One of the most common reasons that a game will not get finished is burnout. It’s probably the number 1 project killer out there in fact, and it doesn’t just stop projects from getting finished, it also discourages people from making games. This is why it is very important to acknowledge that burnout is a thing, and for you to be proactive in preventing it from shutting down your game (or any other long-term project for that matter).
If you can avoid burnout, you can keep working. And if you can keep working, you can finish your game.
🥅 Set achievable goals
Too many people try to make an open-world survival game with AAA graphics as their first project. Whilst it’s definitely a really cool idea, it isn’t realistically achievable by a single person, even if they’re really experienced. So for someone setting out on their first, or one of their first, projects it is almost guaranteed to fail. If your whole game is out of scope, then it will never get finished.
But don’t let this stop you. This should only be used to guide you towards something that you can achieve, something that will give you a sense of fulfilment and a finished game. You need to find something that you can do at your current skill level. If that means following a tutorial to make the whole game and downloading most of the assets off the internet - then go for it. You’ll learn lots of important skills that will open up future opportunities to allow you to make more and more advanced games.
Your first few games should be really simple. Think flappy bird, Pacman, space invaders, go for the simplest thing you can think of. There’s a lot more to game development than a lot of people realise, and it will take a huge amount of time and effort to become skilled in any part of it. The best thing you can do here is take things one at a time, and slowly improve.
⏰ Manage your time
If you’re just getting started, then you’re almost definitely doing this as a hobby. This means that you may be limited to several hours a week. In your time, you want to be able to make meaningful progress that will make you feel like your project is advancing and that your skills are improving. When you go for a bigger project, this becomes a lot, lot harder. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that you know what your project will involve before you start working on it. This doesn’t have to be a full on plan of everything you’re going to do, but you want to have a fairly good idea of what you’re going to do and what order you’re going to do it in before you start.
Having a plan is really important.
Sticking to your plan is also important. You don’t want a two week project to turn into a two month project because of feature creep, you want to try and get things done within a fairly short amount of time so that you can limit the feeling of treading water.
And always remember this: Take breaks. Don’t work constantly. Don’t spend all your spare time working on your game. Set aside a sustainable amount of time each day or week, and then commit to working on your game for that length of time. Don’t follow it rigidly, but don’t overwork yourself or leave your project unchanged for too long.
👥 Work with others
A really good way to reduce the amount of strain you put on yourself is to collaborate with other people. You might be good at programming, someone else might be good at art, and someone else might like making sound effects. It makes sense for you all to team up and work on a game together, rather than struggling along by yourself. If you can collaborate right, you can make some truly amazing things.
You don’t even need to know the people you’re working with in real life. There are many communities out there that specialise in bringing people together to make games.
A very good way to try out new collaborations or work styles is to participate in game jams. Game jams are short events where a theme gets announced and then everyone who wants to enter has to design and submit a game that fits the theme before a deadline. This forces you to focus on what really matters and to create innovative solutions to complex problems. Doing these jams can be really great for your time management and is worthwhile whether you’re working solo or in a team. You’ll even get constructive feedback from other developers and the opportunity to join new communities.
🎨 Have fun
What’s the point in doing something that you find boring? Whilst game development isn’t always fun, it should always be rewarding. If you’re not having any fun making games, then you should probably try to find out what it is about game development that you enjoy, and really focus on that aspect.
If you want to release your games to the public, then that’s great. But you don’t have to. If you want to make games that only you and your friends will play, then that can really reduce the pressure on you, as well as opening you up to making some games you wouldn’t have been likely to make before.
And if it isn’t fun at all, then don’t do it. Life is short and you should get something good from living it. Make sure to find something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling, and then do that. If that’s game development, awesome. If it’s anything else, still awesome.
Hopefully this advice was helpful, and gave you something to think about. As always, if you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below.