now former] employer fudged us out of our bonuses  (you might start to get the idea why I was not thrilled by the situation at work). So I’ve put the bike on hold for a while. Will look into it when I’m back in Finland. Won’t have any commuting to do, though, which is a pity!

Anywhoo. A promise is a promise, so no procrastination for me. Immediately when I got back to work after having this epiphany for a life-improvement plan, I put two 1.5 hour reservations around lunch hour for “lunch hour sports, out of office”. That calendar block also blocked out some annoying meeting requests I’m sure, so win-win!

It worked. When the calendar said it’s jogging time, I jogged. No excuses.

Now that I’ve jumped of the hamster wheel to build my own company, I have started to procrastinate again when it comes to sports. Get a grip, man!

I will. I promise.

Bruce Lee

The Journey Starts Here

A 1200-step life improvement plan. 1157 steps to go.

Wait, let’s rewind a bit.

Funny thing happened. I’ve always been entrepreneurial but lazy (lazy in the  good sense, think of laziness when it comes to programming. It’s a virtue, which the Perl community noted decades ago). I got a bit bored of my day job and at the same time my ideas, which I’ve been working on since years, seemed to make more and more sense from an entrepreneurial point of view. I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions but in August 2012 I decided I would do one, for the fun of it. I called it a “life-improvement plan”, as a pun on such plans – they seem to be as big a business as they are full of crap (just by looking at the amount of self-improvement books out there).

Just to make sure – my life-improvement plan, this blog, and certainly this company – is no self-help preaching thingy, ending in me trying to sell you one of those how-to-improve-your-life-really-really-this-time-books.

The 1200-step life-improvement plan is a play on the famous 12-step program AA has. I just realised I need a few more steps to reach my goals. What are those goals, and what are those steps? Well, a lot of things happened in one year, so I need to run through the major happenings:

First I was, like, “my job sucks“. Then I was, like, “what if I, this time for real, allocate a few nights a week to build a prototype and see if that could lead to something“. I had all kinds of constraints, mainly lack of time and energy, mostly attributed to my day job and a family of two kids and two dogs. So I added one requirement to the life-improvement plan: do not sacrifice being a good dad while pursuing your new goals. I’m at an age where I can’t afford to code all night long without considering others. This is why I recommend anyone to do this kind of career jumps while they’re young and single. 🙂

I was actually successful in working on a prototype for an app I knew would bring me millions. Being mature enough, and having way too expensive living costs, I focused on what mattered. No expensive Macbook Pro’s, Aeron chairs, height-adjustable desk. Just spent a couple of hundred buck for a new monitor to the existing Mac Mini which I nicked from the living room, installing XCode, and voilá, set to go. However, after a couple of months I was in dismay. I decided the prototype was a no-go, mainly due to my lack of knowledge in Mac/iOS programming and time to pursue it harder. Objective-C was new to me, as was the iOS SDK, but I knew that with a few days of training I get the hang of it – it’s just another language and framework, after all. But the app’s scope just blew up.

So I did another prototype. This time for a game idea I had gotten after a few glasses of red wine around the time Super Hexagon was released. After a few weeks I decided that this is a go. But instead of continuing to build it during the nights –  of which I had way too few of – there was other variables now in play. I could not quit my day job cold turkey – my living costs in Switzerland were way to high for that, but with some coincidences and luck, we decided with my family to buy a house and move back to Finland. All this resulted in me quitting my job and deciding to use our way too few savings to ramp up a company. A game studio, the company of my dreams since I was a teenager.

I had some concrete goals and steps in my mind when I formulated my tongue-in-cheek life-improvement plan. Shortly, or as short as you can describe a 1200-step program, it contained the following goals:

  • Goal: start doing what you love for work
    • Step: do a prototype of one of the software ideas (an iPhone app at that time) and evaluate it
  • Goal: Get in better physical shape. I’m athletic, but I haven’t done anything physical in 6 years. It does not show on my figure (thank you, genes), but in energy levels.
    • Step: start doing sports which are easy and quick to do in any daily situation: jogging is the best candidate.
  • Goal: get filthy rich
  • Goal: do not sacrifice anything on the family side (“anything” is taken a bit loosely, but you know what I mean – don’t become a coding ogre who lives at night, not having any contact to your family anymore)

That get-rich-goal might seem superficial, but is actually none of the kind. You see, money is the only thing I lack in my life, always have. I have [had] a good job, a insanely great wife and super adorable daughters, a great family, even some friends. Money is a means to be able to do more stuff I and my family love to do. See, I used “do”, not “own”.

I will describe the progress of those goals in future posts in more detail, but the quick run-down on the status after the first year is:

  • The get-in-shape part was the most successful. I started jogging and got into better shape, resulting in more energy to put into this journey. I need to keep doing it – now I have slacked off a bit too much due to the moving out of Switzerland [TODO: insert more excuses here]
  • The don’t-sacrifice-your-family went also fine. I did not lower the amount of time I spend every day with my kids. On the contrary, I could actually have done more for my company than I did. I’m a procrastinator and a family man, what can I say.
  • The start-doing-what-you-love: here more happened than I could keep up with. Plans changed. Things came up. I quit my job and moved to another country much quicker than I anticipated, but on the positive side, I could jump into the startup life with much more time and enthusiasm.

This blog post is from my personal point of view. These kind of post will definitely be one part of this blog, but don’t be afraid – the main point of view for this blog will be the journey of my startup – about game design and development, coding, game and app projects, progress thereof. And with a good pinch of sarcasm without emoticons and border-line NSFW jokes.

Welcome aboard!

Ville Lundberg

Game Developer, CEO, CTO, Founder, Senior Project Manager… hey, I can choose my own title! Suck on that, mid-European title masturbators! (Sorry about that – had to get it out of my system.)