Young Dutch indie developer Lente is something of a free spirit. Never really comfortable in the education system, she dropped out of college twice before embarking on her debut game, Spilled!, last year as a solo developer. Growing up living on a ship made a profound impression on her, leading her to buy an old boat for herself. After renovating it with her mother, she now lives and works there. On Twitter, she’s known to her 13K+ followers as ‘dev on a boat’.
Her upcoming game, Spilled!, is a cozy experience centered around cleaning up oil spills with a boat. “I grew up very close to nature and always quickly noticed when things weren’t the way they were supposed to be”, she says. “Making an eco-conscious game just really made sense to me.” She admits that living by herself and working solo can get quite lonely. However, once the engine of her boat is restored, she plans on traveling around. “I hope to go on little adventures, not staying in the same place too much, doing the same thing.”
Why did you become a solo developer?
“Making games is the perfect creative outlet for me. I’m also quite the nerd so that helps! I believe games can really bring people together and make a change. We all know it in some way, from playing tag as a kid, to playing chess or sports as an adult. Most people play in some way!”
“I went to school twice for game dev, both times did not work out. It’s because there’s not really a course that does exactly what I want it to, and because school in general is not really my thing. Working for a company also isn’t preferred, since I really like to have everything in my own hands. Besides, I like having my own company!”
What are the biggest advantages of working solo?
“Full creative control, deciding on your own times, being able to travel.”
And the biggest pitfalls?
“Money. You need to be able to earn a comfortable amount or else it can quickly get overwhelming together with a day job! It will take a long time to get to that point going solo. There’s no one to keep you in check, so you’re 100% responsible for your own mistakes. Oh wait, maybe that’s a good thing.”
What’s your creative process?
“Good question, I don’t believe I have a deliberate creative process. I’m just a big day dreamer. So really I’m always thinking about stuff!”
How do you stay motivated through (years of) development?
“For me personally, it’s not only development I’m interested in, but also the process of building a community and business. And these work together pretty well! I make something new, and I use that for building community and marketing. That said, sometimes it really is hard. That’s part of the reason why I want to prioritise making smaller games after Spilled!. Spilled! was already meant to be a small game, and it is, but it’s still taking me quite long due to skills and life.”
Will you ever work in a team or is it only solo for you?
“It will be solo for me for the foreseeable future! I’m pretty bad at working together with others and quickly want to take charge. Maybe I can work at a small indie company, I guess I haven’t tried. Who knows, it’s all a bit of an experiment for me too, and I don’t know much more beyond my feelings.”
How did you get the idea for Spilled?
“I grew up very close to nature, and always quickly noticed when things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. Making an eco conscious game really just made sense to me. I hope to bring even a slight awareness to people, but most importantly inspiring others to make similar games. People are definitely interested in them!”
What’s the biggest lesson learned from this project?
“One of the most important things is being able to keep your project small. There’s a lot more to a game than you might think at first, and things always take longer than you want them too. This is exactly the biggest challenge I faced as well. Even though Spilled! is a short game at around 1 hour of playtime, I’ve already spent close to a year on it. That isn’t all development though, but still!”
The toll on your mental health can be quite high for solo developers. How do you deal with that?
“Well, I am currently dealing with that. I can’t really give you an answer, but I can acknowledge that it is indeed the case for me too. I now try to take a ‘forced’ distance away from working, to do other things like reading a book or going for a walk. Since most of my work is done alone, it can get lonely too. I try to meet up with friends more often.”
“And once the engine of my boat works, I hope to go on little adventures, to not be in the same place as much doing the same thing. And in the future, with a more stable income (one can only hope). I want to travel further and longer distances. I imagine that would really help me personally!”