Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

  • Flash Game Dev Tip #9 – Dealing with a lack of motivation to finish your game

    Tip #9 – Dealing with a lack of motivation to finish your game

    You are not alone

    Everyone suffers from this problem at one point or another: You simply can’t face the thought of working on your game. This is especially hard when making the game in your “free time”. It’s all too easy to think “what the hell” and double-click that Team Fortress icon instead of FlashDevelop. And even days when your head is saying “let’s code!” all that motivation can vanish the moment you open the source and realise that its been so long since you were last here it’s like staring at a foreign language, or a giant brick wall and you have no idea what to start first.

    There is no “single solution” to fix this. It’s extremely personal. Your reasons for not wanting, or being able to code will be as varied as the number of people reading this. But as I said at the start you are not alone – so I posed the question of how to deal with it to 13 fellow game developers and collated their replies. Hopefully somewhere in these insights you’ll find a technique or suggestion that helps you out. And if you have one that you personally use, not already mentioned, please post it into the comments.

    I’ll kick things off …

    Richard Davey / Photon Storm

    I’ve come to realise that I’ve a game development mana reserve. When I start work on a game, my mana reserve is full. But as coding begins this reserve drops faster and faster. Sometimes if I hit a particularly troublesome spot in a game it can be enough to utterly wipe-out what reserves I had left, derailing the project entirely. But there are also the “wins”. Getting a significant part of the game finished, or adding something really cool. That helps re-fill my mana reserves and keeps motivation high. It’s a constant battle. To get the game finished before enthusiasm is depleted entirely, yet to have enough wins on-route that they keep things in balance.

    The “wins” however cannot be artificially placed into the project. They have to be unexpected and grow almost organically as a result of  working on the game. Equally the hits to my morale are never expected either. I never start coding expecting to stump my toe on a  bug from hell, but it happens.

    There are two issues here:

    1) Having the motivation to continue working on a game

    I think like a lot of people I’m most excited about a game during the very early stages of it. The feeling of bringing something to life, of getting the idea out of your head and into code – that’s a real achievement in and of itself. I enjoy the task of getting a working prototype up and running, often with really crappy code driving it. The thing to do at this stage is to try and work out for yourself if you should stop right now, and not even attempt to carry on.

    Use those prototypes

    There is nothing wrong in building a prototype and just leaving it at that. Of course if you’re in this for the money it’s not going to get you rich, but if like me you do this for fun then you shouldn’t feel any sense of “guilt” for having made just a prototype. If by this point you recognise that your enthusiasm is on the wane already then don’t just file it away for another day, thinking you’ll come back to finish it later on. Because almost certainly it will never happen. If you don’t have the enthusiasm or excitement at the end of this stage to take the game further, then you never will.

    Don’t waste it though. Think about how what you’ve made could be useful to others. Perhaps it’d serve as an interesting “I made this little demo” post for your blog or a forum. Or maybe it could be turned into a tutorial for a development site with little modification. You may be surprised at the response. I’ve had people see “demos” of work who suggested just one change, that radically altered the course of the game, resulting in it being finished and released. As I mentioned at the start, “mana refills” can come from anywhere, sometimes the most unexpected of places.

    Do something other than making games

    Making complete games is hard, there’s no doubting this. Even the most simple of games still require quite tedious boot strapping to make them suitable for release. But that “rush” and feeling of sheer joy you get when you finally publish doesn’t always have to come from making a game. As readers of my blog will know I work on a lot of game development projects such as my Flixel Power Tools or tutorials. I do this because I enjoy writing, but also because I remember what it was like being fresh to development – how I was a sponge, soaking up every last piece of information I could get my hands on.

    There is a real thrill in authoring this type of content too, and publishing it. So you don’t feel like making a whole game? No problem – could you make a demo that showcased how to make a sprite jump from platform to platform? The scale is significantly smaller, but the end result could be extremely useful to your fellow developers. And their feedback can be enough to spur you on during the more laborious development work you need to do.

