19 min read

Pro tips from 2 indie game devs with Thomas Stewart

Join Thomas Stewart and me as we discuss balancing game development with YouTube videos and, well, the rest of your life!
Pro tips from 2 indie game devs with Thomas Stewart

We got a game dev podcast, folks! Join Thomas Stewart and me as we discuss how hard it is to balance game development with YouTube videos and, well, the rest of your life!


(I would embed the YouTube video here but it's scheduled which means it's private and I have no idea how to embed a private video. I am just a humble game dev.)

Show notes

  1. Subscribe to Thomas Stewart on YouTube
  2. Wishlist Tanks, But No Tanks on Steam
  3. The Game Dev Tiers video
  4. Tom Francis on music
  5. Music by Joshua Morse
Make your own game. It's time to get started. Over 3,000 copies sold!
What do you think of this new book banner I made?? I think it's kinda nice.

Here's a collapsible transcript

OK, what if I embed the transcript? This thing wouldn't include alllllll that in the email, would it? ... Would it? It's collapsible so surely it'll collapse. Here it is:


 Welcome, to make the game. My name is Matt Hackett, and I'm here with my friend Thomas Stewart, who I discovered on Twitter.

I saw that you posted a Youtube video after you bought my book. Here it comes.

Folks right out of the gate. We've got a oh, this guy again, talking about how to make a video game all by yourself.

You made this video, my wife and I watched it together.

This was like really early on after the book launched and I hadn't really been hearing much, you and me, because, like I'm a who am I?

No one knowing about this stuff and then this is like well polished, like high production.

Video that you made. That's like funny, like, I got a genuine laugh out of us like you're on your trackor. It feels it doesn't feel like your average Youtube video. You know what I mean.

It feels like a tiny little documentary, or like like a super bowl, commercial or something.

It is like like shocking. You got this like aerial footage, anyway.

Amazing video. And then we just started chatting because there's lots of overlap.

And what we're doing, you fellow, Indie, game developers, fellow creators of Internet things.

But anyway, long-winded introductions, thanks for being here great to chat with you.


Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm really happy to be here. Yeah.

I remember coming across your book, and it was. It's funny, because there's not a lot of game development books out there like there.

It's not. It's like, almost like an untapped medium, and I feel like you did such a good job with your book, because it's it's like short.

It has a lot of pictures. It's funny, it's witty. It's helpful.


It helps with like technical stuff. And a lot of motivation.

And so I bought it, and I was like, this is great.

I want to make a video about this. And so, yeah, that that was a fun video to make like, yeah, me, driving around on my lawn mower and like reading your book on the toilet.

And there's a lot of good parts in that video.

You could really feel that you're having a good time when you make this videos.

My wife and I talk about this like, we watch movies and TV, and we critique it and stuff right and kind of like with games.

You know that the player needs to be the one who's having the fun.


We'll talk about how we're like, okay. In this scene the actors are having all the fun.

I'm not enjoying the scene. The writers probably hated this, but the acting is great, you know, who gets to have the fun.

I was having a good time watching your video, and I got that feel from it like it's it's got some warmth to it.

You know, it's made with energy, you can tell like I can tell you, have enthusiasm for like cameras and placement, and like I love shooting outside you.

Yeah, exactly.

And I mean, like we're stuck here with our computers we're working on games all day we're like these, these, you know.


We never see sunlight like cave trolls and stuff, and to see like sunshining and grass.

In your video is just very refreshing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. You made that observation.

Because that's one of the pillars.

When I started making Youtube videos, I wanted to figure out like, okay, what differentiation me from other game dev Youtube creators, because but yeah, it's like, mostly people in front of their desks.

And you know, looking at the whatever's on their computer screen, and people don't go outside.

And there's, you know, there's a lot of good footage to be had outside.

Yeah, I felt some commonality there with you, because I do similar things like, there's an intro to that sort of make the game where I just got a like, I'm selfie style.

I was experimenting with shorts and stuff, and I'm just walking outside because I've got this beautiful area of flowers.


It's actually our neighbors flowers, but they come in over the wall, and the sun was shining, and I'm like I don't know what to do with this, but it's beautiful.



