What often happens in the world of non-professional game developers is this thing called "Life". Many of us hobbyist types have day jobs. We have families, sometimes children, and a boatload of other commitments. When time becomes stretched, the hobby project is usually the first thing to suffer. My own story is nothing special. Through a combination of real world crises, and a more general despair at a percieved lack of progress, I let myself lag and eventually stop working on my project altogether for a several month period. Old story, nothing new to see here.
So why am I writing? Because, I've picked myself up, and I want to help you do the same!
As many people have written before me, there is a cycle to this sort of thing. The more you work on a project (of any sort), the easier it is to continue working on it. At the same time, if you start to slack off, it becomes easier to continue the trend. There is a sort of inertia at work. Most if not all projects have plenty of positive momentum in the beginning. Everyone is full of great ideas, big dreams, and lofty goals... And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Those people who are more experienced in the world of game design are always quick to warn newbies to the craft to temper those goals with a dose of realism, and there is nothing wrong with that either. Dream big, but understand that the momentum you have at the start will not keep up throughout the process.
So what's a fledgling developer to do? Well, how about a bullet point list of tips!
- Recognize that your time available for working on your project will vary. Keep a step or two ahead as best as you can and try to plan out when you will have time to work and schedule yourself mentally.
- Recognize that there is nothing wrong with lulls in progress for any reason. It happens, and its nothing to be ashamed of. I myself have been working on my project regularly since the fall, but I haven't updated my webpage or this journal because I felt some shame for letting myself fall off like I did. I regret this, but I submit to you that you need not do the same.
- When time is in short supply, work on the smallest of goals. I had about an hour of free time before work this morning, I used it to work out a particular bug that I've known about forever but hadn't gotten around to fixing until today. It was a simple, straightforward, and acheivable goal that could be taken care of in just an hour.
- Keep yourself involved in whatever community you've chosen to be a part of. It's amazing how much it can help just to have someone ask you about your project. Its amazing what a motivating factor it is to have someone care enough to mention it. If you never tell anyone about it, you can rest assured that no one will ask.
- Last but certainly not least... it is never, ever, EVER too late to go pick up your project again. You should never give in to that little voice that tells you its too late and you'll never remember what you were working on, or you should just start over. The hobbyist developer relies so much on the ability to motivate one's self. You absolutely must motivate yourself.
So here I am... I'm quite happy with the progress on my own game. I would even say I'm a little bit proud of what I've accomplished so far, which, for whatever its worth, is kind of a rare occurance. So all you out there, get to work, don't worry about the small stuff, and let me know of any interesting ways you have found to motivate yourself!