You know why I named my new company Happion Laboratories?
Because I'm all about the pursuit-of-happiness with it.
And I'm going to talk about that some at iFest.
Come on by!
You know why I named my new company Happion Laboratories?
Because I'm all about the pursuit-of-happiness with it.
And I'm going to talk about that some at iFest.
Come on by!
I'm already pretty stressed out and anxious and replaying constructive criticism in my head over-and-over and second-guessing myself about stuff. I know, after it launches, I'm going to have trouble separating my sense of personal self-worth from how it does - kind of like after Schizoid launched and I was depressed for two months.
And I've also heard I'll need a thick skin. Again, just like with a normal product launch, though then there are also sometimes weird semi-personal attacks with Kickstarter. But no, I don't have a thick skin. That's not my default state, anyway.
So what am I going to do?
I'm going to do a lot of positive self-talk. I'm thinking about this quote:
"My hat's in the ring. The fight's on and I'm stripped to the buff." - Teddy Roosevelt
Yeah, I'd rather have my hat in the ring then never try and wonder what might have happened. And in that sense, no matter how 'succesful' it is financially, it'll be a success just to be there. Just to press that green candylike button.
And I'll have to keep reminding myself of that, over and over. Already a success. Already a success.
That means celebrating the launch is just as important as celebrating the outcome. So I'm going to do some kind of live party / celebration thing tomorrow, but still not sure when and not what - twitch.tv? Live tweeting? Something. I'll keep you posted.
Here's a cautionary tale on Indie Game development from Matt Gilgenbach. Some people think that - particularly with console development - you'll get out of it at least what you put into it. Not so - my experiences with Schizoid and Matt's experiences with this say otherwise. There's no sure thing in indie game dev.
And it also goes to show migrating from AAA to Indie is harder than you might think. It is almost a completely different sport, seems like.
A couple possible 'mistakes' that Matt didn't call out explicitly (or if he did, I spaced at that moment) that it's easy for us ex-AAA people to fall into:
I did this with Schizoid and with the Richard Garfield game that endlessly chased publisher funding to no avail. Oh yeah, and Sixty Second Shooter. With Schizoid and Sixty Second Shooter it was arguably the right call, because it let me have "first game with such-and-such tech" PR stories, but who can say for sure. Anyhow, my own internal logic went something like this - and maybe Matt shared it: "This is a really simple indie game. Therefore it'll be easy to write our own engine." And then later, when we decided to add awesome post-processing shaders or network play or this that and the other already solved feature, it became a burden. (And another thing that led me down the path is it's also fun to write your own engine.) But you have to ask yourself: are you a game developer or an engine developer?
Obviously there are plenty of hugely succesful indie games out there where they wrote their own engine, so it's hard to say making your own engine is clearly a mistake, but you also have to wonder - would given succesful indie game X *not* have been succesful if they used a pre-existing engine?
I have a difficult thought to articulate here. It's not cut-and-dry. I keep rewriting this paragraph as I think about it. As indie developers showing our work to people, whether it's just youtube videos or alphas or showing it off at conferences and contests - we're going to get more feedback on our work than we could respond to in our lifetime. That can be murder on a perfectionist. A lot of people-on-the-internet complained about the graphics in my first trailer for Energy Hook, and since I've became perhaps overly concerned with making it look better, even though the game isn't supposed to be about the graphics, it's about the gameplay. The graphics are supposed to be a means to an end and while I'd like them to look distinctive and consistent and not bad it's certainly a mistake for me to waste time trying to compete in that arena. And yet I have been anyway.
On the other hand, a place where feedback can be really beneficial is when there's some feature or fix that I think might be important - and none of the players I show the game to seem to notice. There can be a massive time savings there as I punt on the feature or fix that nobody cares about. Matt might have saved some serious time not working on things if he resisted the temptation to add features that nobody asked for?
So, you need feedback, not just to find out what you should fix but also to find out what you don't have to fix. But some stuff that feedback says you should fix - you shouldn't. And that's the really tough part. How to decide. Maybe asking- "Is this going to be one of my actual players or is this just a random internet troll who isn't going to play my game anyway because he just wants the next CoD?" -is a good place to start...
