The first time I decided to make Ladon was somewhere around 2010, I think. It was just an idea for a hobby project then. I was working full time at an engineering start-up and had a very small amount of time each day to work on a hobby project. I made some progress but abandoned it pretty quickly.
The second time was in 2015. I had just left that start-up and actually had some money – enough to give me a year or so of time to work on it. Again, I started with great enthusiasm and worked on it for about a year before abandoning it again. It’s completely shameful that I didn’t finish the project the second time around, given more than enough time and resources. I even had talented people working with me. That’s a story for another day.
I started this third attempt at the end of 2020. During each of those prior attempts, I found little gems of wisdom that made me think, “Wow, I really wish I had known that a month ago…”
One of them was the “MVP” process of iterative product development. Google it – there are countless articles and blog posts about it, as well as lively debates about what it really means – but it is critically important, and if you’re even considering creating something (a game, a song, a book, a movie, a painting, anything!), then I can’t recommend strongly enough that you spend an hour reading about what “MVP” is and why it’s so essential. Make the skateboard, then make the scooter, then the bike…
The one that really stunned me during my second attempt was a talk at GDC by Jeff Vogel. His main point was that you don’t have to make the next Minecraft. You can just make a game that you like and someone out there will enjoy it. If you look at the games Jeff Vogel makes, you can immediately see that he has no illusions that he’s creating the next AAA, bestseller, record-breaking, international mega sensation. But the thing you should know about Jeff Vogel is that he makes a very comfortable living making precisely whatever he feels like making. This was a real revelation for me. I went into game development thinking “If this doesn’t sell millions of copies, it’s a failure and I’m a failure,” and that is a ridiculous point of view. But it’s very easy to fall into that mindset.
This third attempt is already no different… I just heard this absolutely incredible story (no idea if it’s actually literally a true story, but who cares):
A ceramics teacher divided his class into two groups. One group was told they’d be graded on “quality,” meaning that they only had to make one pot, but their grade would depend on how perfect it was. The other group was told they only had to worry about “quantity,” meaning they’d simply be graded on the number of pots they produced, regardless of how they looked. By the end of the class, the “quantity” group was producing really good pots, while the “quality” group wasn’t producing anything. They spent all their time worrying and debating over how to produce the perfect pot.Paraphrased from Art and Fear, David Bayles
I just stumbled onto that today and realized that I had immediately, voluntarily thrown myself into the “quality” group every time I sat down to work on Ladon. Honestly, I should have given myself something like one week to make the first version and called it done, then moved onto the next project – even if that next project was a bigger and better version of Ladon. The key is to finish something.
What’s probably the most frustrating to me is that all three of these epiphanies are essentially the same thing. I had to relearn the same thing in three different ways. Maybe the better question for me to ask is why I’m so determined to do things the hard way. Here we are, four months into Ladon for the third time, and I’m staring at my Trello board with about 100 tasks remaining. Sigh.