How I Stay in Love with My Side Project

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hi, I’m Delphine, AKA Dziff!

I’m a French game artist and illustrator, and I’m living in Montreal, Canada.

I’ve been working in video games for about ten years, and I’m also part of the Klondike Collective. I’m an independent, and I split my time between commissioned projects as an art director and game artist, and my own personal game projects.

My games are usually small experimental experiences, with calm and relaxing atmospheres.

Back in 2016, I made a game called Sacramento, and last year we released Stones of Solace.

home

Both are available under the pay-what-you-want system on itch.io, and I share those donations with my teams.

While most of my income does come from game making, those are mostly contract works!

What motivated you to get started with game development?

I have a couple of degrees in various art studies (a Bachelor of Arts, and then a Master of Digital Arts), with very academic focuses in drawing and art theory. So it was not very connected with video games, and I only discovered game development during my final internship.

In the first studio I worked at, we were mostly doing educational games, so we were working with a lot of constraints. It was my first experience, and where I kind of cut my teeth.

But I really enjoyed learning how to make games there, and I liked working on a very wide range of art styles. I stayed there for almost six years!

An important rule I had regarding the making of Stones of Solace was to only work on it if I was happy to do so.

Tweet
Share

At some point, I discovered the video games indie scene, and experimental games and game jams, and it really opened up new horizons!

Back in 2013, I started doing more personal and experimental projects aside from my day job. I think that was at a point where I'd made a lot of progress, and started to assert my own style. 2013 was also the year Klondike, our art collective, was created. Being surrounded by talented people was definitely motivating.

Then four years ago, I decided to stand on my own two feet and start working as a freelancer.

What does your process look like?

If I take the example of the making of Stones of Solace, it started on a vacation/gamedev trip, and then I kept working on it in small sessions during the year, when I had a pause between contract works, sometimes on weekends too, but never too long. Usually my personal projects have loose structures that allow for this non-continuous way of working.

Early in 2019, I decided I wanted to finish and eventually release the game, and my decision was then asserted when I started talks with Ice Water Games, who offered to help with the game release, and to make it part of their label.

Delphine's game, Stones of Solace

I put more time and effort in the game development from June to August, until the release. This was possible because my co-designer and coder, Armel, and I were only part-time busy during this period, so we could take some time to finish the game.

Then we simply put the game on Steam and itch.io, made some announcements on various social media platforms, and sent mail to the press, with the help of Ice Water Games.

An important rule I had regarding the making of Stones of Solace was to only work on it if I was happy to do so. Building those little scenes was, at first, a way for me to relax, too, and when it started to look like something I could release, it felt wrong to put pressure on myself.

When it comes to personal projects, I’m not very patient and usually need to have quick results to avoid getting bored or discouraged. So I generally start to experiment in Unity very quickly, from a first concept art, and then iterate and add content progressively!

What inspires your games?

My games are often inspired by memories of places. I love to explore the idea of scenery telling you a story.

Both Sacramento and Stones of Solace were started during or after a big trip. Sacramento was made right after a train trip across the US, where I collected different views of the landscape in watercolors. I started working on Stones of Solace during a trip in Indonesia for Game Jam Island 2 organized by Free Lives, another game studio. I didn’t travel much outside of Europe, so both were very striking experiences.

Another reason I like scenery might be that I’m not very good when it comes to writing stories or dialog, so usually I tend to find solutions to make my games as silent as possible. Sceneries can tell stories without the need for text.

I’m also following a lot of artists on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr from various range of fields like video games, animation, illustration, graphic design... etc.

My favorites are Eran Hilleli, Heather Penn, and Maruti Bitamin but there are a lot more!

Delphine's game, Sacramento

Regarding video games, I love short and contemplative games. Of course Journey and Abzu were very great experiences to me, but I also really enjoyed Child of Light, Old Man’s Journey, and Sword and Sworcery.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

A few things I’ve learned during these last years:

  • Being totally free is not always the best way to be creative. You sometimes need to create your own constraints to actually start something! Starting small is usually more effective.
  • You can burn yourself out doing something you love. When you’re passionate about your work, it can also easily lead you to work overtime and compromise your health and self care. Slow down!
  • A balance between creativity and being able to pay the bills is obviously important.

You can burn yourself out doing something you love.

Tweet
Share

As for me, after working for six years in a video game company, I chose to become a freelancer, and now most of my income is from contract work.

The question of making money out of my (own) games was quickly dropped, for several reasons.

First of all, supporting myself on my games asks for business and overall skills (running a company? contacting publishers? getting funding? marketing? etc.) that I don’t feel like I could or want to handle. Second, I want to keep a total creative freedom in the making of these games. And third, I didn’t want to pressure myself with the players expectations (if they’d bought my games)

For now, this is working for me, but there are many ways to find this balance!

Where can we go to learn more?

On my website or my Twitter & Instagram

Thank you for reading, please feel free to post in the comments if you have any questions!

Dziff , Founder of Dziff Games

Want to build your own business like Dziff Games?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

We're a few thousand founders helping each other build profitable businesses and side projects. Come share what you're working on and get feedback from your peers.

Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 2

    This is super awesome and i do find the game art intriguing.

  2. 2

    It is excellent that you have found your life's purpose and have made decisions that give you creative freedom. It seems the core of Indie Hackers is negotiating the space between regular income and keeping their dreams alive. There seem many paths to this, the endgame usually being that your passion becomes your income. There seem many paths to this and you seem to have found a great balance for yourself. Awesome. Also I love your style.