Like. I want it to exist somewhere online. So I'm like, I'll just shove the intro of my video like, why not? And like it does, it takes you outside.

It makes the world feel bigger, you know. Love it so.

I feel like there's some overlap with the like.

We both have a passion not just for game development, like a lot of people have that these days, not just any development.

A lot of people have that. You and I also really like making stuff for the Internet, right?


And it's not always that Youtube videos and always a podcast.


Not always like a tweet because there's you know I know you put a lot of effort into like like Twitter and stuff a lot of writing, you know. It.

It takes time. It takes dedication.

You have had some success on Youtube recently. Good for you. What you hip was the milestone you hit. What's the word that you?

Getting monetized was the entering the partner program which you need.


Oh, wow!

Over a 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours within the last, and so I'm almost.

I'm like 50 subscribers shy of hitting 2,000 now, so I'm making my way.

Alright. You heard it! Listeners get in there 50 shy!

We can do it. That's awesome. Yeah, I think that like the Youtube stuff, it somehow looks easy from the outside.

And it is not like I'm a person who loves you.

I'm a Youtube all the time. I watch Gdc valve videos.


I watch TV shows documentary. I feel like I should be better at it.

You know what I mean, cause cause like, I know what makes a good Youtube video.

I always see the views I know it hits I know it doesn't.

I'm aware of Mr. Beast, you know, like, I know, that Youtube is a thing that you can get really good at and like.

It's not that I've been obsessed with it, you know I haven't given it the treatment as I do in other platforms or game development itself, right?

But to me it's this I don't know how to.


I don't know how to use tube I've given it a few fair, you know, swings, I think, to the point where I'm like something would have taken off if I was actually, you know.

Naturally good at this, and so I'm not. But anyway, respect, because it's not easy.

Youtube is competitive and hard. Right?

Yeah, yeah, it is. It's a wild game out there.

I heard. It makes me think of like being a consumer versus getting behind the camera and trying to create your own Youtube videos.

It makes me think of a quote that I read from.

I think it was Tom Francis who's the game developer from gunpoint and heat signature, but I think it was a random tweet that he sent out, and he said, music is very peculiar, because.

Not very many people know what the rules are in music, but almost everybody can tell immediately when one of the rules is broken, and so like, you can listen to something you're like. That's not right.


I don't know why it's not right, but it's not right, you know, and so I think it's like it's kind of that way for Youtube you know, you can watch a video and think like, Oh, yeah, that's great.

You know, or like enjoy it, you know you can say like, Oh, that's huh!

Something that I didn't enjoy that video as much, or whatever.

And then. But when you try and get behind the camera and construct a video that you find interesting and compelling and informative and motivational, or whatever you're aiming for, it's a it's a different ball. Game. So.

Man, what a great point! There's always all that hidden stuff!

We're not aware of right. It's like really good level design in a game right where you're like.

I don't know why, but I just breeze right through that level, and it was a joy, and I was never lost, and other games.

You're like I am stuck. What is going on?

And sometimes it was just the difference between placing a light in the right place to guide the player or something is all these invisible things?

And yeah, I I consume Youtube videos all day. And I, I haven't picked up those like those tips and those things that like good pacing and the human interest curve and whatnot. Right?


I feel like I'm so overwhelmed by like, okay, I have some video, a usable video.


I have some usable audio. Just shove it shove it into an editor and hit export.

Yeah, yeah.

It is good like it's it's the best I can do is good enough.

Yeah. Haven't hit that next level yet. Do you have any of those of those those tips, those tricks that you're you'd be willing to share with us.

Oh! Totally! And I feel like I'm learning all the time, and I like, I said, I'm not, you know, in the grand scheme of things, you know.

I'm really proud that I actually met the threshold to get monetized.

You know. I think I've made $10 so far on my Youtube channel.


Yeah, but you know, so I'm constantly learning.

I'm trying to be a student of the game, you know, and all that.

It seems to be what most people pay attention to our click-through rate and retention, which I mean that, and that applies to every discipline.

You know, it's like it's the same as game development, you know.

You if you want a good retention rate, you need to make a quality game.

And on Youtube, you need to make a video that people enjoy.

