Being an independent developer is tough, especially for those that are essentially one-person shows. Besides spending vast amounts of time and energy making the game, that person also has to deal with marketing and selling the game, which is a hard enough thing to do for a team of PR professionals at a large publisher. If you don’t see your efforts paying off, it can be easy to throw up your hands and quit. Chris Peterson, the founder and sole developer at Beast Games, was getting close to this point before his indie PC game Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche was selected for this year’s PAX 10.
I have to be realistic about my skills and potential to earn a living doing this.
“I've been living like a broke hermit for the past year and a half while I made this game,” Peterson said. “Despite the occasional positive feedback from game testers, I had no idea if what I was doing was worthwhile. There were more than a few moments of doubt where I wanted to give up and look for a steady paycheck. I love making games but I have to be realistic about my skills and potential to earn a living doing this.”
On top of the difficulties of making the game, Peterson also had to deal with family and friends who simply didn’t get what he was doing. “It's very hard to explain to people who aren't in the industry exactly how much work goes into making games. It's very easy to look like you're getting nothing done when, in reality, you spent 50 hours last week refactoring your codebase. Meanwhile I've watched lots of friends advance in their careers and start their lives.”
Without the support of his fiancée, Peterson might well have given up a long time ago. “I made games before her, but she's the one who really helped push me to pursue my dream and make games for a living. She's not a gamer, but she saw how happy it made me so she encouraged it. She has been a constant source of support and strength through this whole process. There wouldn't be an Avalanche 2 if it wasn't for her.”
On a personal level, I'm just really glad to have something to show for my effort.
“Being selected as part of PAX 10 has definitely renewed my hope for a future where I can continue to make games,” he said. “It’s wonderful because it is a concrete thing that I can share with my friends and family that is easy to explain. But on a personal level, I'm just really glad to have something to show for my effort.”
Robert Khoo, president of Penny Arcade, was surprised and honored when told what the competition meant to Peterson. “First of all, hearing that the competition motivated anyone to create feels awesome, but to affect someone as talented as Chris is pretty shocking,” said Khoo. “For a good month, we had a PC setup with Super Avalanche playing exclusively. There was a brutal internal leaderboard as a group of us went back and forth trying to best each other. The game is amazing and absolutely deserves to be in the PAX 10.”
Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche has been in development for more than a year. It’s still considered to be in beta, though gamers can pre-order it and start playing right away. A vertical platformer where no two games are the same, Super Avalanche contains many more features than the original Avalanche, which Peterson says has been played more than 60 million times. Besides trying to climb as fast you can and avoid being squished by falling blocks, Super Avalanche has you dispatching enemies, and collecting coins and power-ups along the way. Even if you make it all the way to the top of each level, you still have to beat a boss that’s reminiscent of classic boss battles in the original Mario and Zelda games. To say it was an ambitious sequel would be an understatement, but Peterson had actually abandoned an even more massive project he had considered before deciding to make Super Avalanche.
“Avalanche 2 was a long time coming. Ever since the first one did so well I've had people pushing me to make a sequel. I didn't work on it for several years though. For a long time I felt like I couldn't add anything meaningful to the original concept,” said Peterson. “My first project was failing, and I stumbled upon some of my old notes I wrote after the first Avalanche. I didn't have enough experience to know when I wrote those original notes, but there were actually a few good ideas in there.”
Peterson took inspiration from Spelunky, which he had been playing at the time, and combined that with his notes to develop the concept for Super Avalanche. Since then, he hasn’t really deviated from the original plan. But that doesn’t mean the development was smooth sailing. He said he often had to track his hours during menial tasks or when he was feeling like he wasn’t making any progress
“Ultimately, a lot of my doubts and frustrations came from underestimating how long it should take to finish a difficult job or problem,” he said. “When I tracked my hours it was much easier to focus on the problem rather than how little I felt was getting done.”
Another challenge Peterson faced was making sure he didn’t let his emotions get the best of him, and he would recommend other developers do the same. “Make sure you are seeing things clearly when you get frustrated. Write down the evidence for and against your concerns, then decide if your concerns are rational or not. If they are rational then take a step back and brainstorm solutions. If they’re not rational then stop and give your mind a rest.”
Nicole Tanner is a freelance writer and journalist with 10 years of experience. She can be followed on Twitter at @nicoletanner.
Source : ign[dot]com