I've been programming games for more than 20 years. Previously I worked on the WORMS franchise for Team17. I currently teach game programming and design at the University of Bolton and run a small indie studio called MindFlock where we specialize in AI based gameplay.
Next week, I'm off the the aiGameDev.com Paris AI workshop, where I'll spend a few days with some of the most talented AI guys in the world (and almost all of the european ones). There are some brilliant speakers including Ken Perlin (you graphics programmers should know him) and people like Noah Fahlstein (google his resume). I'm helping Alex get the event started and will be chairing the first designer session just to keep things on track.
When I get back, I'm going to be thinking about the next 5-10 years. I've been teaching game dev and design at the University of Bolton for the last 6 years, which has definitely taught me a lot about people. But I'm missing development and that focus on creativity a lot these days. I got into education because I really wanted to give something back to the game development community. But I'm wondering if its time to be a bit selfish again.
I think one of the things that attracts me to being an indie developer, is that I don't have to simply be a specialist. I'm definitely an AI guy, don't get me wrong, but I also love graphics, design, even art!
The question I have to answer (and I'm not in any rush), is what I actually want to spend the next chapter of my life doing. At my core I enjoy creating. I also enjoy talking to developers, discussing ideas and generally thinking through problems with other people.
Over the past decade, I've built up enough money that I can realistically last for about 5 years without a job at a reasonable level of comfort. So my next decision is far more about passion than it is about having to put bread on the table.
My indie games to date have been a bit screwed up. I've not finished them partly because I never had time (its surprising how much time teaching game dev takes up) and partly because I never was truly convinced by any of them. I spent a load of time learning different engines and prototyping and learnt a lot of useful skills that were very different from my previous AAA career. So my development process has definitely changed and I'm happy I can deliver a high quality experience using whatever technology I think is appropriate.
My last indie prototype got roundly slammed at a pitching session I did with Sony and to be honest I think rightly so. It was far too unfocussed and whimsical. But it has given me plenty of ideas for how to change and the technology I've been building for it all is absolutely going to be useful for the next project.
So the big question, which I will leave unanswered for now is:
What do I do?