And then in game development, it's how do you market your game?

How do you let people know that this is something that they would want to play?

And in Youtube, it's, how are you designing your thumbnail and your title so that people want to click on it?

And so there's a lot of philosophies around that one that I think is interesting is like, you know, everyone wants to avoid clickbait.

That's a major. No, you know people feel a bit of betrayal, you know, when they click on something they're like that was, I can't believe that clicked on that.

It's like eating junk food of the Youtube world.


You know, but there's something something cool about being able to make a promise to a viewer.

And then, once they click on it, you deliver on that promise, and I think that's what Mr.


Beast does so well, you know it's like his. His videos would be clickbait if you know, they were just like not actually what they described.


But he's like, No, I actually am. Gonna give a $100,000 to some random person, you know, and it's it's that promise and delivery. So that's what I've been trying to do with my channels like make it enticing.

But actually make the things that I'm talking about in the video backup.

What the title says. It's about.

You know that makes me think of game design wise every I always bring home to game.

Design is the kind of lock before key mentality. I remember and my friend Jeff Flair and I talked about this forever ago and lost cast.

But like we didn't really get that, when we first started creating content for games.

And sometimes we'd be like here's a key, and you're like, I don't have a need.

By? Why do I have this key? And that's like I've seen it in games.

We all see it in games, and you're like this is you gave me garbage, and then later, you see, a lock, and you're like, Oh, I guess I could use a key, and that seems like you know, just keep the key.


It might come in handy later. That's just such a different psychological effect on you than like, hey?

It's locked. You can't come in. You are denied access you can't get it.

And you're like, I want that. It creates that desire.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

And you for that key. Yeah, it's funny how you can learn something like that in game design, but in a different context.

Where it's like, you know, that's kind of the same thing as creating like a Youtube thumbnail and delivering on.

And I'm like, like it's gone from my.


My brain is just empty. It's like a tumbleweed goes by because it's not like game.

Yeah, yeah.

Specific, like, my brain is like about. If if about games remember, long term memory, if not, then memory.

Yeah, yeah.

Alex, you know. Anyway, I love that. It was a great tips.

I'm I'm gonna go through.

And I recommend all listeners. Do this. I'm gonna go through your channel and comb and look.

Oh, yeah, it's.

Watch the Mall and get get the promise and the.

Some are definitely better than others, you know it's it's funny.

Everybody says that you should throw out your first 10 Youtube videos because they're gonna be garbage. You know.

And I larly agree with that, but I only have 17 videos.

I think so. That means like the mid of my channel, is probably garbage.

But yeah, it's.

Well, don't say that, because I know I have more than that already, because I've got 20 episodes of make the game in the bag, and I I haven't approached any right here at that level. It's all relative right.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, something that's interesting as I was checking out your Youtube channel and I don't know if it's okay to segue like this.

But I wanted to give you mad props because you just had a a viral tweet go out like, when was that like a week ago, or something?

Yeah, yeah, about a week.

Yeah, baby. What's up?

And I looked at it, and had, like 13,000 likes on it, and like 1,500 retweets, you know, and it was like it was super cool, and seeing everybody in the game Development Twitter community like commenting on, because everyone was opinionated about what Tiers certain you know, game mechanics should be on yeah.

And how wrong I was, and how I should be told how wrong I am.

yeah, exactly. And you were in there, you know. And you I think you commented on everybody else's comment.

Just about everybody.

You know you were like getting all that engagement, but like that was super cool.

And I'm like, Yeah, way to go, Matt. You're you're killing it.


But then I saw you took that idea that you knew people felt strongly about, and then you translated it into a Youtube video.


And and I noticed that that got significantly more views than any other video on your channel.


So I think that that's really smart is like finding something that resonates with what people want to engage with in game development. You know.

Oh! What a great observation I love that. Yeah.

And then put it into a different meeting. Yeah.

Oh, I really feel seed that's not cause.


Like, yeah, that yeah, most of my Youtube videos, I don't know.

Man like a few dozen views it's because I don't know what I'm doing right.

But that one I was like, you know, it would be great if every tweet blow up like that.

That one I kinda knew was gonna do better than most of my tweets, because I was.

