The Last 10% Is Really The Last 90%
Why is the last 10% of your development really the last 90%? Today we’re going to talk about something that is prevalent in development, and any kind of building, or working on art, or developing, anything in this space. It’s the fact that the last 10% of your project takes 90% of the time.
Why don’t people finish the games they build? It’s almost a meme in the indie game developer space to not finish a game. This is because the last 10% has so many things that you’re not even aware of. Things that you have to fix, that you have to polish, that you have to add. I noticed this first when I went to finish my first game. I had spent 10 years at that point working on all sorts of projects, especially games. And for whatever reason, I just couldn’t finish a freakin’ game. I would just lose interest. I would just get to the point where the game was far long enough that I got to the dark work. This is what I call work that I do that I don’t really see any visual reference for; when I build it for a long time and I don’t see any improvement in the game or something.
When I get to the dark work stage, I just quit. I’m not going to release it and I just move on to the next thing. This kind of thing really damages my self-esteem. It damaged my belief in myself that I was a finisher. Every time I don’t finish something is, to me, proof enough that I don’t finish things. So why would I finish things if I’m not a finisher? This limiting belief grew over time and it really seeped deep into my head. I really had to work hard to get that negativity out of there.
And I think it’s really important to understand that, when you end up in a cycle like that, NO, this isn’t a psychological issue. This isn’t a mental problem. This isn’t YOUR issue. It’s a fact that the last 10%, that last piece in game development is the biggest piece of the entire game. There’s so much to do in that last little piece. I remember that when we were finishing a game, there were so many things in that first game that I had no clue was coming. For example, I had working sound and stuff before, but I had never finalized all the sounds for all the things and said, “Okay, that’s what we’re going with.” I had worked with artists before and built art into the game, but I had never realized, this is all the art for the entire game and it’s not enough. I had never built out a full set of menu, UI systems with the settings, and a mute music, mute sound. All that took a lot of time. Individual menu options on how to do this and that is for…There was also a credit scene that took a ton of time to do.
When I got to actually publishing it, I had to learn Intel XDK because I was working in HTML 5 at the time. I had to learn the intricacies of how to do all these random ass things I had no idea about such as the ID that was needed, the 5 different sizes of icons, the 5 different sizes of splash screens…all that stuff took a ton of time.
When I finally built the app, I had to go to the App Store and figure out all these fields. There are about 5 different pages of fields that I needed to to fill out. I had to do all the promo images, the descriptions…This was just 10% of the game so I just figured, “Oh, the basic game’s done, we could just get that stuff done in like two hours.” But that little piece, that little sliver, THAT 10% turned into 90% of the project. It was massive! And that’s not even including polishing it off or a lot of play testing. If you have economy tracking for your game, you have to balance that out.
There are so many little pieces that you just don’t think about. Especially when you’re a solo developer, you just don’t think about this stuff. You think that when the basic game is finished, you’re like, “I’m done!” But when you get to that last 10% towards publishing, there’s still so much to do. I’ve learned to expect what’s ahead of me after I finish the basics of the game and not get discouraged when I go through that giant slog of finishing things. The best example of this is when you try a game jam. You can get a game done in a weekend, no problem. Publishing that game is a bigger challenge than the game jam itself because it takes more time to do.
You have to expect that it’s a slog. It’s a slow long process you need to work through. You need to do it because if you quit there, that’s like the worst place to quit. If you’re going to quit, it should be at the idea stage. Don’t quit when you’re at the 90% mark, even if it does take 90% of your time to finish up. Just carry through, because the world needs more awesome indie games. I just want to encourage you guys. If you’re at that point right now, when you really feel like you’re almost done but these little pieces keep cropping up and you need to keep tweaking, just know that you should carry through—even if you don’t think so, even if you don’t feel like it.
Watch my video, Go With Good Enough, so you don’t over obsess on some things. You always want to make sure that you’re not spending too much time perfecting and trying to improve on perfection. If you’re in that stage, just know that we all go through it. It’s normal, and you shouldn’t stress out about all these things because all of us developers go through it. And it’s not just in game development. I’ve built several start-up companies from scratch by myself. And every time I build something, an online web application or something, it’s the same thing. The last 10% is just that bitch of a hard piece to get through.
These are my words of encouragement for today and I hope it helped you out. If you have any comments, please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you guys.