This is somewhat of a funny post, but there’s truth in it, I assure you 🙂
What I’m talking about? I’m talking about how not to lose motivation or get “burned”. Getting burned is really more common than what you might think. If you consider that most indie spend months (if not years!) on the same game, is easy to understand that you can be burned.
By burned I mean that you can’t really stand anymore in front of your monitor coding your awesome game XYZ. Usually the indie game development is divided into 3 phases:
- game concept / design – this is the most funny part for sure. You start writing down all the possible amazing/awesome features that your game is going to have. Is easy to get things out of hand during this stage. Already at next stage you can be sure that you’ll read some of those features and think “I was nuts? How I could really think to have a full 3d walkable world??”
- implementation – this starts great, but as the time goes on, in 99% of cases become like any other “real job”. Bugs shows up, testers complains, you realize that what you thought would be a great gameplay system actually sucks. Then, what you do? You necessarily have to rethink some parts completely, so you rewrite them and then start testing again, and so on. In this stage you also realize how “this quick 2 months project” will turn into a “long 9 months project” easily.
- polishing/release – polishing is really an IMPORTANT stage but so many people (including myself) don’t take it into much consideration. How some small little insignificant features are going to change the game sales so much? is not possible! No, you’re wrong, it is very possible 🙂 Then there’s release day and unless your game sells within a few hours you’ll start having some serious crisis.
Some people get so pissed during stage 2 or 3, that they put project on hiatus, or even abandon it completely. It might seem strange but this happened to me too in the past, with two games. One was a fantasy RPG which I was coding (I realized that was insane to do all the coding myself!) and another was a mission based shoot’em up (I realized that it was such a poor selling genre that I would have wasted my time).
There are some solutions though that can help indies to finish their project and avoid burning. Some are rather obvious, others less:
- take breaks from PC. Seriously, go out, take a walk, take a break of a few days, go on holiday, anything – if you’re burned, and if you’re late but insist on working you’re most likely to be burned even more and lose days doing nothing but getting stressed. Even only a small break can let you regain motivation and reduce stress.
- have a small side-project. This has really worked well for me. For example now I’m doing Planet Stronghold but at same time several other “minor” games. This helps me because if one day I’m too tired to code complex RPG mechanics, I can always “relax” by going on with some much simpler gameplay elements.
- do other tasks. When making a game there are LOT of other task beside programming it. Things that are usually easy and don’t take much time/resources. You have done the website of the game? did you setup the product in your vendor control panel? did you wrote the PR (press release)? have you blogged about it? did you contact some journalists to ask for interview/previews of the game? the list is long…
- outsource/find a partner. This is really useful if you’re like me, and even if you can code yourself you’re too tired to do it now. Beside, if you outsource to the right person, you’ll get a better overall result. In the beginning I was doing *everything* myself: coding, art (using poser), gamedesign… But now I have started outsourcing art already since 2 years, and next year I’m probably going to outsource coding as well, because what I do better is gamedesign. If you’re a coder, is stupid to save a few thousands and try to do yourself the art. And viceversa if you’re an artist, is stupid to waste lot of time trying to understand how to code (even with some easy tools) when you can outsource or partner with someone else.
- better have a smaller game finished than a big game never finished. Some indies attempt making something too big. Cut features out , as long as the main gameplay stays intact. If the smaller game works out, you can always make a sequel with all the features you cut out and the game will sell more. Some examples of this are Positech Kudos 1-2 and Democracy 1-2. Each sequel adds much more to the original game and I’m sure they sold more. So, build a smaller game to “test the waters” and if works, work on something bigger.