The Carrot and the Stick [Part 1]

Over the last two years, I’ve been apart of about 4 different student-indie development groups. All of them have had fantastic ideas, were fairly organized, and “clicked” very well between members.

But none of them worked out.

Even after months of hard work with clear goals set, deadlines, and constant evolution. I’ve always wondered where they went wrong and what could have been done. For example, in one group we worked for a semester (a little less than half a year?) once a week on an ambitious, but realistically achievable game. We started from scratch, built up our story, designed our gameplay, mechanics, and even levels. Suddenly, a dead semester of no work blindsides us and nothing got done. Too many inconveniences. Despite my buddy and I trying to breath life into the project multiple times, even now, it continues to fall through. Why?

Recently, a different and closer friend group brought me on board on a new project. They had a crazy night and spit-balled a lot of crazy ideas. A lot of which did not cohesively go together and didn’t feel right for a game. I barely understood the whole idea and I was working on it. I was very skeptical of the project going anywhere but into the ground. Not because I thought the idea wasn’t possible or overly-ambitious, but because the last 4 groups just died out with much more cohesive, planned, and managed groups. However, I gave it a chance anyway because the worst that would have happened was fall through and I end up with more knowledge anyway.


At first, the project barely took off. Months passed with no progress because we were deciding on what platform this game should be made on. Mobile or desktop, C++ or HTML5, and so on. So many “what-ifs” were being thrown around and no one sat down to actually try something or set it in stone. I feared for the worst, but tried to poke some encouragement and direction anyway. I did not want to jump into this new group and declare myself the decision maker. Eventually, I had to temporarily dubbed myself this role in order to get the ball rolling. I couldn’t let another project that I invested time into die before even trying.

The group was really enthusiastic about HTML5 and during a GameJam, made a very primitive and barely function platformer was made. I had no part in this and it was done sometime back. But I looked at this and said, well, because the group had difficulty learning the HTML5 – we should look at editors. There was one engine that I heard very good things about – Construct 2. It is drag-and-drop programming, but its accessible and easy enough to use without getting caught up in the learning process. Which was huge for the other groups that failed before this one.

I took the placeholder art assets, recreated what they had done previously, made it work, and presented it to the group. In a single sitting. They were floored, and suddenly there was a ton of life sparked back into this project. I declared that we move forward with this and really make it happen. No more ifs or double backing on ourselves, lets just make this game already.

So even after that, the group wasn’t really getting together and working on this. The creator and essentially the leader of the group decided that we should watch Indie Game The Movie as some inspiration. Despite some of the rough spots in the documentary for the devs, our team suddenly had this work-a-holic epiphany. Myself included. They went out, bought white boards, decided weekly meeting times, and we banged out a TON of story, level, and character design.

During our design meeting just now, I didn’t feel like I was the only leader. We all were and in a good way. We were all contributing and making huge decisions regarding our design. Even in disagreement, we made an effort to get the best idea out of it. It really evolved into something any one of us can make. I’m very proud of this new design group, and I have very high hopes regarding the success of this one over the others now because of this.

Now back to why those other groups failed. I think it had to do with motivation and team dynamic. Despite that the ideas were great, progression was evident, and organization was pretty spot on, those previous groups didn’t have a dynamic between its members that really “clicked”. It was mutual and we all had fun doing it, but it never felt like a true group progression. When [or if] things got accomplished, it didn’t feel anywhere near as awesome as this group does. Even when the past groups were down and I would step in to try and get them back up, I found myself doing all the work. Not with this group. Also, this group has already defeated an initial hurdle, whereas the other groups never made it over any hurdles at all. They just crumbled at the first sight of them.

thomas jump

Carrot Island Development, the name of this current group, has already been tested. In my eyes, it has prevailed. I originally said I thought it wouldn’t work out and that I didn’t like the idea. But after this: the whole not getting anything done and also the fact we took awesome nonsensical ideas and have pretty much made it into an awesome, interesting, and cohesive ones…. the group has only one way but up.

This game is going to be amazing.

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