You know when you go to a coffee shop, and they continually call out an order, but no one comes to pick up their grande skinny vanilla latte, almost as if a phantom had ordered and vamoosed away? Before you roll your eyes while waiting for your order to finally come up (that new barista is far too slow) think, maybe there's an indie developer in your midst, too deeply invested in lines of code to pay attention to the squabbling of the coffee shop. Take a quick look around, and you'll find indie dev Dave Gilbert.
LEO JAITLEY OF DEJOBAAN GAMES: Please introduce yourself! Who are you, and what's your background as a game developer? Why did you go indie? What did you mum and dad say when you said you were "going indie"? Why do you let your coffee go cold?
DAVE GILBERT: Hello! I’m Dave Gilbert, an indie game developer from New York. I started making games around 2000 or so, mostly making freeware games that I released for fun. It wasn’t until 2006 that I decided to do the indie thing. At the time, I had just finished a year-long stint teaching English to kids in Korea and I was in no hurry to get a “real job” again. So I started selling my games as a way to justify not looking for a job. Four years later, I am still doing the same thing! Nobody is more surprised than I am that I’ve managed to make a full-time career out of this, least of all my parents. When I told them what I wanted to do, they were dubious but supportive. Now, they follow video game news every day in order to understand what the heck it is I do, which I count as a personal triumph.
LEO JAITLEY: Tell us about your workspace - are you a "work from home while watching Oprah" kinda dev, a "get out of bed and trudge through the snow to the office" kind, or something else?
DAVE GILBERT: You know those weirdos you see in Starbucks? The unshaven guys hunched over their laptops, type type typing away, and nursing one cup of coffee for hours at a time? I’m that guy.
All of my games were designed, programmed and tested from the various coffee shops around my neighborhood. Over my four years of doing this, I’ve become an expert on the location of every electrical outlet in every café within a five block radius of my apartment. That and increased my caffeine intake by like 5000 percent. It’s a weird way to work, but somehow it suits me. It adds a lot of variety to my workweek, and the white noise of the café helps me focus (“gives you something to ignore”, as a fellow café laptopper once told me).
I sometimes work from home when I do admin work or need the printer, but I try to work outside of my apartment as much as I can. It’s really important to me that I have a work life and a home life. Plus it’s very indie.
LEO JAITLEY: You wake up on a Wednesday morning, maybe still at Starbucks. Congratulations -- you have a full day's work ahead of you! What do you get done in the first hour? (Okay, go on and tell us about the subsequent 10 hours.)
DAVE GILBERT: I’m a stat addict. The first thing I do is check my webpage stats and see what other sites have been linking to my site. It’s totally narcissistic but it always gives me an nice boost when I find something new. Today I found a long forum thread discussing The Shivah from two years ago! Once I finish my ego surfing, I go through my email, delete the spam, and then get to work. In order for me to get things done I break the game down into smaller manageable tasks that I try to complete each day. Right now, my current game (Puzzle Bots) has all of its levels in a very rough state, but they are all disconnected from each other. My goal for today is to connect all the levels up so you can play it from the beginning to the end. Will I succeed? Will I meet my self-imposed deadline? WE MAY NEVER KNOW!
LEO JAITLEY: Would you classify yourself as more of an artist or a tech wiz? Master of biz? Maybe you do it all, tell us about it Jack...
DAVE GILBERT: I have no idea what I am, really! I have spent four years doing this fulltime and have never needed to get another job, so I must be doing something right but I have no idea what it is. Somehow, I’ve managed to muddle through on luck, sheer stupid determination, and a love of doing what I do. I design, I program, I manage the teams, I produce, I do everything but artwork. But what do I actually *do* all day? Beats the heck out of me.
DAVE GILBERT: My favorite moment in my studio’s history has to be when I was nominated for a Game Developer Choice award in 2007 in the category of “Best New Studio.” I got to sit up in the VIP area of the Choice Award ceremony, one table away from Shigeru Miyamoto. I met Richard Garriot and Alexei Pajitnov and even shook hands with Tim Schaffer (who told me he played my game!). I didn’t win the award, and it’s in a category I could never be nominated for a second time, but man what a rush. Whenever things get tough for me, I remember that night and it makes it all worthwhile. I could go out of business tomorrow and it will have all been worth it for that one night.
LEO JAITLEY: Tell us about a game that inspired you to MAKE games.
DAVE GILBERT: I’m an old school point-and-click adventure game geek, which should come as no surprise to anybody. I played so many games, but I’d have to say the game that inspired me the most was Gabriel Knight. The melding of historical fact and the supernatural was so utterly perfect. The concept of Ludwig of Bavaria being a werewolf sounds stupid on paper, but play Gabriel Knight 2 and you could swear it happened that way. The Blackwell series is essentially me trying to do Gabriel Knight on a smaller scale.
Well I'm about to point and click my way over to that unclaimed latte and mosey my way over to Dave's dev blog and giggle a bit. His most recent entry is titled "Korean Schoolgirl Action" and no, I'm not going to explain it to you. Check out his blog and Dejobaan's, and the rest of the "Half a Million Seconds" articles! Cheers!