And speaking of feedback, I'm looking for more. I'm selecting just a few people to look at an early pre-alpha build of Energy Hook to figure out what I should fix before showing it to journalists before the Kickstarter. If you'd like to, and have a few hours to play it and write up some thoughtful, specific feedback, comment here or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll put your name in the hat. Let me know what kind of computer you have and whether you're a mouse/keyboard or gamepad sort of person.
I have a big problem with holding grudges. Particularly when it comes to companies. I never want to do business with Bank of America, Creative Labs, The Game Crafter, or HP again. (Of course, I probably own stock in BofA and HP thanks to mutual funds, etc. The irony.)
Turns out that holding grudges is an unhappiness habit. It's spelled out in detail in The How Of Happiness. And they have a trick for dealing with it - you write a letter of forgiveness. You don't send it, you just write it.
It mostly works. As a grudge resurfaces, sending waves out over the surface of my mind, I remember, "Hey, I already forgave them for that." And then I can move on and think of something else. (But as the years pass, I find I may need to write another letter ... if the grudge is buried deep.)
Well, I've been in a crap mood this afternoon after dealing with Assembla and their support team and what probably to most people seem like a few innocuous e-mails. So I guess it's time to write another letter.
I forgive you. Although I honestly was just trying to provide helpful feedback on your company's services, maybe I came on too strong, maybe there was some miscommunication, or maybe you were having a bad day, so it's understandable that you wouldn't read my e-mails very carefully; it's understandable that you'd remind me that I'm not entitled to any support at all as a free user; it's understandable that you'd tell me 'we can’t spend any more time helping you at this point'; I can almost even understand why you'd close all my help tickets, the ones you previously asked me to open, and marked them as 'resolved' ... perhaps you think I'm just another entitled internet troll, trying to waste your company's time and money, for fun, inventing problems where there are none.
Again, I honestly was trying to be helpful by taking the time to write up those help ticket reports about problems that I'd already worked around, and was only bringing them to your attention so future customers wouldn't suffer as I had; and by taking the time to demonstrate my issues (with a screenshot, even!)
Still, nobody enjoys negative feedback, no matter how valuable it is. Even if you're just an employee of the company that's receiving the feedback, who likes to hear the company they work for devalued? That's loyalty, and I appreciate that.
And I forgive the whole Assembla company, as well - although they claim to have 'Outstanding Support' and from my perspective that doesn't seem to be the case, it's possible that I just got unlucky in the interactions I had with them, landing on ones who were not helpful and liked to remind me that my problems could be 'user error'.
And I forgive the Assembla company for having bad documentation. I suspect you're not getting any clients for the service, and the ones you are getting are probably running up your server costs as fast as they're bringing in revenue - if they're bringing in revenue at all, and not freeloading like I hoped to do. I suppose I could argue that if you had good documentation and friendly customer support, then I might have been converted to a paying customer and had nice things to say on my blog about you, which might have gotten you more paying customers, but that's a lottery ticket, yeah? And with server costs being so high, you might not want those customers anyway.
So. It all makes sense, and I don't know why I'm dwelling on it. Maybe it's because I had to spend two days trying to get your service to work and I'm harboring resentment over that, but who knows.
Okay, so this sounds sarcastic, but I am trying to genuinely believe what I say here. Hopefully it'll work and I'll stop dwelling and move on. It really was a pretty innocuous series of e-mail exchanges. I am probably just overly sensitive. I forgive you. I forgive you. I will try to think no more on it.
I thought I was pretty awesome after Spider-Man 2. Thought I could do anything. And there I was on a team with other Spider-Man 2 vets and none other than Richard Garfield of Magic: The Gathering fame, making Schizoid. How could we possibly fail? So much awesome in one team!
Well, one of the reasons we could fail was because our team size was too big, but I've discussed that already.
Another reason was pure hubris. We thought we knew better than our players.
I've been a believer in playtesting for decades - you watch the playtests and you figure out what went wrong and you fix it. And we did quite a lot of playtesting with Schizoid. The problem was we ignored a lot of the results. People would have valid responses - specific feedback - "Feels like your ship moves too slow" or "I hate these star shaped enemies! HATE THEM!"
(These two criticisms were actually closely related, IMO. Your avatar moves pretty fast in Schizoid, if you're talking 'how long does it take to get from one side of the level to the other' or 'how many character-lengths do you travel per second' but often they didn't feel fast when you had a skulk (our name for the star-shaped enemies) bearing down on you.)
