GameDev Protips: How to Stay Consistently Motivated In Order To Finish Your Indie Game

Even the best and most seasoned indie developers will fail miserably if their motivation is lacking. A person’s motivation is one of the most important factors in their work quality and efficiency. Without motivation, ideas become generic and the game’s design may be just “acceptable” at best. A lack of motivation indicates a lack of care, which may directly lead to the catastrophic failure of the indie game. As should be obvious now, keeping this motivation up is important for your game’s success, and there are several ways to do so, which I’ll briefly go over below.

One of the easiest ways to make your game development workflow easier is to break your tasks up into smaller tasks. At least in my case, I’d definitely be intimidated by a worklist saying “create an epic game.” It just so happens that if you break that task down into creating game mechanics, art, music, or other parts of the creation process, then break those tasks down into even smaller tasks, the entire project looks much more manageable. You’ll never finish your game if you try to tackle the entire project at once, and finishing even one game will put you leagues ahead of other developers who may trip over the very first hurdle.

Another way to help keep your motivation up is to simply not be motivated. While this sounds oxymoronic, there is a good reason to say this; I mean that on some days you should purposefully avoid working on the project. Nothing will kill your motivation more quickly than repetitive, boring tasks and getting sick of your job. If you don’t break up your workload, you’ll lose the motivation to work on it before you’ve made any significant progress. Feel free to take a day off and relax so that your work doesn’t become a grind. Of course, make sure you have the discipline to come back to the project or your entire development time was a complete waste. Another potential solution to the repetitive tasks is to simply vary what you’re working on so that you can feel accomplishment that will motivate you. As long as you leave each section in a state in which you immediately know what needs to be done, you’ll be alright.

Some people take a bite-sized approach to this strategy and instead just assign specific time frames for their work. Instead of having multiple full days of work, some people prefer having a full week of half days of work, or some other time difference. This can help people who don’t have the discipline to return to their project after a break and can also make you feel like you’re doing more work than you actually are; taking days off can make you feel lazy and cause you to push yourself too hard when you return, reversing the benefits of the break. In addition to simply not working on the project, delegating specific tasks to certain days can help as well. If you have days where you would normally have a relatively large amount of free time, assigning yourself tasks that require lots of focus will help keep your workload bearable. If you keep having to deal with these incredibly intensive tasks on already busy days, you might quickly be exhausted and lose your motivation to work.

Sometimes us developers have a problem with burning ourselves out, but sometimes the opposite is true; sometimes developers have the most trouble actually beginning their day. We already mentioned breaking tasks up, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. My favorite way of dealing with this is purposefully leaving a task unfinished. Since the task is unfinished, you can immediately start back up on it tomorrow instead of coming to work with no idea what needs to be done. This helps ensure that your work is proceeding at a consistent rate.

If you’re just feeling lost in general, go back to your “why” to put you back on track. Ensure you know exactly what you’re doing, and what your goals are. When it comes to code, make sure that you completely decode your design then refine that design or accompanying models to make your guide easier to understand in the future; failure to do so will just lead to more confusion later on that will be even more frustrating. Any frustration that comes from a lack of understanding is simply a disconnect between what your code is supposed to do and what it actually does, so visiting references to verify your existing code can help solve this problem. Remember to keep your code as maintainable as possible — the more bloated your code gets, the harder it is to stay motivated further down the line, as the smallest changes can force a mountain of work upon you.

The games that I personally make are labors of love. The goal isn’t primarily for economic gain, but rather emotional gain and personal satisfaction. I made my games solely because I wanted them to exist. If this does happen to be your primary motivation for making your game, staying motivated will be significantly easier. Throughout development you will receive support from various members of the community and you will push yourself harder to not let them down by not releasing the game, further motivating yourself to cross the finish line.

Important Takeaways: A lack of motivation leads to a lack of work, so it’s important to keep that motivation high. Making your task less daunting by breaking each big task into several small ones will help you push through until the end without feeling an overwhelming urge to give up after trying to tackle too much at once. Breaks, be it full days or sections of every day, will break up the monotony of some tasks in game development and replenish lost motivation that would otherwise come as a result. This can also be done through varying your task selection on a regular basis. If your main trouble is just beginning your day’s work, try leaving tasks purposefully unfinished so that you can immediately pick up where you left off on the next day and not have to think about what’s left.

If you’re being frustrated and losing motivation because of it, make sure you understand exactly what you’re doing, and if you don’t you should take the time to clarify that. Fixing your own references by refining them will make this method easier and easier as time goes on. Finally, the strongest motivator is also the one that cannot be utilized willingly: genuine passion for the game. If your primary focus is the quality of the game rather than the potential economic benefits it brings, you will be much more likely to push through hard times and make that indie game development dream come true.