Staying Motivated

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I have seen the 'games are bigger than most think' think quite a bit. It had even hit me when I was really young. And while I have ideas and concepts for big huge games, I have not started them because of that exact reason, it is to big for me alone. Where as the games that I do work on are small and I section them up and complete a section at a time and I have gotten to a point where I need just a few more things in it to become beta release worthy I just got bored of it. Which sucks because it came so far. It was a cut down version of a slightly bigger game than I wanted to make it basically played on 2 dimensions (while still being 3D) and I suppose that is part of the reason I lost interest, because it wasn't the one I wanted to make.

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I have known a great many people who had this problem.  For about 9 months I have been working--on and off--on a voxel game, and thus watch Youtube and other sources for people working on similar stuff.  I see that many people make it [this far] (rendering blocks), fewer [that far], still fewer [farther]...  I'm not sure if it is what you describe, or just the realization that a full game is technically much harder than they thought.

Personally, I know when I get onto a project that I can stay on.  It consumes me.  I find it hard to focus on my paying job, spend less time with family, and don't care one iota about recreation--I just want to get back to my code.  I think about it as I drift off to sleep, solve problems for it during my commute, and often find my wife has said a lot to me that I did not hear because my mind has gone back to my latest problems with "it."

Because of work and family illnesses in the older generation, I have taken as much as a month at a time off this project, but I am eager every day to return to it.

Those are my 1.5 cents.

That is unfortunately the only way to solo-create any complicated games, much like voxel-block-based games.

Any other route is going to fail miserably. It's just too much work. If you don't have to 250k changes on your github repo, your voxel world likely isn't doing anything. Or it isn't scaleable at all. Or it doesn't have multiplayer (which is the point of sandbox collaboration games) and so on. Or, hopefully you specialized the engine in such a way that some of the most complex parts went away. Eg. simple voxel/distance-based lighting maybe. I had ray-based lighting, which was a blessing and a curse.

There are fun and unfun parts of everything. If you stop working on projects just because it's not fun anymore, everyone will understand, we've all been there, but you're never going to finish anything. I don't know how to make the unfun parts fun, at least, but I just grit my teeth and do it.

https://github.com/fwsGonzo/cppcraft/graphs/contributors

That's how far I got before I got tired of the whole voxel thing. It was fun and well worth it. All the engine needs is some more gameplay, but to me that's the least fun part, I guess. I did all the fancy stuff like modern graphics (minus SSAO, because there's better ways with voxels). I actually had several SSAO implementations, they just won't work because you have too much detail in the distance.

Now I'm making 2D engine, which feels like vacation. I don't have to profile every little thing. Nothing has to be in a parallell threads with deep planning and 10+ test-cases.

Unrelated:

I'm using libTCC (C-compiler) to generate machine code on the fly as my script API to the engine, because it can generate directly to memory.

Edited by Kaptein

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To me, the main point is to get a project that motivates you and keep up a good pace so you see improvements. Especially if its just a hobby, this seems the sensible.

Now, if you have little time (which you make it sound like), make sure you start something where you can get little achievements even after 30-60 min sessions. Like "get character A moving" or "program little function B".

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I wrote an article a while back (see above) which had a suggestion to get one going.

Worked for me, hopefully it can work for you too.

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Work ethic, commitment, wage packet, competitiveness, professional pride and enjoyment in your work. People need a purpose and a motivation, without that your like a boat drifting in the ocean, how do you find purpose though....?

Maybe get involved in a group of like minded people....

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First of all, you should realize that staying motivated is a pretty common problem. You're not alone. There was a really good post that lots of good advice on how to stay motivated. Here's a link to my post.

http://www.gamedev.net/topic/653198-how-to-overcome-biggest-hurdle-motivation/#entry5130107

Watch the movie Collateral! :)

Focus on smaller games at first. There's a great article on which game you should code first and why.

http://www.gamedev.net/page/resources/_/technical/game-programming/your-first-step-to-game-development-starts-here-r2976

If you go straight to your dream-game of awesomeness, you'll quickly get overwhelmed. But if you take baby steps of small reasonable goals you'll be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and be equipped with tools and code to tackle bigger projects.

If you can stay motivated to get into shape, I'm pretty sure you can stay motivated to work on game development. It sounds like you have a pretty busy life right now so the time simply might not be there.

