One beauty of solo development is managing only one person — Ben Wander. And that chap’s pretty swell. He’s a hard worker, passionate about his job, and more dedicated than a pack mule. Beyond his working hours, he spends a great deal of time researching other indies, critically analyzing many games, and studying other media, taking detailed notes to improve his work the next day. He compares his creations to the best. He wills them to top quality. I honestly believe this — if I didn’t, I would never have started this venture with him.
When I give him a task, I have a schedule in mind, and I regularly see updates of his progress. But it’s not done until it passes his glowering scrutiny, even if it pushes my proposed date. I give him as much time as he needs to finish it. Why wouldn’t I? He’s not twiddling his thumbs. He works a consistent six or seven hours every day, usually taking just one weekend day to refresh (something we probably should talk about, can’t have him overworking!). He cares about this game as much as I do. He’s not scrolling through Facebook, chatting up his girlfriend, or texting his new Thai mates. When he’s at work, he’s a craftsman, and he loves his craft.
So if he can make top quality, and if there is no doubt he’s working hard, what would deadlines achieve? Either he continues to work at his current, mostly healthy pace, but has to stop working before his tasks are his best; or, more than likely, he pushes himself to work harder, to meet arbitrary dates scheduled by guesstimates. Maybe the latter scenario would work for the first few tasks, but after a while, his quality bar would drop — I mean, he just wouldn’t have time to go home, play games, watch movies, read books, go out and talk with friends — to do all the things that set that bar in the first place. Eat, work, sleep achieves nothing, and I’m not the first manager to say it. Even in short stints, overwork is detrimental to morale and quality — both of life and of the craft.
With no deadlines, he just keeps working at his current pace. We both agree it’s (mostly) healthy, that he isn’t pushing himself beyond his limits, and that he has enough time to breathe, assess his work’s merits, then get back to the vocation. He knows the schedule I set. But if he can’t hit a particular date, he just tells me when he knows. No problem, schedule revised, you just keep chugging, buddy.
Do I have infinite money to fund this project? On the contrary, as many readers already know, my plans beyond this year are built on sand. If this game doesn’t come out, we will need to find further funding or give it up entirely. But scope can be adjusted — we can trim and scale the project — but we can’t change the definition of excellence. He knows it. I know it. Players know it.
We don’t have an established brand and we don’t have millions of marketing dollars. Mediocrity is oblivion. So let’s slay the cause of mediocrity.
Death to deadlines.