What’s More Important Than Working Hard In Game Development?
Today we’re going to talk about something that has been close to my heart. I love working hard, I love to talk about consistency and going the distance. But what’s the one thing more important than working hard? I know a lot of people who work very hard and I like to surround myself with these people.
But working hard doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to go. I know a lot of people that work hard that are still broke. I know a lot of people that work hard and hate their job. I know a lot of people that work hard and just haven’t gotten anywhere in the 10-20 years that I’ve known them. And that always bothered me. You hear these things, like, “Hey dude, you should work hard”, “Hustle and grind!” You hear this all over the web. That’s how you become a millionaire. That’s how you become an entrepreneur. That’s how you sell games. That’s how you sell software. Just hustle! Hustle! Hustle!
But you know what, there’s one thing that’s more important than working hard. And I’ve learned this the hard way. And that is: YOU HAVE TO WORK ON THE RIGHT THING. Working on the right thing is more important than working hard. And I have been so lucky in my life to be able to learn some of the things that I’ve learned, work with the people I’ve worked with, and be mentored by the people that mentored me. I was able to learn this early. And because I learned it early, I had a lot of early success. I was able to things that, I think, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do in a lot of different avenues: in marketing, in start-ups, in software, etc., because I knew the art of working on the right thing.
Sometimes, working hard is the least important. And working on the right thing is the most important. Because, if you think about it, especially in a game development project, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to work hard on the game. There are other ways to get it done: I could team up with people, I could pay people, etc. There are a lot of different ways that I could get that game done. If there is a part of the game development process that I’m most talented for, that thing that I can make the biggest impact on, I can work on that particularly and let a team of others who have their own expertise in other aspects and we can do so much better in achieving our end goal just because we’re all working on the right thing.
This used to come up a lot when in some of my freelance business when I build software and platforms and stuff for people. I build games too but we do a lot of software and technology and back-end stuff. Whenever we get a job, we usually get the whole job, which is includes not just the development but the design, the UX, the UI, like all that stuff. And my personal preference is to work on backend and UX. I like the UX stuff from the marketing side, and I like the backend programming. And those are two very different jobs. But I like to switch between them. The rest of the other stuff like UI, design, and all the little intricacies of the images, don’t interest me as much.
I catch myself sometimes because I want to build this whole thing—this coherent, complete, whole thing. But the whole thing is made up of lots of different pieces, and I have to stop myself from trying to do it all. I have to stick to the right thing. The things that I like doing, the things that I’m really good at, are the things that I can do 10 times faster than anyone else. And it will cost me more, if I do the other things myself, than if I pay someone else to do them. Because I’m so much better at my job with these little two pieces that I like, that if I hire someone that’s so much better at those jobs, we can get the whole thing done way faster and way cheaper if you take into account the time that I would spend doing these things. I forget that whenever I want to do everything.
I want to I want to build the whole pie. But I forget that working on the right thing is the most important from a business perspective, as well as from an energy level perspective. Doing the things I’m a good at keeps me motivated and pumped. And I think in game design, it’s really the same way. I like to hire out a lot of my design stuff when I’m doing freelance projects because it just takes way too long for me and my style doesn’t always match up with what the client wants.
Picking the right thing at the right time is just as important as picking the right thing. Knowing the order, the hierarchy in which you have to work on things, knowing which things need to be done before other things, is really important. For example, I mentioned in a previous article that you’ve got to think of the user experience. The reason why, I think, a lot of my games resonate with players as much as they do is because of the experience, because of the walkthrough that I’ve built into them.
I have a lot of titles where it’s very clear we gave no thought to the experience. You can tell the difference if you play a few of them. But when you walk players through that experience, through that step by step—okay go here, do this, this is the menu, etc. It’s a really good experience from beginning to end. It’s so much better and when I’m starting a game, I find it so much more motivating, to start with that process because then I understand what the game is supposed to be. I don’t get caught up on all these features that I could add that don’t really make the game.
Another perfect example is my procedural generated FTL-type game that I’m working on now. This game has so many things that I could add to. Like, I can I can add mining for planets, I can add FTL travel, I can add shops that people can buy and trade their findings from, I can add combat, I can add all these different things. But without a coherent experience, I’m going to dive into the game, I’m going to pick a ship, I’m going to start my journey, I’m going to get the little story, dialogue, mission, and then I have an objective. Without that piece, all of that doesn’t matter. And I find myself getting lost in all these other pieces trying to build all these cool features when I don’t even have the core gameplay yet.
I just keep reminding myself that I have to build that core piece of gameplay, that I have to get a super basic super boring version of the game done first, before I start adding all these other features on top of it. And it’s hard. But working on the right thing is more important than working hard, because you can work hard in the wrong direction and I’ve done that so many times in my life and I don’t want you guys to make the same mistakes.
I hope I drilled the point down enough so far. If I have or if I haven’t, leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.