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Rogue Machine: the last video game I’ll ever make… probably – Reader’s Feature

Rogue Machine screenshot

Rogue Machine – games really are taking longer and longer to make (Picture: 29 Games)

A reader explains why it took him six years to make his own indie game and offers advice for those thinking of creating, their own.

When I wrote my Reader’s Feature about developing Rogue Machine, I genuinely thought that it was only going to take a year and half to finish making the game. It’s actually taken almost six years. So why did it take so long and why didn’t I give up?

The main reasons it took so long is that I kept adding content such as maps, non-player characters, and additional features. I also became incredibly bored of it. It’s felt like it’s been in a perpetual state of almost being finished and it turned into a slog. There have been times where I’ve thought about giving up. I didn’t work on it at all during the pandemic lockdowns. But I’ve been playing it all this time, in its various states of work-in-progress, as I’ve fixed bugs and added things and find it enjoyable to play.

This is why, at the start of the year, I decided to get it finished it. I also hate leaving my projects unfinished. A finished project makes for a more interesting conversation and can help in unexpected ways, like job interviews and you don’t have to answer the awkward question of why you gave up.

One of the main pieces of advice I would give anyone taking on a project like this, over such a long period of time, is to keep lots of notes. Keep notes in your code, keep notes on a spreadsheet and in a notebook. Keep notes on what is left to do. Keep notes on ideas that you’ve had but discarded and why you discarded them. This has been invaluable to me and made picking up the development of Rogue Machine after months of not working on it a lot easier.

The other lesson I’ve learned is that I probably ought to make the game first and then talk about it later. My IndieDB page has a number of articles that I thought would create a bit of interest in the game before it was released but it took so long to finish making the game that any interest has since evaporated. If I had released the game first and then created articles afterwards, I think this would have been a better way of keeping interest in the game going.

Possibly the most disheartening thing about working on the project for this long has been me losing interest in making games and almost forgetting why I enjoy it. I enjoy the wide variety of skills required: problem solving, logic and maths, 3D and 2D art, sound effects and coding. No other hobby has some many things going on.

I’ve not done a lot of coding over the past couple of years. There’s been a bit of bug fixing but most of what I’ve been doing is creating media for levels and characters. I enjoy designing the game mechanics the most, especially enemy behaviour. I enjoy the challenge of working out how to have the characters navigate the map and how they react to the player. I enjoy watching the tiny little world I created come to life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make another game on this scale again, if I make any more games at all. I’ve picked up another couple of hobbies over the years. I’ve been learning to play a musical instrument and, recently, I’ve been thinking about getting back to tabletop role-playing games, something I never thought I’d do. I’d like to do some non-game related CGI and buy a 3D printer. I think it would be cool to design and make some action figures based on the robots in Rogue Machine.

Rogue Machine is now finished, as much as any work of art can be considered finished. And I do consider video games to be art. There are about three hundred levels, two dozen enemy types, tunnel levels where the player can fly hover cars and space rockets, and five unlockable arcade games. The game is not without its flaws, but I hope that anyone who plays it enjoys it or, at the very least, gives sensible critique if they don’t enjoy it. Rogue Machine is now available for Windows and for Android.

By reader James aka 29 Games

Rogue Machine screenshot

Rogue Machine – it’s not easy making a game (Picture: 29 Games)

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