Getting Back to Work After A Break

in Advice

So the Holiday times are wrapping up, and its time to buckle back down again.

You had 80 family things to go to, or you had to spend too much time finding that perfect present. Or maybe your kids are just home all the time now and its slowly driving you insane.

The net result is probably about the same right: You got very little work done on your game.

Maybe you booted up RPG Maker a couple of times, messed with a few maps, but how can you possibly get anything done with all the plans everyone has, and then your day job and/or school on top of it.

So its time to get going again. Pick that project back up, and make some progress, but you just open and stare. Or you get distracted looking at endless funny cat picks on the internet.

Aww, look it thinks its people.

Aww, look it thinks its people.

You’ve run into Newton’s Third Law: the Law of Inertia. An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. Your progress got stopped by all that stuff you had to do, and now you have to be the unbalanced force that gets it going again.

So what are some methods to doing that? Let’s explore a few.

Examine what you already have

Sometimes, what gets lost is is that you’ve lost the excitement for the project itself. Try to refresh yourself on what made you love it to begin with.

Play through what you’ve made. Read all your notes. Find that part of the story or gameplay that made you work so hard to get that bit done.

That is what we do this for. To work out our own creative obsessions. You have to find the hook that made you put in so many hours. Was it a mechanic you implemented in a specific way? Was it a character whose story you felt you had to get down on paper? What WAS it?

Examining what you already have also gives you better insight into what you have left to do. How can you get any work done without knowing where you are going? I know that after a few days away from a project, I can barely remember my outline for it. What was I trying to say? What was I trying to convey? Clear notes will help you remember where you were going and what you were doing. Granted… you probably needed clear notes to begin with and if you don’t have those now, you will just have to play through what you have until you can remember them.

Avoid distractions

I’m sure you all got some awesome new games/toys/books etc in the last few weeks. And your brain is stuck on those.

Comic courtesy of the Meatly

Comic courtesy of the Meatly, make sure to check him out!

At some point over the Christmas holiday, in the moments I could get away from family, I got stuck in XCOM: Enemy Within again.

And my productivity on everything took a dip. Its easy when we have EASY entertainment like video games and movies at our fingertips that don’t REQUIRE us to constantly be creative. We can just blow off a bit of steam and play a game. I mean, lets be honest, working on a game is fun. Its exciting, but its also draining. You have to constantly be thinking and planning and testing.

Its a lot of mental effort. I’ve had jobs that were less mental effort than the hobby of making games (kneed pretzel dough. roll pretzel doll, spin and make pretzel shape… pretzel making is a zen experience guys). So sometimes, its HARD to do it instead of some other bright shiny fun and possibly brain stimulating… but not brain draining hobby.

So put those things to the side. Maybe hold them as rewards. If I finish this section of my game, I’ll play a couple of hours of Fallout 4, or whatever you kids are playing nowadays. (True Story: I have a book I plan on finishing reading as soon as I finish this article. That was my reward)

Do the parts you enjoy the most first

What part of making your game do you enjoy doing the most? My favorite is writing. I enjoy game mechanics, I enjoy mapping, but always and forever, the reason I got into RPG Maker was to write stories in a game space.

So instead of just picking up exactly where you left off, build up your excitement again by picking up the part you enjoy the most. I’d probably sit down and write some dialogue. Maybe you would prefer to sit down and make a map. Or create a new sprite.

I’m sure Yanfly would just start coding something.

Doing the part you love the most is the easiest way to get back in the flow to then hit those harder parts.

When you hit the flow, don’t drop it

I know I said give yourself rewards, but if you suddenly hit a flow… don’t stop. I mean, don’t work yourself to death, but if you hit a stopping point and your fingers just don’t want to stop working, don’t stop working. Praise whatever higher being you feel necessary to praise and keep on trucking.

Dedication is what finishes games, but flow is what gets the most done. Without dedication, you would probably never finish off those last little bits, but without flow, you wouldn’t have even gotten to those last little bits.

The Flow is what gives a Dev his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the game together.

Star Wars has maybe been on my brain a lot lately >_>

Star Wars has maybe been on my brain a lot lately >_>

So how do you get back into making your game? What methods do you use to get back into the swing of things after a long break. Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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  • I got back to gamedev after a half year break recently. I use a different game engine though, more like a framework, so coding is pretty hard, I often bump into stuff that I have troubles to make it work, or some other thing that is just cumbersome… But about 2 weeks ago I dug up the project files, made a commit or two to the codebase doing some totally basic stuff, like adding comments, cleaning up whitespace, moving functions around to separate files… Around the same time a site where I put my games published a desktop client, which got me hyped even more.

    Then I felt The Flow coming back to me, I still feel it now, it’s awesome.

  • William Johnson

    Once lost the flow is hard to gain back. Recently I’ve been trying to dip my toes back in by writing some. It always starts off small but that’s how I can typically get the flow back…just following the train of thoughts through whatever idea. That’s when the oh!’s and the ‘what about THIS?!’ and ‘it would be cool if I could connect that to my other game ideas…maybe THIS way?’. Sometimes it takes just exploring a completely other/new idea to get me back into the flow, but I always try to figure a way to tie it all back into the same ‘living’ world. So in essence, I’m never wasting the time…I’m building out a world. (at least that’s what I tell myself, lol). Then going into the maker and doing the hours comes shortly after that. For me, having the direction helps spark the making it happen in the maker. Mapping is my bane though, but if you push through it’ll start to work it’s way out of your head & onto the maker as well. So I guess just seconding your advice about doing the part you love first to get you back in and then wade your way into the not so fun parts. Once the flow is back just keep trucking. I like to imagine what it’ll feel like with a title under my belt, which is also a driving force.