Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 31, 2012
Full-time indie game developers have a pretty accessible motivator called “the bank account.” Sadly, it works best when diminished, which is not it’s preferred state. But let’s say you are a part-time indie, or an aspiring indie, and your ability to keep eating is not tied to the completion and success of your next game. With all the other hectic issues of life, you lament, it’s so hard to get and stay motivated to work on your game.
Been there, done that. Here’s a secret five-step trick that works for me:
#1 – Play your game in its current state just long enough to generate a list of things that are Not Working (or not working right). If your game isn’t playable at all, it shouldn’t take long at all to generate a list!
#2 – Write the list down. Order it in whatever order you’d like to work on things. Or not. Just make sure the list is in some usable form. I prefer .txt files, though in the past I just kept a paper notebook. This doesn’t need to be exhaustive, just maybe a dozen things you saw during step #1 that you wouldn’t want to ship unless they were taken care of.
#3 – Start working on one of the items on the list. If and when you finish, mark it off, and begin working on the next one.
#4 – Repeat step 3 until you feel motivated, or complete the list.
#5 – Go back to step #1 if the list is completed.
If you complete all five steps without ever getting motivated, well, guess what? You’ve got a game ready to release, now. Release it. That oughta motivate ya!
Okay, so this post is a little bit on the flippant side. But if I’m harping on this, I’m just as much harping on myself, ‘cuz it’s a problem I also face. And the above solution, dumb as it sounds, is IMO really an answer to a key problem:
Motivation (and it’s cousin, inspiration) doesn’t come when it’s convenient.
If you only work when you feel “motivated” you aren’t going to get anywhere. Making games can be a lot of fun. But a lot of the time, it’s work, and not particularly exciting. Spending hours debugging a rare save-game corruption is every bit as NOT exciting as it sounds.
(Okay, I’m lying a little bit. I’m a programmer. Sometimes I take great glee in hunting down and killing bugs in code. It’s not exactly a motivating factor for me, and it’s often extremely frustrating, but there’s a huge sense of job satisfaction solving a major puzzle in your code. But I digress.)
Bottom-line – and again, I’m preaching to myself as much as anybody else – is that making games requires more professionalism than motivation. And really, working on a game after all the other jobs and chores of the day are done can feel a little overwhelming. Getting a session started can be a pain.
But much as a swimming in a pool can be much more enjoyable once you’ve dived in and forced yourself to get acclimated to the water temperature through a quick shock, I find that forcing myself to work on the game when I don’t feel much like working is the best way to get myself in the ‘zone’ where I am most productive AND really enjoy what I’m doing.
This works for writing, too. Sometimes I have to write crap for several minutes before I actually get inspired to write something worthwhile. I “fake it ’till I make it” – go through the motions until my brain finally agrees to go along in the direction discipline or professionalism or stubbornness is leading.
This seems to be the best way for me to get things done. Make it a habit, and motivation and everything else will eventually follow along.
Just don’t forget to make the list.
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