Interview With Daniel Doan Of Black Shell Media
07 February 2017
I reference the game industry a lot in my blog posts, so I decided to reach out to someone who has way more experience than me in it. In fact, he is working full time on his passion for making + publishing video games and is succeeding. He is also putting in a lot of work in helping others find success in the industry as well.
My guest is someone that many look up to because he has managed to turn a passion into a profitable business.
This is something so many of us are after and are already working towards. My hope is that this interview will give you a brief insight into the person behind the progress.
And with that, let’s begin.
LOK: Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
DD: I’m Daniel Doan, creator of SanctuaryRPG, Overture, and Co-Founder at Black Shell Media, an indie game publishing, and marketing studio. I’ve been designing games for over 11 years, and have spent the past few years trying to help indie game developers become more successful.
LOK: First things first… What’s your favorite success quote?
DD: I really love the quote, “Full effort is full victory.” by Mahatma Gandhi. I personally live by it. It helps me re-frame my thoughts whenever I’m struggling with something. It’s hard to move forward sometimes in the face of challenges, but the quote reminds me that it’s all about putting in as much effort as you can.
LOK: We know that success doesn’t come easy. What major challenge almost made you want to give up on pursuing your passion in game development? What did you do to overcome it?
DD: There was a point when I was completely burnt-out while working on the game SanctuaryRPG. I had to take a break for a month to recharge my passion for making games. It was super rough because I had initially thought that I would never get burnt-out.
I was wrong. The long hours and stress of managing a large remote team caught up to me. Not to mention the self-doubt that comes as a result of working long and hard on something that you aren’t even sure will pay off in the long run.
I had to pause.
However, during the time, we received great feedback from the community. This was actually one of my personal primary motivating factors. I honestly wouldn’t have continued development for much longer if it weren’t for the community. Every time I shared a playable build of the game, many would download it and give overall positive feedback.
Also, during the break, I began work on a different project (which would later be Overture).
LOK: We can’t avoid obstacles. But we can’t avoid victories either if we persist and remain determined to achieve our goals. What one accomplishment so far do you cherish the most and why?
DD: The accomplishment that I cherish the most would be making enough money from one of my first paychecks in game development to finally go full-time. It’s really a struggle to keep the lights on as an indie developer, but I knew that I was on the right track once I started getting enough revenue to continue at it as a career instead of just a hobby.
This victory was significant.
You see, when it came to business, I definitely made the transition towards sustainability. I had to prioritize that. It’s all about having the financial means to continue doing what you love. If you are pursuing your passion, you will encounter moments when you have to shift focus from what you thought you should do, to what you really should do at the time.
And in the interest of your dream, sometimes it takes the deferment of that dream in the short term to reach the long term. Sustainability was important.
I decided to really double down on my strength as a marketer and game designer—even though I thoroughly enjoy programming. These days, I actually don’t code as much as I’d like to.
LOK: The people we meet on our journey often play a significant role in contributing to our progress. How important to you is developing relationships with like-minded people?
DD: Developing relationships with like-minded people is my secret to success. I honestly wouldn’t be here without all of the awesome friends that I made along the way. Plus the colleagues that have worked with me throughout the years to help my projects come to life.
When developing relationships it’s also important to find people who are able to cover your bases and help you out with things that you aren’t very good at. I personally am horrible at art, and so I’ve collaborated a lot with others who are much more skilled in that aspect of game development.
LOK: So, any big plans for the near future that you want to share with us?
DD: Right now I’m working as hard as possible to bring more value to the indie game development community, with a huge focus on education. All developers, regardless of where they are in their journey, could benefit from more knowledge based on actual experience. The industry isn’t static and continues to evolve. I’m learning, applying and sharing.
I write a lot on video game marketing, game design best practices, productivity, and my thoughts on certain happenings in the game industry. It’s a great fit for me since I love helping others achieve greater success in their careers.
Thank you, Daniel Doan, for the great interview.
As you can probably tell, Daniel is focused on success and is determined continuously make progress on what is passionate about. He is also spending his time and energy helping others achieve the same.
Although we didn’t dive deep into his past experiences, I’m sure you can tell that the road to success is no “walk in the park” for anyone. We are inevitably going to go through experiences that will test our commitment to achieving our goals.
As dreamers, it is up to us to let those experiences positively build our character. Our mindset and attitude towards pursuing our passion play a crucial role in actually helping us attain that which we seek most.
With the right mindset, we can face any obstacle and realize opportunities we would have missed if we weren’t in the right frame of mind.
If you are a game developer or just someone that has decided to turn their passion into a business, consider prioritizing sustainability. You probably have ideas and projects you are dying to bring to life. However, without a plan to support yourself financially, you might not be able to work on a lot of those ideas.
Also, building the right kinds of associations and spending time with like-minded people can help get you further, faster. You can save yourself years of having to learn crucial things about your industry by simply working with people who are experts in areas that you are not.
Thanks for that Daniel.
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