Over the course of Yandere Simulator’s development, a lot of people have expressed an interest in learning exactly how I spend my time. I’ve created a pie chart that should help you visualize what an average two-week period is like for me:
On a day-to-day basis, those numbers can change. If the next update doesn’t involve voice acting, then “Speaking to Voice Actors” drops to 0% for a while. If the next update involves tons of animations, then “Speaking to Animators” jumps up to 20% for a bit. And, obviously, “Making Videos” doesn’t happen every single day, but if we’re looking at a 2-week period, it’ll probably take up about 5% of my time at some point.
There are also a whole bunch of miscellaneous things that I didn’t bother adding to the pie chart because they each take up less than 1% of my total time. Speaking to manufacturers about potential merchandise, speaking to web developers about the website, speaking to publications who want an interview, etc. All of this stuff adds up…but, individually, it doesn’t have much place on a pie chart.
There was a point in time when I was receiving around 100~150 e-mails every day. This was very frustrating, which led to me making numerous “Stop E-mailing Me!” blog posts.
Fortunately, I can report that things have improved drastically since then. Recently, I have only been getting around 50 e-mails every day. This is definitely an improvement over how things were before. The amount of e-mails that I currently receive every day is easily manageable, and does not impose serious problems on the game’s development.
Out of all the e-mails I get every day, about 50% of them require no answer, or can be answered within 10 seconds. The other 50% are very significant and important e-mails from volunteers. If I didn’t take time to correspond with those volunteers, then the game wouldn’t have most of the content it currently possesses. It’s true that answering these e-mails gives me less time to actually program the game, but it also results in super-talented individuals producing excellent content for the game.
If I get a bug report, I stop reading e-mails to go fix the bug. If I get a new asset, I stop reading e-mails to go plug the asset into the game. By the time I am done reading my e-mails, I have fixed numerous bugs and plugged in several new assets / features. On most days, it takes me about 6 hours to get through all of my e-mail, but that’s because I am fixing bugs and implementing new features in-between e-mails.
On some days (only about two days per month) it takes me about 12 hours to get through all of my e-mail. This only occurs if I go a day without being able to check my e-mail, which means that, the next day, I’ll have twice the regular amount of e-mail to read and reply to.
Why is the game’s development so slow?
Is it truly slow? Or, is it actually moving at a completely normal pace?
Let’s look at other one-man indie game projects:
- Iji by Daniel Remar – 4 years
- Axiom Verge by Thomas Happ – 4 years
- Stardew Valley by Eric Barone – 4 years
- Retro City Rampage by Brian Provinciano – 5 years
Other noteworthy indie projects:
- A Hat In Time – 5 years
- Cuphead – 7 years
- Owlboy – 9 years
Work on “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” began immediately after Skyward Sword was released (2011). The game wasn’t announced until 2014, we didn’t get gameplay footage until 2016, and the game wasn’t released until 2017. This is the typical cycle for a game’s development: the devs work on it for 3 years before giving you a brief glimpse of it, and you don’t even get to see gameplay until it’s 1 year from completion. This is why it doesn’t feel like you have to wait very long for a normal video game; because you don’t even know about it until most of the work has already been done. If you’re judging a game’s development time from “announcement” to “release” then you’re not judging it correctly.
I’m following a completely different strategy with Yandere Simulator; I’ve been showing you the game’s development since day 1. I’ve shown you the game in an embarrassingly primitive state, and I’ve shown you every weird bug along the way. It feels like you’ve been waiting a long time because you’ve been watching it every step of the way, which isn’t the case for a normal game.
At the time of this blog post, Yandere Simulator has been in development for 27 months and is around 45% complete. That’s a pretty normal pace for an ambitious game with a large scope being made by a very small team.
Allow me to take a moment to explain something about “standard” game development:
Most game projects have a Lead Artist who tells the other artists what to do, a Lead Animator who tells the other animators what to do, a Lead Modeller who tells the other modellers what to do, etc. The game’s director is the one who tells the Leads what to do.
On the Yandere Simulator project, I play the role of “Lead” for every department; I give instructions to artists, animators, composers, modellers, voice actors, etc. I can only write code with whatever time is left over after I’m done speaking to all of the people contributing to the project.
(I’m not trying to whine or beg for pity, I’m just telling you how things are.)
I would have a lot more time to write code if I wasn’t spending half my day corresponding with volunteers. However, it’s pretty important for me to speak with the volunteers; I hate to repeat myself, but, like I said above, if I didn’t take time to correspond with those volunteers, then the game wouldn’t have most of the content it currently possesses.
You might think that the obvious solution is to bring some people on-board the project to serve as Leads so that I don’t have to spend my time performing Lead duties. However, even if I did appoint a bunch of Leads, I would still have to play the role of the game’s director (communicating with the Leads every day) which wouldn’t be any different from the situation that I’m currently in.
(Being a Lead is a very demanding and time-consuming job. The type of people who are qualified to be Leads usually won’t do it for free. After the game’s crowdfunding campaign, I may have enough money to hire a team of professionals…but at this point in time, it’s simply not possible.)
This is the nature of a game project where the lead programmer is also responsible for…well, literally every aspect of the game’s development; there is very little time in the day for writing code and adding features. This is why the game’s progress may appear to be slow; it’s because absolutely everything that happens must pass through a bottleneck who is named “YandereDev”.
Hopefully, now you understand why “one-man projects” take 4~5 years to complete, what I do with my time every day, and why I have a history of trying to discourage people from sending unproductive e-mail.
P.S. – I’m pretty sure that someone is going to make a parody of the image at the top of this blog post. To save you some time, I’ve done it myself.