Hey there, Gamers and Game Makers!
Over the last little while, as I've been updating my portfolio, looking back on old games I've made and looking at how I design games now. I started thinking about how I've changed as a developer and the things I've learned over the years. So, for this week, I'm going to talk about some of the things I've learned along the way.
1: You're going to bite off more than you can chew.
When I look back at when I very first started learning to make games, I remember how ambitious I was. Now, being ambitious is something you need and should keep all through your years as a creative because without ambition, what's the point?
However, there's a difference between being ambitious and knowing what you can achieve at the time. When I first started making games, I had dreams of creating big open world games with huge stories and multiple.....well, multiple everything! While it's good to have that ambition, it wasn't realistic to aim for such an ambitious game at that early stage of my game dev life.
The most important thing is to finish projects and that means creating smaller projects first. Set goals you can achieve and work towards a deadline. Once you become more disciplined at your craft you can start pushing yourself on more ambitious projects. But you need to actually do it. The mistake a lot of people make is that they spend all their time in the planning phase. Where ideas seem great because you haven't put them to the test or where you keep refining that idea and keep saying "I'll start tomorrow" START TODAY!
2: Even small games take time to develop.
Another mistake I made in my early days was thinking that just because I was making a small game that it would be easy and quick to develop. Even small games take more time than you first realize to develop. General rule of thumb, if you think you'll make your short game in four months, add two more months to that and you might have a better idea of when it'll be finished.
It's important to understand that anything worthwhile doing is going to take time and is not to be rushed. Be realistic about how long it should take and don't try to rush through it. Both the game and you will suffer if you do.
3: Your dream game is not the only game.
As game developers, we all have that game idea that we consider our dream game. What we think is our best idea and the game we just have to make. I know I have an idea that has been on my mind and I've been planning and testing for a number of years now. But it's an ambitious game and while it's a game I will get made over the course of time, it's important to realize your other ideas. Making other games not only improves your skills and helps get your name out there but those other games are what make working on your dream game possible. Don't fall down the rabbit hole of working on one game for so long that it burns you out.
4: Finish It!
In case it hasn't been obvious from what I've wrote so far, finishing a project is so important. Even if the game you finish is just a free game that you put out there for people to play, it's a finished game that you can point to at a moments notice if and when you need to show a portfolio piece. Keep your core game simple and avoid the feature creep. Get something finished and out to the world and then continue doing the same the next game.
5: Stay motivated.
In our early days of making games right up to our more experienced days we can struggle with motivation. You know that feeling of being super excited and motivated at the start of making a game only to quickly find yourself losing that motivation as you develop a game you feel will never get finished. Don't worry, it's not just you. It happens to the best of us. The thing about games development is that a game will seem crap for about 90% of the projects development. It's only in that final stretch when things start to come together and it actually looks and feel like the game that you had envisioned.
What I do to keep my focus on work is set a pace. I'll work without interruption for an hour and then I'll take a ten minute break where I'll take a break from the screen and stretch my legs. After that, I'll do another hour and repeat the process. I make a strong effort to not crunch late hours and also take time to try forget about the game for a bit and focus on other things that make me happy. It's important to take car of both your physical and metal health. Games may be your passion, but YOU still come first. Take time for yourself and spend it with family and friends doing things you enjoy. When you come back to your work you'll have that fresh motivation to keep going.
6: How you measure success.
This is something we all struggle with. Everyone will measure success differently. You need to figure out what success is to you. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do is become a game developer and even though I don't work in a big game studio and I make small games. I can proudly say I'm an award winning game developer who gets to make the type of games I want to make and people play them. Games may not make me rich but they make me happy and I'm in a position where what I've done so far is allowing me to return to college pursue a degree in Software Development and I continue to make games. As far as I'm concerned when it comes to being a game developer, I'm successful and most importantly, happy.
As always, I hope this has been of help to folks and please, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch.
Until next time!