    Of course the downside of all this writing is that it takes your time away from making actual games, as Ilija will attest to 🙂

    Public Beta Tests

    We ran a public beta test of a game called Kingdums. We just put a build of the game onto a web page with a big feedback form below it, and shouted the URL onto twitter. It was live for a week. The feedback we got was fantastic, because it under-lined a significant flaw in the game (that was in the back of our minds anyway, but made it prominent) and reaffirmed that actually, this flaw aside, people really enjoyed playing it. Other developers use public beta tests for similar reasons – lots do it to find out if their games have bugs they’ve missed, but it doesn’t just have to be about that. Sometimes you’ll get suggestions that highlight issues you didn’t see, and sometimes it’s just a good morale boost.

    It’s not just code that can be tested – you could post-up screen shots, character bios, even basic story arcs. All things that feed back into the game overall.

    Enforced Time Constraints

    Some people don’t understand the point of making a game in a limited period of time. Others relish the challenge. Personally I fall somewhere in the middle. I haven’t yet had a chance to take part in something like Ludum Dare, because I have a family life that stops things like that happening over weekends. But the times that I have made a game in a limited period of time (we’ve done it 3 times now) it has always worked for the better. Todo lists get cut down dramatically. Only the essential game aspects are given attention, and the time limitation really does focus your mind. Try it, it may appeal to you.

    Using a To-Do List

    You’ll see this suggestion raised time and again by the other devs below. Ilija and I use the free software Wunderlist. I like the fact I can add items from my iPhone or PC and have it all sync-up properly. We don’t have lists for prototypes, only for games deep in development. I find it pointless starting a list with “make an enemy manager”, that feels too early-on in the process for us.

    2) Dealing with “getting stuck” while coding

    This is the easiest to solve. If you have a coding problem, then you ask for help. If you don’t work in an environment where you can ask fellow coders for suggestions, then there are hundreds of really great game dev communities online. And you should join one and really participate with it. Help out other people suffering problems you may already solved, and post your problems up there also. More often than not someone will help, or at least direct you onto the right path that leads to solving the problem anyway. If you can’t solve the issue within a couple hours of trying, and can’t think of another way to approach it, then you need a bring a second brain into the equation. The longer you delay in asking for help, the more chance you have of never finishing.

    Don’t feel guilty

    You’re only human. Human’s need a fine balance between work, rest and play. And developers are terrible at balancing those three elements. There’s a famous producer graph showing “Price – Speed – Quality”, with the mantra that you can only ever have 2 of those 3 things. So “Speed + Quality comes at the expensive of Price”, or “Low Price + Speed means low Quality”.

    I feel that developers do the same with “Coding – Resting – Playing”. By “Playing” I mean taking time out from coding: watching a movie, spending time with your significant other, reading a book, playing Xbox, etc. Too much coding but the right amount of sleep usually means you give-up your “play” time. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, holding down an intensive day job and then coding all night, your Rest and Play can be sacrificed. If when you sit at your computer you find the code just isn’t flowing then stop. Don’t battle it, don’t trudge through. Just stop and do something else entirely (ideally non-computer based). Then try again the next day. If you’ve been working like mad all week, getting a few hours sleep a night, then pay off that sleep debt.

    Development is a roller-coaster of highs and lows. If you recognise you’re on a coding streak then enjoy it and use it to your advantage, but when it ends (and it will end) switch track quickly and work on something else. Then switch back again. The quicker you learn to recognise your “moods” the more useful you can make them. I’m not perfect at this yet, not by a long shot. I still have lots of “unfinished” games, indeed the artwork I used to illustrate my text above is all taken from games I’ve not yet finished, and there are plenty more. But I never sit idle. I do at least work and release. If I’m not making a game, I’ll write, and if I’m not writing I’ll help out in a forum. If I’m not in there maybe I’ll be playing a little Counter Strike. The point is that I feel I do balance them well, one doesn’t over-power the other. I just wish I had more hours in the day 🙂

    That’s me done with, now onto 13 other developers for their views on this subject …

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  • Excuses for not finishing games

    Jake over at Grey Alien Games has blogged an interesting piece about the excuses people come up with for never finishing a game, and his take on how to overcome those.