And we would say, "Well, they just don't *get* it. The skulks are supposed to be almost as fast as you, because that's what forces you to work together with the other player, and use strategies x, y, and z. Why, the skulks are practically the heart of the game!"
And - this is related to team size - all it takes is one or two people who are resistant to change to convince the others that, yes, our way was the right way.
So we shipped the game our way and, strangely enough, the reviewers and players had the same complaints as the playtesters. Huh. Go figure.
So, here's something I try to remember when I'm getting feedback, even if I think it's wrong. And this is true not only of games but any creative endeavor - that feedback I'm getting? That's the player's reaction. Maybe they don't "get it" - maybe they're "wrong" - but somehow my game has elicited this reaction in them. And if I'm not going to fix it, I'm going to have to somehow change the game so they "get it". Because once we ship, reviewers and players are going to have the same reaction. (Side note: on platforms where it's easy to do updates it might be okay to learn these lessons after you ship...)
For example, in Schizoid, maybe an intermediate enemy, a sort of immature skulk, that would gently introduce the player to skulk-fighting, would have helped.
So, I've convinced you of the importance of feedback. Another question is how do you get it, beyond playtesting. Sometimes it's hard to get negative criticism. (Sometimes it's as easy as posting a trailer to YouTube.) People want to be nice, and they damn you with faint praise.
One little trick I've found helps? Mention how someone else doesn't like something. "A friend of mine said this was crap but he wouldn't tell me why. I don't know. What do you think?" When I do that, people start 'guessing' why the other person didn't like it - and their guesses are, of course, what they didn't like but were too nice to tell me.
Then there's the final problem that negative feedback hurts. I've never been great at taking critical feedback. It's something I've had to do for decades in various venues, whether it was creative writing workshops or bug reports or reviews of my games or what. And always, I feel it right in my chest, though I usually put on a brave face, take out my pencil, write it down, and, if necessary - ask if they can be more specific. (And then snap at my family later for no reason.)
Here are some things we can do to process critical feedback (which I forget to do all too often):
So, speaking of feedback, I could use some feedback on this: I just prettied up the Happion Labs / Energy Hook Facebook page yesterday, and intend to maintain it more actively, and have the occasional giveaway. Now, I can't help but notice that most of you haven't bothered to Like it. Hundreds of you visit the blog every day, and the candylike button is right there, and yet only sixty-something of you have actually clicked on it. So - why not?
And, for bonus points, what are some of your techniques for dealing with feedback?
Despite all my talk about being a happy game developer I'm actually super-anxious about the upcoming Kickstarter launch. I think I'm more anxious about it than I've been about any actual finished games I've shipped!
Why the heck is that?
A combination of things, I guess:
I don't know who she is or what her credentials are - in fact, it's possible she took a series of articles about how to do marketing for shoes, crossed out 'shoes' and wrote in 'games' - but this Emmy Jonassen has posted a bunch of very wise-sounding stuff about how to do a Kickstarter, and that's what I've lately been using for a playbook. I'm on phase two now. But I'm behind schedule. I was supposed to be contacting journalists weeks ago, and I wasn't able to bring myself to do that. (Though happily, Khris Golder of the up-and-coming GamerCheese actually reached out to me, and we got an interview up yesterday.)
After all, I'm supposed to have a teaser trailer ready first. So. Finally 'finished' that - and by 'finished' I mean cradling my head in my hands in front of my desk going "this looks so amateur", seeing nothing but flaws, so Cathy looked into my office and was all 'What's wrong?' so I showed her the video and she sat there in silence for a moment and then was just like, "Um ... is it done?" and my heart sank further and I was like, "Yeah, except for the music" ... which helped a lot, actually (George Ellinas - shit I forgot to credit him on the youtube page, brb) ... but I was not confident.
But, like I said in my post on perfectionism, sometimes you just have to set a deadline and ship what you've got.
And so yesterday I did the contacting journalists thing, more or less just as Ms. Jonassen described. (Though she says we're actually supposed to call people, like, on the phone? Who has their phone numbers listed anywhere?) And I heard back from a couple whom I already knew from previous games, who said they'd try to get something up - but mostly crickets.
So it was stressful and anxious-making. But I wouldn't call it unhappy. There's no way to get all the stress out of your life ... "You can't keep birds from landing on your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair." I still managed to get in some quality family time last night, watch some TV with the wife, get a good night's sleep.
