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I hack away at side projects all the time. They're a way to indulge this absurd passion I have for creating interactive things, without having to think about my day job. You see, when you make games for a living, you're working under all sorts of constraints and restrictions. You can't choose to do things the way you want to, unless that's also the choice the stakeholders you answer to want to make. No choice is ever just made - every change to a game, every decision on a path forward, is a series of negotiations and compromises.
Helmuth von Moltke's famous quote, translated roughly as "No plan survives contact with the enemy intact" pretty much sums up the problem and the reality. We're not enemies, obviously, but when it comes to getting done the things you want personally, it can feel that way. Ask any frustrated level designer that ended up on a mmo that wasn't nearly as much like WoW as he'd like. Short of a complete mutiny in which you oust the guy calling the shots (something that would get you fired at anywhere but at a ridiculously incompetent studio), what can you do? Nothing. You grit your teeth and you make the compromise because at the end of the day, that's your job when you're a professional game developer. Read more»