Star Billions: Space Oddity

The hardest part of making a game is making money finishing it. In this post, I’m going to try to explain what possessed me to finish Star Billions.

It wasn’t the first game I tried to make. I came close with a retro platformer called Yes, Chef!

The game that never was: Yes, Chef!

Yes, Chef! was cute, but I made a crucial mistake: I made a game because I wanted to make a game, and not because I had an interesting idea or a compelling story to tell. I was halfway finished before I realized it wasn’t especially interesting.

The idea for Star Billions came at a time in my life when I wasn’t trying to be a game developer. I was riding the city bus back home after class when I quickly scribbled my vision for Star Billions in a notebook. I was a full-time student1, I was neck deep in final projects, and I was running out of time to decide what to do after graduation. Matthew came to visit me at my apartment in Chapel Hill. I explained the idea to him. At the time, it was one tiny page long:

Star Billions original concept doodle

An adult drew that. My pitch must have been awesome, because Matthew insisted that we work together to make Star Billions a reality. Everything else fell into place:

  • Our friend Blake Leftwich created Rocket Valet and could answer any questions I had about developing for iOS.
  • Matthew and I spent most of our lives making music together, so creating an original score wouldn’t be a problem.
  • I would spend the summer looking for a job anyway, so I might as well spend the rest of my time making Star Billions.

It was helpful to have a rough timeline for completing the game. I knew it would get a lot harder if I didn’t finish most of the work before my job search came to fruition. Matthew and I spent at least 12 hours a day--weekdays and weekends--working on Star Billions. We spent a weekend at the beach in August, but that didn’t stop us from working:

There's no business like code business.

Ultimately, I think the best way to stay motivated is to get another person involved. With a long project like a video game, you’re bound to get tired and you’re bound to doubt whether your idea is worth finishing. A partner can push you forward when you start slowing down. Matthew pushed me throughout the development of Star Billions. I pushed him, too. Where would Star Billions be today if both of us hadn’t worked harder than we thought we had to? Probably with Yes, Chef! in an unfinished projects folder.

  1. Go Tar Heels!