The only "trick" is, that there isn't a trick. You have to prioritize it or it just won't happen. You have to want to lose weight more than you want to eat donuts. You have to want to complete a game more than you want to play a game. :)

Good luck man,

- Eck

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Thanks for all the suggestions and links, I have a dream game, just like everyone, but it is huge and I have made documentation on it but I have not started it. I am working on little projects because of the mentioned reasons. I'm gonna try the things in your post Eck. And the reason I'm excercising so much is because I am trying to get into the military as a reservist so that has an incentive. Programing has no monitary gain for me unfortunately (maybe one day but just a hobby at the moment and I kinda want to keep it as a hobby) I just love doing it and I'm going to try to schedule my life so I get time to do so. Thanks everyone, your posts are very informative and have helped a lot!

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Yeah, being an indie game developer is rarely the path to riches. In fact, it usually costs you lots of time, effort, time, socialization, time, money, and time. But if you do finish a game, release it, and even one person (not a friend or family member) buys your game. You get to say... "I'm a professional game developer!" :)

- Eck

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Being an indie has a lot more to do with dealing with your frustrations (the relationship between 'my boss wants me to do this and I hate it' vs 'I need to do this') and it can be fulfilling in its own right because you never take a battle that's not coherent with your initial mindset. But it does require you to do 'more' than the job would usually demand. If being indie proves to be too hard on your motivation, I suggest either of these:

- Deal with it, you're a grown man. You're there because you chose to be there. Make yourself a system to handle the hurdles along the way. A system is what makes pro sports players able to perform day after day (notice how a golfer, for example, has a very specific habit before putting, how he takes his ball, moves back, checks the scene. When interrupted by noise, they often do the ritual from the start just because it puts them in the right mindset).

- Give up on being an indie and go back to the industry. If you're struggling with motivation there as well, consider giving up on the video game industry. Chances are you like games, and like the idea of making games, but possibly, you don't particularly enjoy making games, at least professionally.

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On top of my apparent Attention Deficit Disorder I work two jobs, one is sales and the other as an after hours call out undertaker that ruins any sleep pattern I may have had, and working on my fitness to get into the Army Reserve (to replace the undertaking, I'm not going to do three jobs at once, bugger that) I find I have less time to work on what I want to and I'm so exhausted that I end up getting home and I don't have the capacity to think so I play some games, eat dinner, exercise (usually going to the fiance's place and running the dog for 40 mins) and sleep.

You lack motivation because you do not have focus.  Most people can only excel in 2-4 major areas of life at one time, often at the expense of something or things in order to make progress (sleep often being one of them).  Obviously you are already overloaded by what your own words show.

Focus on your work and your relationship with your fiancé and continue in programming as a hobby until you make time in the future for it.  Don't worry about it.  Just be patient and someday you will make the time for it. Now is simply not the time.

Back to motivation, you need to learn the habit of STEP by STEP progress toward goals in a PLAN.  As you accomplish realistic goals, then you will be motivated to concentrate because you desire the next reward of accomplishment for your hard work.  Somewhere in there you need to develop the desire to work hard and methodically.   Desire has a lot to do with concentration, motivation, and completing projects.  Desire, plan, and focus!

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2-4 areas hey, I had never thought of that. I have 3 physical hobbies but each of them have 1 or 2 set times a week, and they are not very long. I'm definitely not giving up on the programming though, it is heaps of fun but I just need some direction I think. I keep thinking of ideas for games and just so I don't forget them I write them down into my design doc folder and I have quite a few, I'm only working on one at a time but I stop working on one and move to another which sucks. But I have mapped out my fortnight into Google calendar so hopefully that helps.

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That was my team problem and the reason why we haven't released any game. I ve worked with various teams for the past 5 years... always reaching to close to beta and then they stop.

I know the whole topic is about solo dev a game but I think all you need is 1 person thinking alike. Preferably artist or a Game Designer.

You ve mentioned that you don't enjoy creating the gameplay. So I think all you need is someone to point you into directions and keep you on the track.

Example:

Game Designer will tell you "by next week we will need this and that" small pieces at a time for you to develop and learn. Slowly slowly without realizing it you will have a released game. That is of course of you don't leave the team.

