Jordan Mochi has been working on his debut game Conscript for 6 years under the name of Catchweight Studio. Despite being a solo dev all that time, he never really struggled with his motivation. “I feel like I was put on Earth to make this game”, he says. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of my 20’s to make this game, and so I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that wasn’t in vain.” The Australian developer had no previous experience when he decided to download GameMaker and give it a go.
Working on the game completely by himself has been tough at times. When asked what the advantages of working solo are, he answered: “There aren’t too many honestly, and the few positives are probably outweighed by the massive workload and stress.” He wouldn’t mind working in a team for a possible next project. “At a minimum, I’d want to create a smaller team to offload a lot of the stuff I don’t enjoy doing. Of course, all of this depends on the success of Conscript, so fingers crossed!” Mochi found a publisher in Team17 and expects to release the game in 2024.
Why did you become a solo developer?
“I first started in March of 2017 while studying history at the University of Melbourne. It was a dream that I always had as a child but never pursued it because high school has a certain way of crushing your dreams. So one day I just decided to download GameMaker and give game development a go! There was a lot of intense learning and frustration in the first few years because I had no gamedev experience before this, but here I am!”
What are the biggest advantages of working solo?
“There aren’t too many honestly, and the few positives are probably outweighed by the massive workload and stress! However, I’d say that not having to ever defer to anybody to make creative decisions is a blessing. It’s my vision, so I can just do whatever I see fit – and I can also get it done quicker than if that decision had to be filtered through multiple people. Being able to make my own schedule is also great. That being said, I do try to stick to normal and consistent hours.”
And the biggest pitfalls?
“It’s very easy to let development as a solo developer take over your entire life and it is very hard to achieve work life balance, because the progress of the game depends on you and only you.”
What’s your creative process?
“A lot of ideas seem to come to me completely out of nowhere to be honest. It’s quite strange. Some of the best moments and sequences of the game would come to me often without even trying to think about them, often while doing something mundane. Sometimes it feels like the more I consciously try to think of good ideas and solutions, the more futile it is. There were times where I’ve merely felt like some sort of vessel and the ideas are communicated through me by some higher power. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s genuinely how I feel at times.”
How do you stay motivated through (years of) development?
“Motivation has never really been something I’ve struggled with. I feel like I was put on Earth to make this game! Once a certain amount of years go past, it becomes too much of a time commitment to take any steps backwards. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my 20’s to make this game, and so I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that wasn’t in vain.”
Will you ever work in a team or is it only solo for you?
“I’d definitely love to in the future! I don’t think I could do the whole solo dev thing again – it’s just too stressful and too much work. At a minimum, I’d want to create a smaller team to offload a lot of the stuff I don’t enjoy doing. Of course, all of this depends on the success of Conscript, so fingers crossed!”
You worked on Conscript for 6 years and in that time the project changed direction a couple of times. What were the biggest changes over time?
“Over such a long period of time it’s natural for the project to change quite a bit, especially in the first few years. Originally the game was going to have you time travel to different time periods throughout history, but I realized pretty soon that the scope was too large so I had to settle on one period. When I settled on WW1, originally you played as an Englishman in an unknown trench and there were some more supernatural elements planned.”
“I eventually settled on Verdun for a few reasons. The primary reason was because the bright blue French uniform contrasted well with the browns of the trenches, and made for a very visually distinct player character – which is especially important when the game is so low resolution. The Battle of Verdun also allowed me to have quite a bit of environmental variety in the game, as the French and Germans fought in trenches, underground bunkers, big 18th century forts and also in ruined towns. So that was also an important factor for me.”
“Early on I also decided to scrap the supernatural elements from the plans I had, as I felt it only cheapened the story I was trying to tell. The horrors of war are disturbing enough without having to make up fiction.”
What’s the biggest lesson learned from this project?
I learn valuable lessons every day from this journey! A few of the top of my head:
- Never be afraid to ask more experienced people in the industry for help.
- Go with your gut feeling. If your intuition agrees with the decision you made, it was the right one.
- Don’t turn down opportunities to speak about your game. Sometimes the ripple effect can be huge, even if it takes years.
The toll on your mental health can be quite high as a solo developer. How do you deal with that?
“It definitely can be. I don’t think there is a way to make a game of this scale solo without sacrificing some of your mental health in the process. Anybody who says otherwise is probably sugarcoating things. There are definitely ways to help reduce that toll though. It sounds obvious, but you need to be taking care of your physical health in a job like this. You need to be working out frequently and eating well if you’re going to be sitting for 10+ hours a day which I frequently do. I think the only way I’ve been able to do this for so long without dips in motivation is because I have been very strict with my health habits throughout the years.”