Motivation For Game Developers – 5 Tips To Finish A Long Term Game
We’re going to talk about motivation how to stay motivated for a longer term game and some things you can do to kind of stay on that path coming up. What’s up guys Tim Ruswick here from games dev underground and if you are new here we routinely post videos on motivation and marketing for game developers so consider subscribing and hit the bell to make sure you get notified. But today we are going to talk about motivation. More specifically longer-term motivation.
So I’ve got a lot of tips on the channel I’ve got a lot of videos about some of the stuff that I’ve done to keep myself motivated or to recover from burnout or to kind of do all that stuff. There’s a ton of resources to check it out. But specifically today I’m going to give you five tips five of my best tips on motivation for longer term. And some of these i’ve covered videos on before some of these are adaptions or iterations from other things and some of them are new, so let’s just get into them and kind of go through them. So, number one, this was a big one for me for real for real and it is don’t obsess, but you still got to be consistent.
So for me my biggest issue in finishing a game for a longer term was my obsession and like i would get super obsessed and this sounds kind of counter-intuitive so hear me out because when you think of obsession you would think that would be a good thing because then I’d be working on it more and i would get you know more done but that’s not how it worked out. How it actually worked out was I would obsess the shit over things that just go and go and go and work 14-hour days and miss sleep and and you know not answered my girlfriend or friends that wanted to hang out or whatever it is and I just obsess about the game.
And that led to burnout right, that’s not sustainable for long periods of time you can do stuff like that sure for short chat time i find a game jam after a game jam I’m pretty exhausted let alone you know weeks or months. So having to work on myself a bit and kind of get over that obsession was really important for me because it kind of taught me balance life work balance and kind of balancing this thing. And you know longer projects aren’t about the sprint, game jams are about the sprint and sprints are fun right. Everybody likes to do these quick little sprints as you would come up with.
But game jams are about you know the long term marathon run. It’s you got to be the the turtle not the hare in the longer term games. And i think it’s different than than like mobile games or short single mechanic games or game jams and stuff like that, in the fact that obsession can kind of help you in the short term, it can help you in game jams, it can help you get stuff out there but for longer terms not so much. It it can burn you out and can isolate you, it can damage you in a lot of ways especially if you miss sleep and stuff like that sleep is really important that sounds cliché but you know whatever it is. But just understand yourself right like just don’t if you find yourself obsessing and shutting off people and and going at it a little too hard just back up a little bit.
So point number two is is on the back of obsession and that would be to take time off. And i know that again clashes with consistency right, i preach be consistent be consistent be consistent do it daily but i also preach take time off downtime is productive like those are my things and those are your very clashing ideals those ideas kind of clash with each other. But this world is not black and white this world is not a 1 or 0 it is a beautiful paradox of all kinds of conflicting ideas that have to work together.
And one of the things that you have to know is you have to know when you need to break and you have to be able to take a break for me when i was like obsessed on stuff sometimes like if i worked on something for a month maybe i want to take a weekend getaway or maybe I’m going to go on a week you know I’ll wait and do some cool shit maybe i want to camping or something like that. Like something that kind of gets my mind off again for me because I’m obsessive i have to go places where i can’t bring my laptop or where i choose not to, which you know that complicates things because then i’ll end up like i will legit on a river in a campground fucking take out my laptop and start working it’s happened before.
So I know myself enough to know that that will happen so I intentionally plan ahead for it. If you’re like me that might be a good tip for you to just kind of schedule your downtime take time off. If you have a little more control than I do and you know just pay attention to how you feel and take the time off that you need but get back into it and get back in your consistency and don’t don’t feel guilty about it don’t feel bad you need the time off and you have to take time off, that’s point number two.
Point number three, this is a good one this one helped me a lot is aligning milestones with events and so i guess 3.0 would be actually have milestones 3.1 would be align milestones with events but you definitely want to have milestones. And milestones i think or these smaller objectives that are part of the larger game. So and this because when you work in a large game especially near the end there’s so much stuff in between where you are and where you got to go it helps to have kind of stepping stones like you’re going up a staircase so okay here’s the step here’s a step here’s the step it helps you gauge progress how far you up the staircase.