Artist will help you keep working. Doing it alone you can always say "maybe tomorrow... next week" end up not bother to go back after so long... but if you have a person on the team working too, you will see the game evolving from your partner side and try to catch up.
Such as code the new character s/he made. Listen to his ideas and find new concept to work on.

If you get excited with new ideas artists is what you need. Because during game development s/he may think of something better.
With a game designer the game will most likely be already on the papers. He will only guide you on how and what is need to be done first and have your next assignment ready.

Even better find a team with an artist and a game designer. This way you will get an organized schedule and your partner progress that you need to catch up.

And since you have a lot to do in your real life (even if I don't support it) a team without deadlines could work for you. Or a team with flexible deadlines. But still they will have demands :)

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That was my team problem and the reason why we haven't released any game. I ve worked with various teams for the past 5 years... always reaching to close to beta and then they stop.

I know the whole topic is about solo dev a game but I think all you need is 1 person thinking alike. Preferably artist or a Game Designer.

You ve mentioned that you don't enjoy creating the gameplay. So I think all you need is someone to point you into directions and keep you on the track.

Example:

Game Designer will tell you "by next week we will need this and that" small pieces at a time for you to develop and learn. Slowly slowly without realizing it you will have a released game. That is of course of you don't leave the team.

Artist will help you keep working. Doing it alone you can always say "maybe tomorrow... next week" end up not bother to go back after so long... but if you have a person on the team working too, you will see the game evolving from your partner side and try to catch up.
Such as code the new character s/he made. Listen to his ideas and find new concept to work on.

If you get excited with new ideas artists is what you need. Because during game development s/he may think of something better.
With a game designer the game will most likely be already on the papers. He will only guide you on how and what is need to be done first and have your next assignment ready.

Even better find a team with an artist and a game designer. This way you will get an organized schedule and your partner progress that you need to catch up.

And since you have a lot to do in your real life (even if I don't support it) a team without deadlines could work for you. Or a team with flexible deadlines. But still they will have demands

If I might chime in on that... I had the exact opposite expierience. Granted, bar one pretty good programmer the guys I tried to team up with 2 years ago were most probably not only no very expierienced, but also not very motivated.

But also, I myself was (and still am, 5 years part time expierience is NOTHING) kinda new to the whole Game dev topic, and while I have some years of expierience with leading a team of people in the army (which hardly qualifys as real expierience outside of the army), I had zero expierience of leading a team and managing them in a hobby game dev project.

In the end, not much came out of it, most of them never did any work, and even worse, it cost me a good part of my dev time to keep them up to date, try to motivate them, organize meetings, try to learn the necessary management techniques.

One after the other dropped out of the project. So I came up with a new plan with the last two (which also failed to really contribute till today) last year, came up with a more modest project (still very ambitious for a lone wolf), and just started developing on my own... without having to worry about the other 6 guys, not having to wait on a contribution that never arrives, and being able to completly focus on getting done what needs to be done.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying working with a team is not a good thing. Depending on your project and your skills, working alone can definitely be a very BAD thing!

What I want to say, before you assemble a team, you need to be aware: somebody WILL need to manage the team. This will cost this person, whoever he is, quite a lot of time (So it might actually be a good idea to have a guy that does just that, the project lead, so to speak). He WILL need some expierience in it (a group of hobby devs can be quite an unruly bunch... nothing different to military, but there they cannot just drop out like with a hobby project  ).

So seeing how the TO is drowned in different jobs and hobbies, suffers from ADD and wants to program because he enjoys it, I would rather stick to smaller projects and find a pattern that helps to stay focused on his own than trying to assemble a team.

Joining an existing team or joining as non-lead in a newly assembled team might be a good idea on the other hand, provided they are working on an interesting project (the TO will need all the motivation he can get) and can relate to his time limits (it can be frustrating working with guys that don't even have 3 hours per week to work on a project when you invest 20+ hours into it yourself... so not everyone will tolerate a lower or lax time schedule).

My 2cents

Edited by Gian-Reto

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I couldn't agree more.

As well as for the 5 years experience I wouldnt even call me Jr. Game Designer. After going through Sloperama I can clearly see that there will be always something more to learn. Even after 10 years there will still be new stuff to learn maybe even a new game era. (Such as Oculus Rift which it started becoming more and more popular).

