It's been quite a while since I've made a blog post, but, I've seen a lot of posts floating about lately with first time devs talking about their first game and how it's going to have the biggest open world, most NPC's and so on, with them soon giving up on their game because it's way more work than they had anticipated. That sadly is when the ambition monster took over. So, let's talk a little about how we can tame this monster.
Right, first off, I lied.(insert furious comment below) Ambition isn't so much a monster. In reality, ambition is what drives us to start making a game along with motivation. Where ambition leads us down the wrong path is when we let it overshadow the importance of scope. Scoping a game can be very hard. You have so many ideas for features and mechanics that you want to put in the game. So, limiting what goes in comes down to a number of factors. These can include, time, money, number of people involved on the game and more.
For the purpose of this post, I'm going to talk about scope from my point of view as a solo developer and how it's something I come back to on every project multiple times. Now, I know the feeling, you've got this amazing idea in your head. It's so clear, you can see the gameplay working, the art style, sounds. It's going to be perfect, right? Unless you've got deep pockets and no time limit, odds are you'll start the project with all the motivation in the world but, soon find yourself getting frustrated at how little has been accomplished after a lot of time.
We've all been there, sitting back playing a big game like Skyrim when you think to yourself, "This is so cool. I totally want to make something like this" It's a nice thought but keep in mind, games like Skyrim for example are made by a team of over a hundred people working foe 3-4 years on that game. Something that also surprises folks is, even Skyrim didn't look like a game until into the final stages of development. That's how games go, everything looks like a mess up until it's actually finished.
Don't lose hope! Just because a large game like that takes so long doesn't mean you can't make something great in a shorter time period. Take the ideas that excite you most, what you're most ambitious about. Now, break those ideas down to their core functions or gameplay mechanic. Now, again break them down into which is your favorite or which one is key to the entire game. Take that one core idea, even if it's just a simple mechanic or feature, take it and go make it. When you're a solo developer, everything you make is an achievement to be proud of. Make a simple game that's fun to play with just that one feature or mechanic. Keeping the scope small and simple helps to keep you in control of your project and helps to keep you motivated. Trying to develop big ambitious games tend to lead to abandoning projects.
Once you've made that first feature or mechanic, build on it. Go back to your list of ideas that first excited you, pick the next one you really want to do and build it into the game. Keep building on that already first, finished feature with the features and mechanics on your list. It's a good way of setting milestones and even building that already small polished game into a more ambitious game over time.
Conclusion: Being ambitious is great but, don't let it overshadow your scope. Work on a game with a small scope to start. You'll have more control and your limitations will make you more creative and effective in finishing a project.