From Orbit is a game that I’ve been working on slowly in my spare time for over a year now. It began as one prototype out of many on a project that was ultimately canceled. Then it was a game jam at the end of 2015. And since then it has been a slow burning side project.

From Orbit Game Jam - Dec 2015

The idea:

As a small crew of intrepid space explorers you land on each planet, scout for resources, build defenses, and try to hold out against the wilderness and hostile aliens long enough to gather the resources that make the trip worthwhile, before escaping back to orbit, and heading on to even greater challenges.

Ideas, as they say, are cheap, and execution is everything and also not cheap. Hundreds of ideas are considered and passed over during game development projects, for almost as many reasons. I’ve chosen to focus on From Orbit because it hits a few key criteria for me:

  • It sounds like fun to me
  • It sounds like fun to at least 5 other people who are not me or my mom.
  • The core idea can be kept reasonably small, within the scope possible to complete mainly by a single person (me), with some freelance contract work to fill in some specialized areas where needed (mainly audio), all in a reasonable amount of time (about a year).
  • For everything that needs doing on the project, I’ve either done it before on another team, or am interested in and relatively confident that I’ll be able to learn the skills needed for things that will be pushing my limits. (And I can afford to pay some friends to fill in the blanks…)

I’ve shipped multiple games with teams large (150+) and small (~15) but creating an entire game - even a relatively small one - (mostly) by yourself is different kind of challenge, one that I’ve tried and failed multiple times in the past, often before ever really getting off the ground.

This go around, in addition to more years of industry experience, I also have a new found appreciation for, and some greater ability in, that wonderful skill known as time management.

In 2016 I set myself the goal of learning something new every day of the year. In a way, From Orbit is my final exam. Can I take what I learned throughout 2016 and apply it to complete a project of some scale in 2017?

To that end I’ve saved up some money and have taken a six month sabbatical from work to focus full time on From Orbit. I’m now one month in.

In the next part of this update, I’ll break down how things have been going and what I’ve accomplished so far.