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Percy Tse

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Very true
One way to measure your success as an indie is to ask the following question: "If all my games stopped making money tomorrow  how many months of comfortable game development would I have?"

Once when I was part of a more traditional startup, investors would talk about the natural lifecycle of the successful company.  

1. You got initial funding. 
2. You developed your product and tried to sell it. 
3. You became profitable.
4. You exited by selling your company. 
5. Retire in a house with a wine refrigerator. 

The period time during which step 2 occurred was known as the runway.  This is when your money slowly drained away and at the end of the runway you either took off or crashed.  

Over the years, I realized that none of the other steps really mattered much to me.  Dozens of game designs demand to be brought forth.  They fill my dreams. They boil out of me whenever someone talks to me. A bit of an obsession. So the thing that matters to me is that I have enough cash in the bank (and food in the cupboard) to make games for another day.  

Releasing a game isn't an ecstatic moment.  There is no lift off.  Instead there is the constant rush down the runway. I measure my life in terms of the runway remaining.  

Runway variables
There are two main variables that can alter your runway's length
- Cash: How much money you have. 
- Burn: How much money you spend per month. 

Simple math: Runway measured in months = cash/burn

The first variable is pretty straight forward.  The more cash you have saved up, the longer you can run. 

The second value is often ignored.  The leaner you run, the longer you can run as well. Small teams, no office, designs that limit your needs for content, evergreen mechanics, existing tech and small scope all help.  If you make large games with a large team, you run fat and fat money burns so very quickly. 

Focusing on cash flow eats the creative space
Sometimes people get caught up in the flow of money and think in terms of velocity of cash coming in and cash going out.  I find this thinking useful in the abstract, but emotionally dangerous. 

Creativity requires space to make horrible mistakes with limited consequences. To make great games, we need to take risks.  

And when you focus on cash flow, you tend to make compromises that reduce that chance of that flow getting crimped.  Political compromises.  Market compromises.  Reasonable short term tradeoffs that shackle your vision as the first derivative of your future flitters about.  Traitorous common sense insists you adjust your direction to keep on that tiny, fast moving treadmill.

A runway doesn't care.  You could sleep for the next few months.  You could work 80-hour weeks. The runway is still going to be there and it is still going end.  I find a freedom in this single number.  It provides a guaranteed space to make games to the best of my ability.  It is like knowing the date of your death. 

A healthy hack is to think of any additional cash as a bonus; a powerup that extends you run a little while longer.  Spry Fox engineers the cash flows, we game routes that puts the +1's within reach. But I don't bet on them.  Mentally, there is the cash in the bank and a point some months out where I may need to stop making games. It is a cold, worst case reality. 

I find this viewpoint motivating. 

Unexpected benefits 
Some might find this to be a limited philosophy...the existential desert of living an endless runner.  However, I've noticed something strange.  When you have the space to be creative and permission to take risks within that space, you discover magical stuff.

The search doesn't always works, but if you also have enough space to make repeated mistakes, you do learn.  You get better at finding great gameplay.  You are not a monkey on a typewriter with infinite time.  You are Shakespeare simultaneously learning and inventing a new language over dozens of plays and sonnets.  

If you can squeeze in enough attempts, and make enough wild, intuitive leaps forward maybe you come up with a surprisingly successful game. A long runway means more opportunities to succeed. 

This isn't a recipe for mindless game making with no concern for money or the future.  It is a mental discipline intended to weight the odds in your favor.  So you do something bold that has a great chance of yielding a new life and a new run.  It is a means of gaining courage so that you might finally do something great. 

Occasionally I run across a developer that made one hit game.  They've got money in the bank and are excited to jump start a big team to finally make some extravagant dream game.  The last game was a success.  They average out the cash flows and imagine the next game will likely be a success as well.  This is idiot thinking. 

Instead I want to shake them and ask "What is your runway?  How much time do you have left?  How many times can you fail?  How many shots at success can you take?" 

Failure is when you stop making games.  If it only takes one dumb experiment gone wrong, you aren't going to last long. 

So count the days or months left in your game developing runway.  It is okay if it is low.  Over the next few years, do what you can to make that runway longer.  A long runway is an achievable and measurable form of freedom. 

take care, 
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#Indie #App
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剛建了一個開源項目rapidjson,一個高性能的C++ JSON parser和generator,提供SAX/DOM風格的API,支持UTF8/16/32,可選用SSE2/SSE4.1加速,內存使用緊湊。全個庫只有1600多行代碼的頭文件。
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