Do You Keep Starting New Projects And Never Finish Them?
Today, we’re going to talk about SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME. Yes, it has a name. I googled it and I learned that a lot of people struggle with this problem just like we do. That’s the problem of just constantly getting distracted with different things. You come up with a new idea, it’s a new shiny object and you go for it, you leave the old one behind, and then that cycle repeats and you end up doing the same thing over and over again.
I unfortunately have been the victim of this far too often. Just a couple of years ago, I fell into the shiny object syndrome. It was seriously game-to-game. It’s a struggle especially for game developers because we tend to be super creative. We want to build stuff. We like that thrill of building new things. We like starting on new things, at least I do, and it’s addicting. You have to be careful because that feeling of amazing possibility and beautiful development and awesome stuff that you can do in the beginning is really motivating, it’s really fun to work on.
If you get addicted to that feeling and you keep starting new projects, you’re never going to get anywhere. Unbelievably all the great artists in the world are the ones that have completed stuff, the ones that have gotten this stuff out there. If you saw the work of artists that never went out to the public, your jaw would drop to the floor. Unfortunately, we don’t know who those people are because they never finished their projects. If you want to be one of the greats, you have to finish your project.
You have to get past shiny object syndrome. So how do you do that?
There are two primary ways that you can get past shiny object syndrome:
- Commit to a project.
It sounds super simple because it is. It seems obvious yet a lot of people don’t really put this in action and I don’t know why. It’s probably the best way to get over shiny object syndrome and that’s just to commit to the damn project.
If you keep jumping from project to project, you’re not going to finish anything. So I recommend that you commit to a project. I wrote an article a while ago called “How to succeed by Quitting.” It was about zombie projects— the projects that we don’t officially quit but we move on to other projects and then those kind of projects just kind of stay around like we’re technically still working on them in development. But we haven’t really touched them in a few months. I recommend consciously making the point to quit those projects.
To say, “I’m quitting this project. This project is not in progress now. Everything else that I’ve developed at this point I quit right now. I’m only working on this ONE.” And you have to commit to that project. You have to make sure that no matter what you do, you’re going to get that project done. Everything else is on hold until you get this project done.
It’s not easy to do, and I know that I’m making it sound like it is, but it’s not. I know because I’ve had to do it. It’s still something I struggle with, something I still go through. There are 2 primary games in my life right now. The bigger projects that I’m working on. One is called Black Rim, the other one is called Philophobia. As much as I want to work on Black Rim because it is a procedurally generated space game which I love— I love to play those kind of games like FTL and Out There and those kind of games— I made the decision to stick with Philophobia and finish it
It’s been a couple years now and it has kind of been a zombie project of mine. The release date is in February 2018 so I made the decision to focus on the game work on it. Complete it, finish it ahead of schedule probably by the end of this year, and then only then am I allowed to finish Black Rim.
So I’m not allowed to work on Black Rim at all. Even if I want to, even though I’m kicking myself and I really feel like working on it today— NO, I’ll work in the Philophobia. That’s my main project. I’m committing to that. I’m committing to it on this blog so you guys can hold me accountable. You could be my accountabillibuddies.
- Reduce the scope.
If you keep starting new projects, one of the main reasons is because you have shiny object syndrome. But there’s another reason that you’re doing that. It’s because the projects you are starting are too big. I was able to actually have a lot of success even though I had shiny object syndrome, when I switched to single mechanic mobile games.
So for me, I would set these big platformer projects. I always wanted to create a storytelling platformer. A platformer that is beautifully crafted and told this very emotional story.
I kept starting those projects, I started like 3 of them, and they were always too big, they’re always too big to finish. And when I started doing single mechanic mobile games, these are games that I could finish in a week or two. Together with a team, we were going to a mini game jam that we were supposed to finish in a week – it took us 2 weeks and that game looked good.
I hate the game to death and never want to look at it again, but it looks good and plays well. I made a series of other games in less than 2 weeks to 2 months. That seemed to be right for my limited attention span. 2 to 4 weeks is the max of my attention span for a project.
I design projects that were within that scope. What I mean by that is if I knew I had a 4-week attention span for a project, I took on projects that would take about one or two weeks to finish because I know that it would always go over and would always take more time than I thought it would. Even if I didn’t think it would, I knew from experience that it always does.
Human beings suck at time estimation, that’s just how we are. So double or triple your time estimates every time. If you commit to a project and you reduce the scope, I think it’s a pretty good solution to shiny object syndrome.
It’s gotten me out of a lot of shit in the in a couple of months or years that I’ve tried this stuff. My advice is not to start a new project until you’ve finished what you’re working on and reduce the scope so that it’s more probable that you’ll finish it. The rite of passage here in Game Dev Underground is you have to finish your first game.
So if you haven’t done that yet, you need to design a super small game that you can complete and finish so you can call yourself a game developer. I struggle with that the most. Once I got past that point, it was actually pretty easy. I was like, “Oh you know I finished up, I can actually do stuff.”
If you have your own solutions for shiny object syndrome, please leave them below or let me know what you think of what I discussed because I love to hear from you guys as always.