It's like a little. It's a little sharp. It's a little. It kind of stabs.

It cuts you a little bit. It also. Hey, practically reaches through the screen and demands that you engage with it.

You know what I mean. And you guys on to something there.


I was like. This might be my first prioral Tweet.

Yeah. Yep.

It completely was the only thing that got that reached anywhere near that popularity was my book announcement, which still had not reached a 1,000 retweets.

Yeah, yeah.

So it was like this little drawing I made one evening in like 2 h, like more successful than a book.

I spent writing, not in early, but you know, apples and oranges.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

But yeah, it was because, like, you know, for all I know, I did that drawing.

And people are like this makes you look like an idiot.

Matt, take take it down. It gets to retweets, and that's it.

That's it like that that happens with other comics.


I draw, and I move on with my life, and that when I was like Oh, yeah, I'm trying to be reactive, because I mean, I am in that phase where you know.

You see, you're saying the first 10 videos you should probably throw out mine are on my channel.

They're garbage. But like, I feel okay about it, because I read this thing about content marketing where it was like your first 6 months.

And for me it's gonna be much longer. But your first 6 months of content are gonna embarrass. You.

Later, and I was like, oh, like that hurt to hear, and I'm like, well, kinda makes it easier, too.

I'm just gonna put garbage out. But yeah, I'm trying to be reactive and I haven't looked at the comments on that to your video yet.

They might not be great. But yeah, it was nice to see.


It's like way more popular to my other stuff. So it gives me it gives me a direction to follow right like my probably gonna do more tiers content.



Why wouldn't I like as a content marketer? I would tell myself, make more tears content, Matt.


So it's coming. But this is about you, sir.

I appreciate those kind words that's so cool the one question I've been dying to ask you is, how?

Because because you you are a force of nature, you are so productive, and you seem to have mastered your day.

You know what I mean? Like, maybe it's all wrong.

Maybe it's just the glimmer of of the Instagram filter or something right?

But like, how do you handle the load between making these extremely polished and really good Youtube videos?

But also like putting pressure and keeping productivity high on your game dev stuff.

How? How do you do it?

It's so hard. It's very difficult.

I I used to be so laid back. My personality was like super chill.

Go, the flow guy, you know, like we don't need a plan.

We're just here to have a good time, you know, and over the last few years I have just realized that there's a lot of things that I want to be able to do, and that kind of means that I need to get my act together, and like you know, be a master of my time and be very


intentional with how I organize the things in my life, what I schedule when I say yes to what I say no to, and I've done a lot of experimenting because I because, yeah, there's a lot that I wanna do.

I'm a full-time employee. I am trying to grow a Youtube channel. I'm trying to make my own games, you know, and some other things I have a lot of commitments.


But yeah, so yeah, I've done a lot of experimenting.

And one of those I made a Youtube video about which was me waking up at 5 Am.


Every day for 4 weeks, and just talking about, you know the pros and cons of that experience for me.

And it was, yeah, I got these few extra hours in my day that I could devote to working on this game that I'm making for steam.

But there was also a cost to it. You know. I I crashed in the afternoons, and I was more grouchy with my wife, and you know, at I it didn't feel like a sustainable schedule for me.

So yeah, it's time management productivity.

It's been like an ongoing process for me I've been trying to read about growing small habits into something that's a sustainable routine, but it's it's just been like, what do I want to be intentional about what do I wanna say?

Yes, to what a what do I want to say? Yes. To what? What do I want to say?

No to. But yeah, it's been hard. I don't feel like I have it nailed down at all.

I feel like I'm constantly. I feel like I'm you.

Have you seen those guys that like spin the plates on the sticks?

Hmm, yeah.

You know you hold a bunch of sticks, and you got the plate spinning, and I feel like when I'm doing really good over here then this plate falls off and crashes.

You know, in that. It's it's hard to start to Doodle.


Inevitably right. Yeah, you know, it sounds like the truth is that there's had.

There has to have been some sacrifice where you have to say no to certain things like saying yes to some things, is saying no to others right?

So wow, I mean, mad respect for the focus and determination.

Yeah, thanks. Man, it's yeah. It's it's fun.

