Working ridiculous hours and emotional exhaustion could have ended Vlambeer if the team hadn’t addressed their quality of life, says Rami Ismail.
Speaking to Develop as part of our analysis on crunch and overtime, the indie dev said when he and Jan Willem Nijman founded the studio, “everything was continuously on the up”.
“Everything we did would outperform our expectations, even little jam games like KARATE,” said Ismail.
“We worked ridiculous hours, on that adrenaline rush, trying to hold onto that momentum. It was a super-creative time, but we weren’t aware just how much we were emotionally exhausting ourselves.”
He went on to say that when something went wrong, specifically highlighting the moment Vlambeer’s hit game Ridiculous Fishing was cloned, the duo were “completely incapable” of sustaining that early pace. As a result, he and his co-developer “crashed into a rather dark place for months”.
“Our creativity was gone,” he said.
“Jan Willem’s inspiration comes from a place of comfort, and I was incapable of doing anything but stare at a blinking cursor. We didn’t crawl out until we realised our issue wasn’t that we weren’t trying enough, but that we weren’t giving ourselves space to not try.
“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that if we hadn’t figured that out, it would’ve ended Vlambeer right then and there.”
Offering advice to other developers, Ismail explained that you need three things to make a game: money, knowledge and motivation.
"If you lose one of the three, there’s three scenarios,” he said.
“If you run out of money, you can still continue on zero budget for a while, get a loan or live on ramen noodles. If don’t have knowledge, you can hire people with knowledge to work on your project. If you don’t have motivation, it doesn’t matter how much money or knowledge you have – you won’t be making a game."