In part one we covered techniques for getting started with a new project. In this post we’ll go over staying motivated to finish the game.
Knowing When to Take a Break
We all hit that wall when it comes from pushing ourselves a little too hard, setting unrealistic goals. When this happens it’s best to just walk away and take a break. How long is up to you. I find that sometimes I’ll work on two games at the same time, switching between them when things start to feel like they are dragging or I am losing interest. If you plan the games correctly you can build one off the other and end up with reusable code to can be shared between both.
Sometimes a difficult issue that needs to be solved is so complex you lose interest all together. You’d be surprised how much a short break, even for a few days, will clear up your head. One thing I suggest, especially if you are like me who puts stuff aside to work on at a later date, is to comment your code as much as possible. You may find it annoying at first but there is nothing worst than coming back to a project after a month and have no idea where you left off.
The Ever Growing Task List
I am a list maker. Everything I need to do in my game goes into a task list. It’s an old habit from my enterprise development and SCRUM days where I would create a two-week plan and fill in a backlog of tasks. The same technique can apply to game development too.
I like OneNote since it lets me mix and match task items with checkbox as well as text and pictures. I’ll save everything about the project into a single task list with references so I don’t forget why I made that task. Over time I check off what I’ve done and move it to the bottom of the list. On slow days I can reorganize the list to help me find things to work on. On crazy days where the list is too long I’ll simply focus on the top five items and see what I can go from there.
In the end, the list allows me to block out my workday. I can see how much I have left to do, track ideas I want to add to the game over time, and help motivate me to keep going. Also completing a checklist gives you a real sense of completion. I sleep better at night after seeing the progress made on the list at the end of each long day. I also like to plan out the next day the night before and make sure my most critical issues are always at the top when I get back to my project.
Share Your Project With Others
One of the biggest motivations techniques I have is to share the project with others. While it’s always a challenge getting feedback, it helps to see what others think about your game. The sooner you have a playable copy the better. Getting early feedback and doing player testing is critical to build the game others want to play. It's important to not box yourself into features only you find interesting.
I leverage social networks like Twitter and Twitch as much as possible. These places are also helpful if you are not ready to let people play the game on their own. It may feel silly but be sure to include special hash tags when tweeting out updated to your game. The best one to use is #gamedev. Also take part in #screenshotsaturday by sharing updates of your game’s progress each Saturday. I’ve been picked up a few times by indie game magazines because of this.
Right now, Twitch is not as far reaching for game development updates as Twitter. The power of Twitch is that once you build up a dedicated following it can creates a community around your game way before it even launches. Also, I've found that some of the best advice both technical and on my game play comes from the live chat during my stream. Find ways to include viewers in the conversation. You'll see the quality of the comments will go up the more engaging you and your game are during the stream. Twitch even has a dedicated game development channel. Check out one of the highlights I captured from a stream where I Skyped in Mike Geig from Unity to figure out how to handle abstracting controller input in my game.
Real Artist Ship
The final stages of shipping a game are more than just fixing bugs. It involves perseverance, determination and vision. While all of these techniques work well for me I've had years of experience to fine-tune them for my own workflow. The hope is that you find your own ways to motivate and reinforce these traits for finishing your next game from this talk. In the words of Steve Jobs, "real artists ship!"
If you missed part one, make sure to check it out as well as the following links covering game design for beginners:
Part 1 - Picking a Framework
Part 2 - Game Design 101
Part 3 - Creating Artwork and Sounds
Part 4 - Polishing Your Game
Part 5 - Publishing and Marketing Your Game
-Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)