A Trip to the Seaside
Working more than full time, even on passion projects, can eventually start to take a toll. Enthusiasm can take a bit of a dip, especially in winter months. The project board looks like it's frozen over and instead of doing the 'fun stuff' you find yourself traipsing through the boring but necessary things. For Ash that might be refactoring, for myself it tends to be admin, accounts, tax, crap which it's easy to pretend doesn't exist, but needs taking care of more often than you think.
So, partly inspired by Jonathan Blow's Depth Jam blog post of a few years ago we hired a cottage down in 'sunny' Cornwall. The cottage was one that Tom and Sophie have stayed in multiple times in his ancestral home of Boscastle. A winding, uneven, three hundred year old slate cottage. A few people came and went over the course of the week, but for the most part we were joined by Tim Wicksteed of Twice Circled, who's currently working on his satirical strategy game Big Pharma, renaissance man-in-the-making Joe Williamson who you may know did the music on Neon Caves, and author Laura Madeleine.
In comparison to the Depth Jam and some other creative retreats, I wanted to balance this as a holiday of sorts, with time for walks, exploration, pubs and the like (sadly the village witchcraft museum was shut). It's not a particularly easy thing to do, but we wrote-up a rough schedule for work and tried to stick to it. Another important factor to consider is whether you have the necessary tools to sit and work comfortably for a week, not hunched-up on a coffee table or on the floor. To this end we took along a few extra desks, whiteboards and the like.
So, was was it worth it?
Overall I'm reasonably pleased with how the week went. There were a few times that cabin fever set-in and working in such proximity can be detrimental, but on the whole we got through a bunch of good work. Ash implemented a first pass at a batch of new game modifiers. Tom put together a load of new animations that will be making their way into the game at some point. Whilst Sophie did more concept work on a new world, designed icons and great new assets for the new modifiers. I on the other hand spent the first three days finishing off the sample library for the soundtrack (I have now sampled over five hundred songs, creating around six hundred loops and sounds). I tend to work better on music in true isolation, generally late at night, so a few of the evenings I napped in the evening a bit to allow me to work after others had gone to bed.
In retrospect I've noticed that perhaps the greatest effect of the week is that it has renewed our appetite for Friendship Club. It's not so much that it was ever in doubt, but rather that it had become obscured by all of the other facets of running a business and I felt we were reaching a stage where our lofty ambitions for the game were not being realised fast enough. At that point frustration can set-in, slowing things down further. Not only did we get quite a lot done in the week, but we've seen a rise in productivity since returning. Other 'stuff' is just getting dealt with now, rather than lingering around.
The overall costs for the week were very low. We're not exactly flush for cash so going in the off-season like this makes a lot of sense. In fact, once calculated the expenses came to £15 per person per night including all of the food and drink bills.
I think we will likely be making more trips in future, but perhaps shorter (a week is a bit long) and to somewhere less wonderful and enticing than Boscastle. Man, I miss Cornwall...