And in the morning - fucking awesome! We're in Rock, Paper, Shotgun and ShogunGamer! And 1 out of 10 people who have watched the teaser trailer Liked it! And all these positive comments! (And I also have other positive news which I should keep secret for now.)
I'm over the moon. Maybe this will really work! But I like to think I'd still be happy even if I hadn't gotten that external validation.
Here's that trailer.
Finally saw Indie Game: The Movie last week and a recurring theme for all the indie developers they followed around seemed to be that they were depressed. In fact, the only one who seemed moderately cheerful actually seemed to be Edmund McMillen, which frickin' surprised me because he made Aether.
Maybe this was just a choice of the filmmakers, only showing the developers in their sad and vulnerable moments, and really everyone filmed was a lot more balanced ... or maybe making games is not as fun as most people think.
This is probably true for most Making of Art. Or anytime anyone does anything off the beaten path. You're filled with self doubt and insecure about your financial situation and think to yourself "Once I've Made It then I'll be happy" and then you Make It and you're happy for a little bit but then you're back to yourself again.
I don't know Phil Fish, but I'm willing to bet that he didn't suddenly become happy once Fez was out.
Even Jonathan Blow said that after Braid shipped and he saw the (awesome) reviews he got depressed because the reviewers didn't Get what he was going for. (I'm paraphrasing a bit there.) One of the most succesful indie games ever - and he was depressed! So that's a reminder. If you're killing yourself, making yourself miserable, to make a hit game, don't think that once it's a hit you'll be happy. Studies have shown people tend to return to their baseline levels of happiness, even after massively fortunate events occur, such as winning the lottery.
So. Step One: Be Happy. Step Two: Make Games. (For As Long As We Can Afford To.) That's been my mission statement lately.
But how can we just "Be Happy"? (Particularly after one of our games flops?) Happion Laboratories, studying happiness-in-game-development since 2012, endorses these books, which describe the process, and studies have shown they work:
Something in particular I'd like to call out is perfectionism. Something that was pretty clear about watching Phil Fish in Indie Game was that he suffered from perfectionism, which was one of the reasons Fez was so long in the making. They even showed some before and after pixel art and although the 'after' art was clearly better, it wasn't, say, twice as good, and I had to wonder, if I had played Fez with the 'before' art, wouldn't I still have been delighted? (Okay, so XBLA launch, which means once you ship it it's trapped in amber, so I totally understand polishing every last pixel to a fine gloss. But I still wonder.)
If you've been watching my Energy Hook trailers you know I haven't been suffering from perfectionism lately. (Like my little marketing trick there? I've turned the topic back to my product.) Even though I've been doing the 'art' because Paul's too busy, I'm still flopping it out for the world to see, every time hoping nobody will be too critical. Some people actually seem to like it the way it is; others realize the Real Art isn't in yet; and for the most part every new thing I deliver seems to garner more praise...this latest bit seems to have a few people really excited:
All in all I gotta say - not being perfectionistic has been perfectly fine so far. But you may ask, "Okay, Jamie, that sounds great, but how do I just stop being a perfectionist?" Well, Feeling Good has a few techniques for fighting perfectionism when it rears its ugly head, and I also had a post about it here.
12 days to the Kickstarter...
Doom and gloom time! Indie game development seems to be at a real low these days. For every news story about failure, I know at least another indie dev who dramatically undersold expectations but is keeping quiet about it, because of the law of social proof: if you publish a news story that says, "Well, our game tanked," a lot of people are going to think, "It was probably a bad game, then!"
Sometimes a game developer seems to do everything right - they're nominated for awards in the IGF and other indie shows; they spend years polishing their game to perfection, pouring their heart and soul into it; they build awareness in the interim with blogging and social marketing ... and then they sell five thousand copies, making much less than minimum wage. Why do some IGF finalists turn out to be Braid or Fez, while others ... don't? You got me.
But most of you know that, as I found out by posting that 'just how hard do you think indie game development is' survey a while back. My impression then was that a lot of people thought it was a pretty viable career choice - now I know most people have their head on straight and realize that trying to be an indie game developer is only marginally more sensible than trying to be a rock star or a novelist.