Back to the post.

I know what you meant by saying "it can be frustrating working with guys that don't even have 3 hours per week to work on a project when you invest 20+ hours into it yourself... so not everyone will tolerate a lower or lax time schedule".

"
So seeing how the TO is drowned in different jobs and hobbies, suffers from ADD and wants to program because he enjoys it, I would rather stick to smaller projects and find a pattern that helps to stay focused on his own than trying to assemble a team."

But I think all he needs is someone to organize his priorities and how to proceed.
I offered to him my help. I can rewrite his documents and give him tasks to complete at his own free time. After completing with 1 i will pass another one.

This way he can narrow his focus on specific aspect and get motivated in finishing smaller parts of the game each time. Than losing motivation during building a whole game.

After this it will really be up to him to see how it is to be a game programmer (not only coding the fun part and losing interest as soon they are done) and decide if this is actually what he wants to do as hobby.

(That is of course if he wants to finish a game or just enjoying the coding of the 1st part of the game)

I hope that may help him and a lot of people who want to get involved in game Industry :)

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I used to feel the same way you did until one I came across a quote:

"The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bull#@% story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it" -Jordan Belfort I'm not saying the author of the quote should be your role model or anything but for some reason that really struck a chord with me so I printed it out and taped it below my monitor. Every time I feel a little unmotivated my eyes drift automatically (now) to that quote and I quickly realign myself to task. So not to put it rudely but I see a bull#@% story you seem to be telling yourself and it looks like you are trying to tell us, maybe even trying convince us, to tell you, you don't have time, you should quit, or this might not be for you.  But I read your story, and see one not so different from mine, and I say what's really standing in your way?

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Well I have started making a schedule of my life and I think it will help, I'm going to do some today and see if I can get a rhythm going. I like the quote idea though. Really helps. I had been focusing on one small part at a time, and I do enjoy programming the gameplay, but I had cut down a game so that I was working with a smaller project but that wasn't as fun as the bigger one (not really big but it was a space game and I hadn't quite figured out how to do movement in space just yet so I made it 3rd person shooter) but I think i have sorted out how to make the bigger one. I love every part of making something (even if I am no good at it like the model creation) but I believe I'm a decent programmer and I have so many different projects all written out which I have designed myself that I haven't seen before some that are more just amalgamations of other ideas into one. I tried music design too but I don't know music so I will pay someone for that. But creating is fun. Not worried about making money off it.

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Well I have started making a schedule of my life and I think it will help, I'm going to do some today and see if I can get a rhythm going. I like the quote idea though. Really helps. I had been focusing on one small part at a time, and I do enjoy programming the gameplay, but I had cut down a game so that I was working with a smaller project but that wasn't as fun as the bigger one (not really big but it was a space game and I hadn't quite figured out how to do movement in space just yet so I made it 3rd person shooter) but I think i have sorted out how to make the bigger one. I love every part of making something (even if I am no good at it like the model creation) but I believe I'm a decent programmer and I have so many different projects all written out which I have designed myself that I haven't seen before some that are more just amalgamations of other ideas into one. I tried music design too but I don't know music so I will pay someone for that. But creating is fun. Not worried about making money off it.

Seems like you are on a good path anyway. As long as you really enjoy something you should not have a problem working on it... just remember that there always will be the less enjoyable parts, its when you manage to grind through those you can really start achieving your goals.

Cutting things down is always a good idea at first. You can always go bigger when you get more expierience and the confidence that you could move to the next difficulty level without loosing your motivation.

About "not being good at it"... there is nothing stopping you from getting good at something you are interested in other than yourself. All you need you can find on the internet. In some cases, some additional hardware can help (graphic tablet for arts, good speakers for music creation), but even there you can find almost-pro gear for consumer prices if you shop around and read some reviews. 3D Model making and Music making is not black magic, just a lot of skill and hard work and time involved.

What you need to be aware of is the more areas you are trying to learn (and try to be good at), the more you will loose focus. Especially as long as you are not very good at anything, it is most probably advisable to stick to something (like maybe programming in your case), while keeping your meddling in the other topics (3D Modelling, 2D Graphic design + texturing, Music) to a minimum. Of course your mileage may vary...

Edited by Gian-Reto