Staying on Track

in Advice

As I mentioned in a couple of posts back, I’m working on a game again, and one of the things I was going to do was talk about it step by step as I completed it. I had intended on my next post about it to be about the ramifications of the choices I made in the story and setup, but I realized there was something else to talk about here after my last couple of weeks.

So, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a car catch on fire, a huge birthday party my wife threw for me (which meant us cleaning most of the house), and a ton of work to do before I leave on vacation soon. I was swamped, I had so much stuff to do and nothing was working out.

OK, guys, I like blowing out birthday candles as much as the next guy, but this is just ridiculous.

OK, guys, I like blowing out birthday candles as much as the next guy, but this is just ridiculous.

For most of us, game creating is a hobby, not a responsibility, and it’s really easy to let your hobby projects get pushed to the side and forgotten when disasters and responsibilities strike.

But there is the problem, disasters just don’t stop happening. Life will happen all the time, and the only way you are going to finish anything is to stay on track, and keep plugging away. So how do you keep from getting distracted and dropping your project?

Keep Thinking About It

Look, we are all busy (and if you are not, I envy you). But let’s be honest, when we are just driving around following a car that may or may not be about to catch on fire to sell it to a junkyard, it’s not like your brain is really occupied. We have plenty of time every day where our bodies are doing something, but our brain really isn’t. So, instead of thinking about what would have been the most wicked comeback to that thing your friend said to you 2 days ago, try thinking about your game instead.

Good job Ralph. You are obviously the king of comebacks.

Good job Ralph. You are obviously the king of comebacks.

Think about the personalities of your characters. Think about what made them behave that way. Think about how those clashes of personality make your characters feel about each other. Or think about your mechanics. What would be some cool ideas of how things can work?

It is true, just thinking doesn’t make a game, but there is plenty of thinking you do need to do, and thinking about the game keeps it from being pushed out the back of your mind and forgotten.

Give Yourself Goals

The thing about a hobby project, is that the only person who will hold you to finishing things is yourself. So you have to be the one to do the motivating.

So set yourself goals. Congratulate yourself when you reach them, and examine seriously why you are failing to finish them if you don’t. Make sure to pick appropriate sized goals. You want your goal to be small enough that you are achieving goals regularly, but large enough that they aren’t a complete joke.

... I guess that is pretty good for a baby.

… I guess that is pretty good for a baby.

Regularly completing decent sized goals can really keep you coming back. A sense of accomplishment is one of the most driving factors for a lot of people. Just don’t berate yourself too much for not completing goals. Negative feelings can drive some people forward, but a lot of people will just get down.

Get Other People Hyped

Other people’s excitement can also drive you to complete your game. Start a forum thread on it on the official forums, tell your friends and your family. Whoever you think would be interested.

But, more so than any other way of keeping yourself on track, this is a double edged sword. You can feed off the energy and really get yourself motivated… or you can fall behind on your game and all the expectations of others crush you. Be CAREFUL doing this. Don’t promise more than you think you can deliver, and expect to disappoint occasionally. Just try better the next day.

No joke, I seriously felt a little down about it taking nearly 3 weeks to get another post up about making this game.

No joke, I seriously felt a little down about it taking nearly 3 weeks to get another post up about making this game.

Mix It Up

Don’t try to do one thing in your game constantly without touching other parts. We all have portions of the maker that we may not like to do as much…

Seriously, I really hate doing Action Patterns and Battle Events.

Seriously, I really hate doing Action Patterns and Battle Events.

… so don’t save those all for last. Think about it. How fun would it be to have hours and hours of nothing but the part you hate left to do on your game.

Mix it up. Do a little bit of the parts you dislike in between parts you DO like. Don’t leave yourself with what looks like an unclimbable mountain in the end.

So What Do You Do?

We all experiment with ways to motivate ourselves, and ways to keep ourselves from falling behind. How do you do it? Join us in the comments section below.

7 comments… add one

  • Mark April 28, 2014, 10:26 am

    I’ve found the best way to keep productive on my projects is to keep a routine. I go to bed early and wake up early in the morning (around 5am), meditate, brew my cup of tea and then get to work. When I do this for long enough I can almost effortlessly slip into a creative state and get not only more work done than if I worked on the project at random hours of the day but also produce better work.

    • Nick Palmer April 28, 2014, 11:14 am

      I’m unfortunately terrible at routine. Like I can’t even keep a sleep schedule that makes sense.

  • Wulf April 28, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Unfortunately, I’m not good at keeping routines either. I can be called in to do an extra shift at any point. Since I work nights, the days flow into the nights anyway, so I cherish the days off when I can focus on my projects again, particularly the game I’m now working on that must have been the longest in development ever. I always make sure that no matter what, whatever time it is, I spend at least 2 hours per day doing something on the project, even if it’s something small. That way progress IS being made on it and it doesn’t fall victim to “I’ll do it tomorrow when I have time.”

    • Nick Palmer April 28, 2014, 3:37 pm

      I have a really flexible schedule workwise (its more about what I get done than when I do it), so I tend to work in things randomly. I probably should develop a real schedule one day, but it just seems to elude me.

  • amerk April 30, 2014, 4:38 pm

    I’ve gotten through some very boring meetings just letting my mind wander to my game and ideas for my game. It’s also great to be able to have internet access at work. I tend to catch up on all the free music pieces (members+, restaff, contributing members, etc), and these all put me in a happy gaming mood.

  • amerk May 1, 2014, 1:17 pm

    As long as we get our work done, they generally don’t care. One of the reasons I’ve stayed in my current position for so long. :)

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