I've been in a sleepy and depressed slump all day. This sucks...
I should ditch Pico-Hotel because what I'm basically inventing here is a convoluted 2D content platform designed to be an open multi-user world. The problem is, it would only be accessible to like 3 to 5 people total, due to requiring both manual invites to a dropbox folder and Pico-8 itself... A platform (Pico-Hotel), delivered by a platform (Dropbox), running on a platform (Pico-8), running on a computer platform, connected to the Internet. Gah, that's slicing the cake way too thin!! At some point it isn't worth it anymore!
And Pico-8 as a whole? Pico-8 is a "programmer game". A toy meant to pose itself as a puzzle to you, even if it takes the guise of a fully fledged content development platform and sandbox. Even though Zep gives content creators all rights to their own creations on his platform (at the very least, explicitly in their HTML5 exported form), the restrictions are ultimately and invariably too intense to make any game or experience of a large enough scale to merit me being able to make any money off of what I do here.
Now, I don't want money. I'm absolutely happy to be here, to be working on cute little things and met with praise and matched by the unique and interesting creations of other talented programmers like me. But my life isn't going to be stable for much longer unless I do something, and I want to stand on my own by peddling the content I've lovingly crafted myself, if I must do something to obtain money at all. I am capable and deserving of as much respect and independence, aren't I?
But I can't do that here. ... So ...
I don't know. I've got big ambitions and no means to achieve them anyway, so what's the point. Even if I'm somewhere else, working on something else, it'd all be meaningless in the end either way...
Be flexible, adapt, and strive toward balance!
Making games makes you happy, otherwise you wouldn't want to do it. However, if you neglect other areas of your life toward which you feel pulled (e.g. health, relationships, money), you won't be happy, so then what's the point of it?
You obviously have the skill to make great things. However, your life comes first.
Don't expect anything from anything. I absolutely need money too, that's why I'm restocking shelves in a local grocery store. Do note that I'm a studied graphics designer which would give reason to be depressed over my current job, but fuck it, what are you gonna do?
Yeah, I've been there, though I'd say it's more second-guessing than depression (at least for me...). I have to agree with your analysis, if you want mass appeal you should go for a larger potential audience, and even though PICO-8 has HTML5 export, and there was even briefly a PicoLove emulator that removed token restrictions, Pico is for small projects by design. The minecraft-sized idea you had would probably be better suited to something like Phaser/HTML5 and AWS Gaming services.
I've found that this attitude is a symptom of burnout, and the only way to combat it is to make sure the idea has lots of things you like in it. One or two good ideas won't cut it when you hate all your characters and the premise and the game feel, and you'll drop the project to work on something new. But if it's fun to draw the characters even when you hate them, or you have another clever idea that you can incorporate into your existing design, it gives you that burst of energy you need to keep at it.
And unfortunately, as much as it sucks, my experience with earning money in gamedev is that it happens when you're done. Getting things done is the important part to focus on.
JTE, I know that state of mind very well. I think, it is all about the skills one develops to identify and avoid situations that might get you into a depression. This requires honesty to yourself (leading to a valid and objective view of yourself and your needs) and that's the most difficult part.
You seem to be very creative and at the same time not challenged sufficiently. This means that your goals are too small and your engery (thus patience for the next feeling of success) is not enough for bigger projects. You've written somewhere that you are not able to invent stuff but can only build on other peoples projects (must have been part of the discussion around your minecraft project). I don't think that is true.
If you want to work as programmer, meet people in your town that know what programming means (for example at gamedev workshops) and tell them what you can do and have done, without bragging, as if it is a normal thing in your life (which it is). Real life contact is important. If you repeat that 2-3 times, people will start calling you when they need a programmer or get asked about knowing a programmer for a certain project.
Working as a programmer often means working on projects that are not 100% what you would love to programm on. When you're low on energy, it is difficult but it is a goal that gets you some money and a finished project which is really something you can build on (esp. self-esteem).
Don't ever get a fulltime job - it would only suck out what's left. Find sources of energy outside of virtual worlds in nature, real friends, sports, ...
I'd love to see a bigger project of yours and I'd even help with some parts if necessary (GPU shaders for example). Pico-8 definitely is not the right platform for bigger projects (it's already in the name) but building a comparable 2D sprite engine is something you can do, I'm quite sure.
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