Keeping Motivated (Part Two- Project development)
In part one, I talked about making sure the fundamental idea making is correct- so that you choose a project which you are likely to dedicate enough time to, and not fall out of favour with months down the line- that you have to recognise the project's challenges to know what you are taking on, and how realistically finish-able the project is.
As ever, this is a personal article about my own experience with some experience of the many people I have spoken to in the industry.
So you have an idea- you've prototyped it, you love what you are looking at, you're imagining the finished thing and all the possibilities it could bring... But what about when your motivation wavers? This can be caused by personal issues like economic stress, seeing a AAA company bring out a 'bigger and better' game like the one you are working on, losing faith in the idea itself because you lose sight of the end, or any number of reasons.
The trick to motivated development is to enjoy the development itself and not the end goal. During the development of Spiritlands, my chief motivation has been keeping frame rates down. I have picked up a lot of tricks using Construct 2 in how to pick the right tiles the 'cheapest' way- lowering the cost to player's CPUs. That challenge has created a frequent feeling of achievement- exactly what you should be striving for.
And it doesn't need to be one challenge. Many games are full of interesting obstacles from requiring a great water shader to building the perfect UI.
Your idea came from somewhere, you were inspired by something you watched, read, or played. Make a note to revisit your inspiration from time to time, and more importantly- expand on it. If CS:GO is your inspiration, check out the full list of Call of Duty games, note their differences and what you like, and what players liked and disliked. This way you are not only furthing your inspirations, you are finding the mistakes that other developers have made on similar projects.
Making To-Do Lists
Where would humanity be without lists of what we need to do, to satisfyingly tick off the completion of every task. These days it is far easier though, from tablets of stone to tablets full of electricity and options. I strongly advise any developer to look into apps that make listing easy and accessible on the go. (My top 10 apps list).
During your project's development- you should be listing and maintaining your tasks. These can be big features summarised into one task with a tick-box, that when you reach, you can them split into any number of tasks. It is really dependant on you- would having lots of small tasks help you instead of something bigger (it helps me).
During the ongoing development of Spiritlands, my Evernote to-do list page has a titled section for every update that I have planned out. Beneath each one is a summary of what the update is about and will primarily include- whether it is improving UI significantly, or adding a whole new feature to the game to re-balance mechanics. Underneath that, there is the list of tasks for me to go through in relative order. Once all tasks are ticked, the update is ready.
This is a trick I learnt outside project development, and you might do it yourself anyway! To help manage the tasks on your to-do list that are especially difficult- bargain with yourself. When faced with a daunting task, a difficult challenge that you simply do not feel like tackling (like packing up a flat to move home), you need to break it down. Scenario: You want to play Overwatch, but you have a task you have been stuck on for days sitting in waiting.
Response: Split that task into manageable parts. Examine the most important few tasks that could take you an hour. Tell yourself that once those parts are completed, you can play Overwatch.
Sometimes you will spend more time than expected on completing what you set yourself. And that will feel fine! But I can guarentee that when you are playing Overwatch or acting out any reward, you will feel far greater for it- and maybe even want to complete the whole task later.
Warning: Never bargain with meal times. I did this for college years and it doesn't end well.
Having Vital Support
Game development is very challenging to perform, incredibly difficult to do well, and almost impossible to do well without people around you to support you. Partners and family members who understand you will help a lot, but so will other developers online, or going to local groups just to chat to fellow devs. Many developers share the same fears and challenges that you will be facing-- financially, emotionally, and maybe even physically. Share tips, offload on each other healthily, and lean on each other for support. Everyone has different knowledge and experience- use it in times of struggle with any project.
Now go and make something fantastic! Show off your bravery to create unique experiences for players.
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