And that's the thing that makes it easier is because everything that I'm engaging with I enjoy doing.

I like making videos. I like programming, I like making my own games.

You know it's and they all kind of feed off of each other, you know, having this flywheel effect that one project spurs on the next.

And yeah, and there's been months at a time, you know.

I went. I can't remember how long it was, but it was like something like 5 or 6 months last year without posting a Youtube video.

Shame! How dare you!

And it crushed my soul a little bit. Yeah, I was like, Oh, I hate that.

But you know I was doing some other stuff, you know, like we bought a house, and there was like a bunch of you know, projects that we had to do for the house.

And you know you just kind of take it. One day at a time and figure out what you can do what you can fit in.

That's how I've been doing it, anyway. Yeah.

Yeah, love, it. I wanted to also ask you about your your steam developer page.

What do you have on steam? What can we go and wish? List?

Oh, yeah.

And what could we go and play? How can we support you on steam?

Yeah, okay, so.

Oh, I love it!

So I'm making this game called tanks, but no tanks, and it's a top-down stylized tank shooter.

So think of that that old tanks game that was on the we, you know, part of the we play mini game thing that you could play.

It's kinda like that top down you run around ricochet bullets off of walls and shoe other tanks.

I've been working on that game on and off, very part time for a few years, and I just keep majorly pivoting the game design because it sucked right right as I started making that game, which was supposed to be a weekend project.

I got hired on as a full-time unity developer, which just made my programming skills. Skyrocket.


And so the the type of game that I was able to make was vastly outpacing the design of the game that I was making, and I wanted them to keep competing with each other.

So anyway, I'm hoping to get that game out in the next few months.

Here and just get it shipped out the door. Try and cut the scope, but I think it'll be pretty fun.

I'm happy with how it's shaping up it's gonna be a little arcade game, you know, just running around shoots and tanks.

It should be pretty fun. I just paid an artist a good chunk of change, for, like a proper capsule image for steam.

Hmm! Oh, very cool.

So I'm really excited about that, you know. It's the same philosophy as the Youtube thumbnail, you know.

If you have a good thumbnail on steam, people will click on it, and then if they like what they see them, they'll buy it.


So I'm hoping that that'll you know, at least pay for itself in in steam sales.

But we'll see. Yeah.

It's supposed to from everything I've been reading online is like the general marketing Super Min. Max, that I see.

Exactly. Yeah.

If you if you only invest in one thing, make it your steam capsule makes total sense, because, like a 100 times more people, a 1,000 times more people are gonna see your steam capsule and just never click on it.


But like, if you can get even, you know, if you can improve that rate by 3%, you could, you know, money in the bank, baby.

Yeah, yeah.

Very interesting. Yeah, that would make a great piece of content.

Hey? Yeah.

Youtube, or something is how I worked with artist and did all the things for the capsules and whatnot.

That would be good. That would be really good.

Yeah. Yup, I have a huge list of videos for Youtube.

And it's just pages and pages long of just a bullet list that I try and sort through from like best to worst.

But yeah, there's so many good ideas that I just don't have the time right now to to act on. Yeah.

I hear that? Yeah, my drafts folder and I use platform called Ghost.

Write my newsletter. It's like 3 dozen drafts where I'm like.

That'll make a good newsletter, because that'd be good.

That'd be good at who has the time right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I'll be sure to update my steam page.

It's super outdated right now. So I'll make sure to update it before before we launch this podcast. Out and people can go check it out and hopefully wish list it. So then you can get notified when I launch it.

Absolutely. Yeah. Everyone checking out this video. We're we're gonna subscribe to Youtube channel.

And we're gonna check you out and steam wish list all your games. It's gonna be great.

I feel all the love.

Well, thanks a lot for being here today. Thomas has been awesome. And I, looking forward to your future videos.

Yeah, thanks, man, this is great.

Hopefully this was an email of reasonable length and not one that is hilariously long instead ha ha ha! Well if you're all the way down here (I'm guessing), you might need that YouTube video link again, so there it was, earlier in this sentence.

Thanks for reading or listening or however ya like! Next edition continues the thread of making profitable games and I'm looking forward to digging deep into this with you. Now it's time for you to go make the game!