Two years is a long time. Yet a side-project will happily drag out that long. One weekend you’re high on the idea. Six months later, you wish it would just go away.
Then, all at once, the polish comes together. Slow grind, sudden payoff. The beginning is my favourite.
The first prototype took an hour to make. I called over a couple buddies to drink cheap booze and play it. It’s been two years on the nose since that first game. The prototype was cobbled together from other game pieces and drawn on the blanks cards I take my custdev notes on.
The Kickstarter campaign went up last week. It just about doubled its goal within the first day and is going well.
So a success, in its way. At a price. I had a best-friend-breakup over the game and ended up quitting the day before we submitted to Kickstarter (I’ve still got a small royalty as game designer).
Lives change in two years. Mine became increasingly unstable as I switched companies, countries, and careers. In the same stretch of time, my collaborator dominated a series of promotions, got married, and bought a house.
As the game crawled toward its eventual conclusion, it became the least important part of my life and yet kept interrupting the more important bits (like trying to build a company before going broke). A certain resentment developed for the project doing the interrupting.
This is sort of an ambiguous story and the final stretch of trying to ship it and ultimately leaving was quite trying. Still, three points stand out to me.
First, long projects are a liability. Multiple collaborators exacerbate the problem, but even if you’re working solo, your life diverges from where it was when you started. As months pass, it risks becoming less pleasure and more distraction.
Second, long projects are great. There’s a real pleasure in seeing something that’s been a part of you for so long suddenly spring to life. With some projects, I’ve been entirely mercenary, shipping them as quickly as possible and giving them the minimum possible investment. I never had time to fall in love with those. This card game was a part of me for a long time, in one way or another. Substantial bits of me are in it. The book was the same way. Could I have gotten there faster? Absolutely. Am I glad for the time I spent? Yes.
And finally, it doesn’t matter how goofy version 1 looks. If you’re going to pour time into something, first make sure people like the rough version. Polished products have humble origins.