GameDev Thoughts: How To Get More Game Development Work Done In Less Time

New developers will find it easy to start on a project; after all, you just had a brilliant idea and it’s going to be built into the next best seller and will be amazingly fun to make! Most developers don’t actually manage to work on those projects until completion, however. They’ll find something else and put that project into their backlog so they can work on something new. This just leaves them with a bunch of half-finished games. Here are some tips to avoid falling into that trap by staying more productive and more motivated.

First, set some goals for yourself. If you have no ways to track your progress, you won’t realize how much work you’ve done and will lose the motivation you need to keep working. Make these goals specific — for example: “Create 3 game levels,” as opposed to just “Create game levels.” In addition, break those goals down into a bunch of subgoals. Those subgoals add to the feeling of progress, and it’ll also be easier to start working if there’s something manageable you can do. Similarly, you’ll find it much easier to work if you start by doing high impact tasks first, as that feeling of progress will be amplified. Don’t let anything distract you from completing your goals, and keep on making progress by breaking larger tasks down into smaller chunks. If those chunks still feel too big, don’t be afraid to break them down even further. Progress is paramount to success.

It should also be known that consistency is critical to your motivation. If you can turn development into a habit, you’ll find it much easier to work on your game. If development is just a side activity that you try to avoid as much as possible, obviously you won’t want to work on it much at all. Develop your habit daily and keep track of your progress so that you can see consistent progress and keep your spirits high. Maybe make some milestones that you aim to achieve in a week’s or month’s time, but try to do something that’ll inject urgency into your development routine. Even if you’re developing daily you still need to be making significant progress using that time — strive for efficiency. If you can’t keep up with your schedule here and there, that’s fine, but whatever you do don’t let yourself start missing multiple days of work in a row or that’ll undo the creation of the habit you worked so hard to create. It can take weeks to build a positive habit.

Next, you have to keep the scope of your game in check. Sure, you might’ve gotten the idea for some massive, ground-breaking game, maybe a space game in which you can do ANYTHING, including creating your own ships and colonies and whatnot. You might’ve even laid down the entire foundation for said game. The problem is that if a large AAA company with professional developers takes multiple years to build a smaller-scaled 4X game, how do you expect a tiny indie team with inexperienced developers and a limited budget to even come close to completion? I’m not saying that you should completely scale back your ambition, but you should definitely make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. Focus on getting prototypes out as quickly as possible so you can determine if your ideas have viability for making a fun game, and don’t expand too much on that prototype besides ironing out kinks. Find the fun first, then elaborate on that fun. Vlambeer’s quick and dirty Wasteland Kings prototype is just as fun as Nuclear Throne. Success leaves clues. Follow in their footsteps and create a small but extremely fun prototype first.

While this isn’t possible for everyone, being in a group will make the grind of daily development much less significant. Each member in the group can reinforce each other and motivate each other whenever there’s a feeling of doubt. Find some people that will keep you working, and you’ll definitely feel a surge of motivation from hearing positive feedback. These people can also help you out when you get stuck and will generally just smooth out your development cycle. I personally owe much of my success to the people around me. Conversely, avoid hanging around negative people if you can as that’ll just crush your motivation slowly and steadily.

In general, even beyond groups or people around you, avoid negative influences. View everything in a positive light and treat every small positive as if it were much bigger. Also, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Don’t ruin yourself just because you feel the need to meet an arbitrary deadline; put yourself first. Eat well, exercise, and take breaks if you really need them. Find ways to put any harmful distractions behind you and figure out how you can make development into something much less stressful.

Important Takeaways: Newer developers often lack the motivation to follow a project to completion, so here are some tips for maintaining it. First, set goals for yourself so that you can see continuous progress and feel that your work has actual meaning. Next, keep a consistent schedule or you’ll find yourself slacking more often than you should be. Then, ensure that you’re keeping your game’s scope in chec. Taking on too big a task is just asking for failure to hit you when you least expect it. Next, groups will help you in every aspect. As long as they’re positive about your work, they’ll both provide motivation and may even help you with your development. Don’t forget to get feedback from others outside of your immediate circle of friends and colleagues though — those people can be the most honest with the constructive criticism. Finally, as a whole, just avoid negative influences. Anything that can take your attention away from the work you’re doing. If you leave yourself with only positive influences, your work will be nothing but positive in your eyes and you’ll never lose that motivation.