Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Whew, so today was getting down and dirty with my MacBook and XCode. I’ve actually made a lot of progress pretty quickly, my background in programming has come in unbelievably handy ever since I started working in the game industry. Being able to see things from the perspectives of both the art side AND the programming side speeds up a lot of tasks, cuts down on confusion and miscommunication, and allows me to narrow down bugs really quickly since I can tweak things not just on the code side but on the art side, until I figure out what’s causing the problem or preventing the solution. I’m not a good programmer by any means, but I’m a pretty quick learner in general and boy am I glad for that right now! Programming has sure changed since I was doing it in the QBasic days, haha There’s all these crazy .mm files and .h files and everythings spread out in folders and referencing stuff in other folders…it’s a mad-house!! What happened to 10 PRINT “I am awesome!”: 20 GOTO 10?? haha

Tomorrow I’ll talk about TestFlight and how the testing process is going…but today I’m gonna’ distract you with a shiny screenshot and then talk about a serious subject…so first, SHAZAMMMMM!!:

Bulletproof Outlaws - ElusiveNinja iPad Screenshot

So today’s subject is Stress Management. It’s hard to imagine that you can have stress when you’re doing your dream job and making something you dig, but man, it happens. We’ve been working pretty much night and day for a solid 3 weeks straight, weekdays, weekends, you name it. This is super at first, you get a lot done, but over time it wears down on you. The problem is because you’re doing something that’s supposed to be fun, you can’t complain about it because people go “That’s silly, you draw ninjas all day, and you didn’t even put on pants today!!” While that’s true (the pants part at least), it kind of compounds the stress because not only do you have stress you feel dumb for having, but you can’t even complain to people and expect them to understand why you’re worn ragged.

And we tend to carry that stress from one area of our lives into other areas. I found myself extremely irritable at little things in my day to day life (pop can tab pulls off instead of opening the can, toppings falling out of my sandwich, friends not understanding that I have to get work done, etc.). I’m normally a pretty laid back guy, so this was really weird for me. I realized a few days ago as we were wrapping up Derek’s end of things that I was just a massive ball of negative energy. I haven’t had any stress in like, 2 years probably, since my last job that caused me a ton of stress and frustration…My day to day life is pretty relaxed: I have very low living expenses, I have some money saved up to fall back on, I’ve got friends to go to the bar with on weekends, I’m dating a cute chick who supports my business ambitions (though she’s happy she’ll actually be able to SEE me once this thing is shipped, haha), I’ve got my health, I’m pursuing my dream job and creating a game I’m proud of which is something I’ve dreamt of since I was a wee little nerd…hell, I’m going to be attending E3 this year and then party in Vegas with friends I haven’t seen in a year! My life is pretty awesome all around.

…as a result the feeling of being stressed/angry is so foreign to me that I didn’t even realize I was suffering from it or know how to deal with it haha I was like “Man, I feel like I should hit something, am I supposed to hit something when I’m this stressed?? Do I meditate?? I don’t even know!!” Apparently that’s a decent solution, but a better solution is to avoid the stress in the first place.

Now there are tons of websites out there with a million tips on time management and scheduling and all sorts of stuff like that that’ll help with avoiding stress, but I want to mention the mental aspect because I noticed a connection between my old stressful job and this current venture. Part of the reason these last few weeks were so stressful is that the game’s development took over my entire waking life. “My girl wants to see me? Nope, sorry, gotta’ cancel on dinner babe, I have to get these files ready but I can pop in right before you go to sleep if I’m lucky!” “You guys want me to come to the bar because you haven’t seen me in a week? Maybe, I’ll try to hurry up and be done in time to come out, but even if I’m lucky enough to get to hang out with you guys I’m going to be thinking about all the stuff I have to do when I get home and won’t be able to enjoy myself or be any fun to be around.” “Sleep? Ya, it’d be nice to get a full night’s sleep, but I’d better just take a light nap and leave my MSN on incase the project runs into problems.”

The interesting thing to me is that my old job was super stressful for me, but I wasn’t nearly as bothered by it. The difference? At my old job I made a mental rule to leave everything at the office on Fridays. No matter how chaotic the situation was, Friday at 5pm that office, the projects, the problems, etc. didn’t exist until Monday at 9am. It was like a mental light switch being flipped and I got so used to it that I did it instinctively. My friends and I even made a rule: “No talking about work at the bar” So when we were hanging out we’d snuff out anyone’s attempts at bringing up work stuff (unless it was something funny of course!).

I think that mental barrier separating work and normal life is important. When I first started taking my business course I read stuff like “Don’t work in your bedroom, create an office somewhere else in the house or travel to an office or friend’s place to work. Don’t make the place you rest the same place you work.” and I kind of pooh-pooh’ed it as silly woo-woo stuff. But now I think I understand what they’re talking about. I was pretty much living in this bedroom for like 3 weeks there (I didn’t have TIME to travel elsewhere to work! That’s a solid hour’s worth of work I could be getting done!!) and it was really suffocating and the “cabin fever” added to the stress.

So I think in the future after this project, I’m going to make sure I don’t work on weekends, and try to work outside of my bedroom more often. It’s been a freezing winter here in Calgary so leaving the house hasn’t been very appealing, but now that it’s all sunshine and warm weather outside (at least, it BETTER be, Mother Nature…I swear, we had snow in JUNE here last year, go Canada!) grabbing my laptop and heading out into the warm sun sounds a lot nicer than being cooped up inside!

The day after Derek was done his part of the project, I decided that even though I still have a lot of work to do, I needed a day to recover and relax. So that night I drank my face off at the bar with my friends (haha okay maybe THAT part wasn’t the best plan), slept in, and when I woke up I didn’t even LOOK at my laptop, desktop, MacBook, iDevices, gaming news sites, etc…I just txt’ed my girl that I’d be coming over and then turned my phone off for the day, completely off the grid. I hung with her for the day and we ran some errands, watched a movie, took a nap, and I slept for like 16 hours that night. I made sure that if I thought about the game at all or about checking my E-Mail or even about telling her how things were going with it, I’d completely cut that thought/action off immediately and focus on whatever we were doing or watching. It was absolutely what I needed, to just completely reset my psyche and de-stress. The next day I woke up feeling back to 100% and like a completely different person, and now I’m able to tackle the rest of the stuff I have to do with a renewed gusto.

Sometimes being lazy is the best medicine, haha

Email: Jeff Hangartner | Web: iPhone Game - Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief

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