Now, for the few of you who just recently decided to become indie game developers, and are hard at work on your first game ... you poor fools ... I hope you have better financial success than I have had over the past several years ... but you may be wondering, "Just how long should I work on this thing?"
Should you just get a Minimally Viable Product out the door?
Should you work on it for as long as possible, going into debt, polishing it to the highest gloss?
I can't say that 'work on it as long as possible' doesn't work. This is the Braid / Fez / Castle Crashers / World of Warcraft strategy . It has produced some amazing financial successes. It's also pretty logically sound: we have a very hit-driven industry. If you want to make a hit, you're going to need to invest more than your competitors. And it used to be the only game in town - there were no platforms that allowed you to easily update your product and respond to feedback after you shipped.
But that's not true anymore. It's so easy to release incremental updates with so many of the new platforms that the 'it has to be perfect at ship' rule is simply not true anymore. They shipped Farmville after five weeks.
And there are so many other reasons not to go there. First, it's far from a guarantee - think of Gaksetball and Outwitters and games I won't name that spent a long time in development only to crash and burn. The risks are very high, and you're probably betting with your life savings rather than someone else's money.
Another reason is that every time a game ships and fails, a bunch of people seem to pick that moment to pipe up and say, "I knew that would fail, because you did X, Y, and Z wrong." Doesn't matter what X, Y, and Z are - maybe they're your team was too big and you didn't listen to your playtesters and you didn't do enough inbound marketing. (<cough>Schizoid</cough>) The thing is, there's about a zillion mistakes you can make and you may be reading a ton of blogs (like this one) telling you what not to do and you'll have covered your ass in a multitude of ways but you'll still probably miss some important things, and those things suddenly will be crystal obvious ... after you've shipped.
So, another argument for going for the Minimum Viable Product: because it's good to fail early. There's something about shipping that reveals your mistakes in a way that just plain old listening to feedback doesn't accomplish.
But we here at Happion Labs (and by 'we' I mean 'I') have a different reason to ship games that aren't yet perfect: because perfectionism is an unhappiness habit. Perfectionism usually means nothing is ever good enough. You're constantly focusing on that 1% that sucks instead of the 99% that's pretty good - and that's a drag. Being a perfectionist means making yourself miserable for years, thinking, "Once I ship a perfect game I'll be happy," only to find out that your game isn't perfect or - even if it is perfect - you're still not happy for some reason. The doom and gloom can hurt morale. And you risk never shipping, because you don't give yourself permission to fail.
So ... don't be a perfectionist. You might say, "Easier said than done!" and you might think I'm free of the devil of perfectionism, because all of the games I've made are deeply flawed in one way or another, and I shipped them anyway. (Not to mention my blog posts.) But perfectionism happens to me too. (Perfectionism bit me particularly hard with my novel, which I spent ten years working on.) So how do I avoid perfectionism when shipping a game?
I just found out today is World Suicide Prevention day. (Thanks to Meg Baker.)
And, since Happion Labs is a company about increasing happiness, I think this deserves a blog post.
Okay, it's weird that we're setting aside one day a year to not commit suicide - seems a little like the 'drug free zones' you might see around schools or what not, is it really going to change anything?
But one day is better than none.
My wife and I have both lost people we love to suicide. I myself spent ten years writing and rewriting a novel about the experience (http://dionysusloggedout.com). In hindsight not the best way to process it.
Short version - suicide of a loved one messes you up for a long time.
Of course, when you're about to commit suicide, you're in too dark a place to appreciate that what you're about to do is going to pass a lot of your pain onto your loved ones.
So let me try to say something positive:
You can control a lot of your unhappiness. Thirty years ago, psychologists were pretty clueless and had a tendency to perpetuate unhappiness rather than fix it. Today therapy is a lot better - they're practically like happiness consultants or trainers. I go to a therapist myself even though I'm rarely depressed! Because I want to be as happy as I can be. But even books on happiness can help as much as therapy: How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky and Feeling Good by David Burns are two I particularly recommend. Oh, and you can check out this website: http://www.raisinghappiness.com/
This may sound weird, but I play a little happiness game. I take the CES-D every week, to track how I'm feeling. http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu. If my scores start slipping or life throws me curve balls I start doing more happiness activities.
Seriously. You can control a lot of your unhappiness.
