Game Dev Overwhelm: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do
Today, we’re going to talk about “overwhelm” because I find that a lot of people in game development get overwhelmed on all the stuff that they learn, all the stuff that they want to learn, all the stuff that they’re doing, the engine, the programming, the art, all this different stuff—they don’t know what to do. They get overwhelmed because there’s so much to do, they get lost in the vastness of everything in game development. Making a game is a big project. It’s not as simple as you would think it is looking at it. It can be very complex at times.
There are many different pieces and many different skill sets that are needed to make a game. For example, music is very different from art, art is very different from programming. For a solo developer, especially, having to fill in all the little pieces, it can be very daunting and overwhelming.
Basically, there are five steps to figuring out what you should do if you don’t know what to do. The steps are easier than they sound, and I’ll walk you through them real quick.
Take a second to chill out and be alone if you can. If you can get rid of people and be alone in your room, or go to the bathroom if you can’t get away from somebody. Just chill out, be alone, give your brain some space, and just think about the thing that you want to achieve. Think about what you’re trying to do specifically. Being alone and just taking a second to breathe is step one.
- Figure out specifically what you want to do.
Sometimes it’s building a game. Sometimes it’s just getting the game to a workable state. Sometimes it’s finishing the art. It doesn’t have to be the whole stack of finishing game. Sometimes it’s a very specific piece and the more specific you are the better because you really want to think about where you want to go and the more general you get about that, the more ambiguous some of the action steps can be. You really need to understand that. You need to figure out where you’re going to understand what to do to get there.
- Break down what you’re trying to achieve into individual pieces.
And these pieces have to be action steps. A lot of people when they’re setting up task lists, they miss the fact that they have to be able to take action on these things. For example, they’ll say things like finish the game engine as a task list or as an action item. That’s not an action item because there are a thousand little pieces that are inside of that.
Those thousand little pieces are not only pieces that need to be developed with their variables, they change as your game changes, they change as your brain changes. As time changes, if you leave it for a month and come back, those things are going to be different.
When I say break down the action steps that you need to take, what I mean is if you want to finish your game, there are 5 things that you need to do to finish your game.
- You have finish the art.
- You have to finish the program.
- You have to finish the music.
- You have to finish the sound.
- You have to put everything together.
So what are the actual action steps that you need to do for each one of those?
- Organize the broken down pieces by impact.
For finishing the sounds, you need to list every single sound that you have to do in the game. For finishing the programming, you need to list everything you need to build in the programming. Finishing the art, you need to list specifics like sprites, 3D models, etc. that you’ll need to have to finish up. You have to list them all specifically.
This can be a very time-consuming and overwhelming task in itself, so I recommend that rather than break everything down, you break down the most important piece because you can organize these things by impact. That’s what I recommend you do.
For example, you’re building a platform. The actual mechanics might be more important than the art and the art might be more important than the music, and the sound might be…each part has its hierarchy of getting to a playable version of the game. You want to organize it by, if you completed this thing, what impact would it have overall or on the experience or if you showed it to somebody. How much better would it be? For example, art tends to have one of the highest impacts out there as far as a playable game for other people because they tend to judge things visually.
Obviously, getting the mechanics done is important to have a working game, but then getting the art in also could probably be two of the most important pieces of everything because technically, that’s the whole game. The sound and the music adds a lot, but without the mechanics there’s no game. Without the art there are no visuals. Those are the two primary aspects of the game. So think about that specifically. Break it down into individual pieces on what you’re trying to achieve, then organize those pieces by impact.
After you have the pieces, you want to make a list of action items that you need for those pieces. If you need to finish the game mechanics, you need to finish the jump, or finish whatever, you need to list specific things that you need to program. So I need physics implementation on when the player initially jumps, I need the gravity implementation on what brings a player back down, I need the double jump at the height of the jump when that happens. List specific things for art, like I said, it could be a specific list of assets, specific lists of sprites, or 3D models or whatever you need. So now, you have a list of action items of things that you have to do in order by impact. That’s a super good place to be in because now you know exactly what you need to do, in order, and everything that you need to build.
- Pick the top thing and go.
Just start that thing and just get on it. Don’t think about it, don’t wonder if you’d rather do the other thing, don’t think about which thing could be more effective if you do it. Just start on the top thing and go for it. That has gotten me through so many times when I’ve been overwhelmed, it’s ridiculous.
That’s all you need to do. At first I was doing it this way without knowing I was doing it. It was just something that I would do because I always felt better when I got all massive shit out of my brain and out on paper.
However, I noticed that just getting it all out on paper wasn’t good enough. I had to be specific and have the right order and all that. And I think that this is the solution to when people don’t know what to do—or they’re scared to start, or they don’t know where to start, or they’ve just read a bunch of shit, and watch them on tutorials, and have no idea what to do or where to go, or when to start. This helps you get there. And this removes all of the thinking and the efficiency garbage that goes through your head, such as, “Is it more efficient or more effective to do it this way first, or do that?”
Don’t worry about what’s more efficient. The thing that’s more important is just to get started. Just start on the thing and get somewhere because if you spend all this time worrying about what you’re going to do or how to do it or when to do it, you’re not going to get anywhere. That’s time wasted that you could spend just actually doing shit.
Keep in mind that getting started is the most important thing that you can do. The quickest way to get started is to just pick the top thing without putting all this mental effort and worry and thought into it, and just get started. Jump on the top thing, work through it, and get there. That’s how you get out of being overwhelmed. That’s how you figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do.
If you’re in that state of mind, I hope this helped you out. If it did, please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you guys.