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TrapperZoid

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Some of you may have seen TrapperZoid's latest post, wherein he gives a review of 2006 and his game development progress.

Having followed TrapperZoid's progress myself for some time I am now going to share with you my opinion on the situation, since I feel he serves as a prime candidate for showing why most people don't make games.

This is not to be mean or even unkind, in fact it is meant to help people, especially TrapperZoid. Truth is I am annoyed on his behalf, I know what it is like to fail project after project, however that is no longer the case.

Please see TrapperZoid's journal post before reading this.


Failure

I don't know anyone who hasn't failed at somthing in their life. Failing is okay, however when we fail we need to learn why we failed to aid in not failing again.

TrapperZoid has failed repeatedly at making games (with the notable exception of Pierre and the Fish I believe) and it's not because he can't make games, it is because he does not have enough of the three ingredients for indie game development.


  • Time

  • Skill

  • Dicipline



Let's cover these obvious but important aspects of indie game development.

Time

Each of us has 24 hours a day to do what we need to do, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and as many years as our life allows. In the grand scheme it's not a lot of time, but surely there is a lot one can do with this time.

Let us take a working example, Morning's Wrath was a game which took overall three years to develop, probably with an average of 30 hours a week being spent on it which is roughly 4,500 hours of work.

The average high-school-er spends 6 hours a day in school five days a week, which is also 30 hours, so developing Morning's Wrath is 'about' the same as three years of school.

The above example may help to put the time involved into perspective.

If you have no time, it doesn't matter how much skill or dicipline you have,
you can't make a game.



Skill

Game development 'skill' is a loaded word, but what it basically means is, the established knowledge for the processes, pitfalls, routines, work-flows and workarounds that are all part of developing a game.

For example, the average Joe on the street would not likely be able to make a computer game, this is usually described as "I don't know how" that is, he lacks the know-how.

Know-how can be many things, from developing a game play oriented story, to writing a game engine, and yes even being able to write down a complete design document.

In short, game development skill is what separates someone who doesn't know how to make a game, from someone who does.

If you don't have the skill, it doesn't matter how driven your are or how much time you have, you can't make a game.


Dicipline

Ah dicipline, you hear about it all the time but what does it really mean? In the context of indie game development it means the ability to stay focused and to consolidate both your time and skill. With the proper dicipline you can focus your energy appropriately to build a quality game efficiently. Sadly, a lack of dicipline can disguise itself as a lack of time or skill.

How many times have you decided to do somthing 'fun' which was less important, than somthing 'hard' which was more important? This is an example of weak dicipline, giving in to the easy when you should be doing the hard.

No don't get me wrong, everyone needs to relax sometimes, but what matters is consistency, your dicipline and 'will' to develop games must be strong enough to overcome laziness and allow you to focus on building your game.

With all the time and skill in the world, without dicipline to focus you on the creation process you can't make a game.




TrapperZoid

So now we come back to our friend TrapperZoid, let's where he stands with the three ingredients.

Time:
From the 'looks' of things, trapperzoid doesn't have a lot of contiguous time, given that he is a student, however this could be a lack of dicipline.

Skill:
Clearly, from his work on Pierre and the Fish, he has some skill, and certainly enough skill to create similar games, this is not the blocking factor but it won't increase until he starts developing it more.

Dicipline:
I am going to have to say this is the culprit, barring that his time constraints are real and he really has no time. I think our dear friend TrapperZoid suffers from a lack of motivation and focus and his dicipline is too weak to force him to work when he isn't motivated, this will diminish if skill increases, given that a lack of skill can diminish dicipline.


Conclusion and Solution

TrapperZoid, much like I did you need to master yourself, if you're going to make games then you need to make games. Game development is not somthing you can fiddle with now and then in hopes of creating somthing impressive, it is a goal which you must work at a little bit every day, keeping focus and drive while increasing your skill and not letting life steal your time away for less important things.

From your journal posts your favorite excuse seems to be "I wasn't motivated", game development is not always fun or self motivational, you must set aside time each day to work on your game, be it art, or code, or story, or planning, if you don't feel like doing it that is precisely when you should be doing it that is weak dicipline. Impressive games take a lot of work and people without focus and drive don't make impressive games.

With that, I wish you the best of luck, and that you come to realize that there is nothing to doing game development but doing it.
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This is effectively the problem of mostly everyone on GDNet. I try to force myself to do 10 minutes of game coding a day; this means I at least get my compiler running a bit. Even with little steps, I'm still moving forward. I also try to implement some sort of graphical indicator for things I'm testing, so I can see it doing things. It's very demotivating to work for months on a chunk of code you can't even see running.

It has problems when I need to implement a large system, like AI, and put it off until I'm sure I have enough time to do it in one go, though.

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Hey, an EDI journal post all about me! I'm honoured [grin]

You're right on the money as far as your assessment goes of why I've failed to complete a game this year (or at least in my opinion); discipline is the most important aspect to getting the game done. Lack of time is sometimes an issue for me but in my view shouldn't be a failure point (it's not like I'm always stressed for time), and lack of skill shouldn't be a stumbling point since the gaining of such skill is the primary goal of my game work.

I also agree with Ravuya that this certainly isn't just me [grin]. I think this is a stumbling point for most unsuccessful projects.

I'd also like to add that a further problem from lack of discipline is impatience, which is something I think was a major stumbling block for me. Often I just want to get stuck into grand design or the amazing new implementation details, but there's a lot of slog work that needs to be done for every project that just has to be done. If you're not careful, you'll procrastinate by working on non-essential tasks, such as the dangerous tendency to expand your game design document to something beyond your abilities or time budget [smile].

I suppose another problem is lack of directionl; sometimes I forget exactly why I started a particular project in the first place and go off on some tangent.

In a way though I was already 90% of my way to coming to the same conclusions myself - hence the reason for that long review post in my journal. It's always a good idea to take a step back and see where you're going wrong.

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Props to ze man for a concise post. As a great jedi master once told me: "find thyself, know thyself, master thyself", - and he didn't even smile at the end or anything.

It also helps to know that if you fail, you'll have to actually get a proper Job. That's a real good motivator that'll pop up once you stop being a student. [grin]

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