The Story of Independent Ben

Hoooo boy. Here we go. Gotta catch this baby up. This is my first post about what I’m doing in a LONG time. I haven’t blogged since I wrote Detonator in 2009. Let me start from about there.

After writing Detonator and then spending a year or so of game contracting with Infrared 5 and others using Unity, I went back to work for Vicarious Visions (VV) in 2010. This ended up being a fantastic decision. I’ve written about my time at VV in my About page, but the long and short of it is that I worked on some awesome projects in the Skylanders franchise. It was great – great people, challenging work in a big time environment – an awesome experience. After a while though, it became evident that VV wasn’t gonna be my final stop.

I have spent the last 10 years working to learn everything I’d need to make my own games. It’s a lot of stuff! While my work at studios was satisfying in many ways, being behind the safe curtain of a large company insulates you from so much as a gamemaker. I wanted to experience all the fears and freedoms of building my own product. I’ve never organically followed my own prototype to polished experience. I’ve never talked directly to my customers (in games at least) and cultivated a fan base. I’ve rarely been able to talk to other developers about what I’m currently working on. All of these things were growing increasingly important to me as my career went on. Grass is greener maybe? Who knows! But… I wanted to make my own games.

So that’s nice that I want to do that, right? Well sometimes you need a reason to break out of routine and start getting serious about your life goals. For me, this started when I came down with a nasty case of Lyme Disease in 2012. This led to some dark days and a lot of reflection about what is important. Getting better took over a year. I still deal with complications. VV was immensely supportive. I came out of it feeling that life is short and you can’t put off your dreams forever. Get busy livin…

Then my wife Kristin got pregnant in late 2013. (I hate it when people say “we” got pregnant. She got pregnant. Nothing happened to me.) After spending a much of my son’s infant years with my nose down in work at the office, I started thinking about how I didn’t want to repeat that with the new baby. So family was also a major factor in my decision.

We had our baby girl at home in April. It was fantastic and went very smoothly. If you need birth tub tips I’m your guy. Well, except for the time I drained it into the bathroom floor/kitchen ceiling. Learn from my mistakes!

Shortly after the birth, once I came up for air, I put in my notice and started down this new path.

Ironically, I started with a sabbatical that focused on family and warmer weather. I knew that I needed some time to decompress from years of deadlines to figure out what I wanted to make. I stole away a bit of time and did a good 9 hours on Ludum Dare 29 and made a terrible VR game called VR Mowing Hero 2014. I went to half of the Boston VR Bender and started what would become my first project, Headmaster. I helped friends with their projects and worked as much as I could, maybe quarter-time. For the majority of the spring and summer though, I was family Ben. We had a real summer vacation with real relaxation – as much as possible with a baby. I learned to sail my sunfish (poorly). We hadn’t had a real summer… ever. It was awesome.

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Sometimes we even used the sail.

With the family in balance and the brain clear, I got into a project in the fall. Now that I’m getting a bit of traction on that project I’m looking forward to connecting with people by writing on here more often. Follow me on Twitter to get updates of new posts or just drop a comment!

One thought on “The Story of Independent Ben

  1. Pingback: Headmaster Prototype at The Boston VR Bender | Ben Throop

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