I used to be one of those people who'd tell you you can't do things. "You'll never be a good programmer." Just a few years ago, I pissed a bunch of people off with a 'we only hire the best of the best' post on my blog when Torpex was hiring. I later learned that I suffered from 'fixed mindset' thinking.
To sum up: 'Fixed mindset' is believing people are born with innate gifts. They can either do it or they can't. 'Growth mindset' is believing most people can do most anything if they work at it. If they train. There are studies these days that show not only is 'fixed mindset' thinking often wrong, but that simply believing the 'growth mindset' can make people more succesful and productive.
In other words, I was an asshole.
There was a somewhat compelling piece of evidence for my 'fixed mindset' thinking: that MIT study where they analyzed when students dropped out of computer science classes. Some were 'unable' to understand that computers did things in a sequential order. Some were 'unable' to understand recursion. Some were 'unable' to understand dynamic data structures. Some were 'unable' to understand concurrency.
Now I realize that study in no way means that the students were truly 'unable' to do these things. All that it established was at certain points they dropped out. All that it established is that some parts of the curriculum were harder than others - obviously those are the points were students who find the going rough are going to give up. It doesn't mean they can't do it - it just means they got to the point where they couldn't justify putting in the effort. More effort may have yielded success.
Some of those students may even have dropped out because of entrenched fixed mindset thinking. It's also possible the teaching could have been better at MIT - maybe a better teacher would have found better ways to help some of the students over those more difficult humps.
These days, people I talk to tend to subscribe to 'growth mindset'. The word is out. And it's empowering - particularly in indie game development. Jesse Schell used to make his experimental game workshop students draw even if they thought they weren't artists. People (including myself) are making games that suck in some respects because we know if we keep trying we'll get better.
But now I'm hearing something else. From Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers - you have to put in 10,000 hours to be great at something. You'll never be a success unless you put in those 10,000 hours. (Not crazy about Malcolm Gladwell. The science is Not At All Rigorous in The Tipping Point or Blink. I haven't read Outliers ... because I wasn't that crazy about the other two books.)
Anyhow, 'put in 10,000 hours' seems like a valuable piece of advice. It is growth mindset. And, duh, when you expect to be awesome at something when you haven't put in the work you infuriate everyone around you, particularly the people who have been doing it for twenty years.
That said, you can easily use 'put in 10,000 hours' as a club - to dismiss people.
You're saying, 'In order to do this, you have to make it your full-time job for the next five years. So maybe you shouldn't bother if you don't have the time. Focus on what you're already good at - don't switch careers.' And then you can back it up with "Science". 'Just look at Outliers.'
Here's the thing. Gladwell's book - even if it is absolutely 100% right - is talking about the people who are mega-successes. The Beatles. Bill Gates. Oppenheimer.
We don't need to be them. We just need to get by.
Competence comes much sooner than 10,000 hours. I believe you can become 'sorta good' at something with a year of practice, maybe an hour or two a day. (Maybe not good enough to go pro - depends on the demand for that skill - after about 500 hours I was a 'sorta good' guitarist but not good enough to get paid doing it - and after thousands of hours I was a 'sorta good' fiction writer but not good enough to get paid for that.)
I'll let you in on a secret. When I started designing the swinging system for Spider-Man 2 I had very little 'design' experience. Sure, I'd been making games for more than 10,000 hours at that point, but actually designing gameplay mechanics? Nowhere near 10,000 hours. But I listened to a lot of feedback and had a lot of help and believed I could do it. Turned out pretty great. Turned out being 'sorta good' was good enough.
Also, I don't know this for sure, but I don't think Kyle Gabler put in 10,000 hours of musical composition practice before he did the music for World of Goo. It's still good enough - I might even say 'perfect.'
So, yeah. Next time someone says to you, 'You can't do X' or 'You'll never be good at X' or even 'It'll take you 10,000 hours to get good at X' ... don't listen to them. Take it as a challenge. Start putting in the time - you'll get to 'sorta good' a lot sooner than they say.
What about you? What are the things you're good at that you haven't logged 10,000 hours at yet?
[Side note: I was inspired to write this because a friend told me I'd need to log 10,000 hours at graphic design before I could stop sucking at graphic design. He's since told me that this isn't what he meant. So this whole post was based on an anecdotal comment that turned out to not exist. Oh well - if anybody does ever tell us 'don't bother unless you have 10,000 hours', and actually means it, we'll be ready.]