In other things we don’t really talk about much corner, I hit the crash this week.
I figured I was doing fairly OK this time round. Whilst I was working pretty much every day, I was managing to keep the hours reasonable, I’d get up and stroll around, go for walks, do other things. Sure, the last week was a bit more frantic as the launch date got closer and the checklist smaller (yet still substantial) but last weeks sort of are. I’d managed to get a weekend of downtime before the final run up, still knocking off on time after, still taking breaks.
I should have known really. Yet somehow, after all this time, I still find it hard to spot.
Because y’know, I was enjoying what I was doing way too much and come on, anyone who knows me knows I don’t enjoy the actual making part of videogames that much. That should have been warning enough.
And so it was, between trying to cram in press stuff, juggling business things, writing a videogame and still trying to squeeze in family time and then the excitement of launching the thing, ever upwards I went.
I went out for launch. Deliberately. Took the kids round the shops, shifted from a coffee-house to a fast food place to press all the right buttons. Not being there in front of the computer mattered. And yeah, yeah, I ended up launching an hour late on Steam but no-one cared, no-one died or owt. It went OK. Chilled as can be, anyway. I’ve been around the block, I know something always fucks up. I can deal with whatever.
Then a few days passed and suddenly I’m not sitting there leaping between writing mails, signing contracts, making bleeping noises happen, tweaking numbers for hours until the number is the right number. And it turns out, I’m fucking knackered, grumpy and feeling like shit. After the ramp, there’s the plummet.
“God, you’re annoying today”, Mrs B pointed out after I’d done 10 or so laps of the living room moaning. She’s rarely wrong, Mrs B. In fairness, I was annoying myself as well. The eldest sort of stared at me with that “oh, dad’s in a weird mood” as I grumped my way through downloading something on the PS3 for him. And oh god, the miserable brainleak of a post launch twitter feed and not noticing early enough that what I really needed was a good, hard kip. Shut those eyes, shut off from the craziness of the past week and get some rest.
But post launch brings its own work to be done, emails to fire off, for a few days the inbox fills more than it does in a year and then there are forums, updates, emergency fixes and all the time that desire to just sleep because you’re worn.
It doesn’t help, of course, that my face hurts and sleep is difficult enough anyway but yeah, I’d let it all get on top and needed the rest. The post launch crash came to say hello and you know, I thought I’d nail it this time. Keep it all at bay. Nah.
But at least I’m better at spotting it now. Time was, I wouldn’t have clocked within 24 or 48 hours and ran scurrying off to chill. Time was I’d have kept on and that doesn’t work, it never works. Games consume. They’re so, so consuming. You have to walk away, you have to know when to walk away for your health, for your sanity.
I’m getting better at it. It’s hard when you work solo but I did better at managing my time, I did better at spotting the crash when it came and went off to put my feet up. But even with the best will in the world, it came. It hit hard, it hit fast. Or at least, it felt like it hit fast.
And no-one ever tells you to watch out for this happening so I’m telling someone else here now. Releasing a game is tiring and you gotta look after yourself, you’ve got to find some time for yourself. Nothing in a videogame is so important that it can’t wait until after a nap. Whatever’s dragging you down, playing on your mind, not going as well as it could? None of that is gonna fix or get better if you aren’t the best you can be.
Even with the best will in the world you can hit a post launch low and that’s not fine but it’s OK. Well, it’s OK as long as you take care of yourself.
Take care of yourself, yeah?
Go for that nap you really need. It’s cool.