If you’ve ever went up like one of these crazy like lighthouses we went to one in St. Augustine’s which is pretty cool, these long massive structures or stairs up mountains you can’t see the end to those stairs and those stairs are like oh you want to start because you can’t see the end. So milestones are like your steps to the end, and you want to make sure that you have milestones because they’re really important especially for longer-term games. So time milestones to events is one of my ways that i stay accountable.
So what having milestone is really important but a lot of times what I noticed with me is i would just ignore them. I would say I want to have all the levels done by august or whatever and I would just ignore ’em I just feel like well I said that but mmm don’t really have to follow it because you know I made it so… But that’s a really shitty thing to do and it’s got me in trouble especially when I couldn’t even hold myself accountable so one of the things that I did to combat that part of myself was I would tie it to events. So let’s say if I wanted to go to Pax or want to go to GDC I would say by the time GDC comes around I have to finish this part of my game I have to finish this milestone and that’s my ticket to GDC otherwise I can’t go.
I’ve also seen people do things like this at Pax where they have to show part of their game right or they have they have a booth or something like that so they have to finish that milestone by the time they get there. That can that’s really good motivate motivation to kind of you know get that extra kick. Again be careful where it kind of overlaps with obsession and burnout.
But for me that was always a good kick in the pants and one of the cool things about like showing your game off at the milestone is usually the event is like a little vacation and you can kind of you can kind of talk to people about it and get feedback and all that stuff and that hearing all the good things people say about your game and all the compliments you get is kind of a great motivator to come back and say okay now i need to get to milestone number two, i know we’re getting the fix i know what i need to modify.
It’s like a breath of fresh air in a way that like not many other things do for me. And you can tie it to you know internet events too it doesn’t have to be physical events that can be game jams. I tied them to Ludum dares before like i got to finish this milestone or I can’t join Ludum dare I got to work on my shit. That has really really really really helped me stay motivated so that’s number three.
Number four which is similar to a milestone but you got to pick a deadline, you got to pick a final like end date, you got to pick a launch date basically. There are a thousand ways to pick a deadline and we can’t go into all the little details of how that’s best and how you should do that because every game is different every person is different. But if you don’t have a deadline your game can go on forever. It can evolve it can change it can modify and you can just get stuck in like this limbo of my game is cool but it’s not released but it’s not done but it’s not released.
And it’s just you can stay there forever. So you need a deadline and the deadline is the cutoff date where you say okay maybe I didn’t get everything I needed into the game or everything i wanted into a game but it is complete enough where I’m going to release it. And this is one of the cool things about working at iteration cycles too is rather than start with this big ass design concept this huge game that you want to start from the beginning. If you start with the core game and then you add a feature on top of it you add a feature on top of that you add a feature on top of that.
So work in iteration cycle right just adds little pieces as you go you end up with you can kind of have a complete product at any point. So when you have a deadline and let’s say you you know you’re not as far as long as you want to be you still have a complete product, you still have something that works and plays.
One of the worst things you can do is is get super far in your project and not have a playable game not have a working prototype. So picking a deadline kind of helps you think like that and say okay well shit this is going to launch next month so i really got to get the whole thing you know polished and packaged. But it also kind of motivates me and i like to announce deadlines publicly so you know not only to like friends and family that are like will hold me accountable but to public too like say hey this comes out whatever.
And then if you’ve got you know hundred people thousand people whatever waiting for your game it’s kind of hard to say well you know it’s push back till September, and then do it again. No, you don’t want to do again. So one thing I will say on deadlines real quick though is is usually i calculate how long I think it’s going to take and I get myself an extra two or three months. I do that for two reasons one because it always takes longer than you think it will humans suck at estimating.
And two, I actually like to have time for marketing when the game is done because marketing takes a mental shift that is different from programming for me for from development. It takes the extrovert side of my brain whereas i think programming can kind of embrace the introvert side of my brain and it’s not really social whereas marketing is very social so it takes a mental shift.
So for me to do both at the same time is really complicated so i like to separate the two and like have extra time between when I finish the game and when i launch the game so I can spend all my time on marketing and do that stuff. That being said i am a marketing guy so maybe other people are better at it than me I don’t know but that’s just what i do. And finally number five, this is going to sound super like guru but monitor your feelings.
Okay I’m not a psychologist not a doctor but we talk a lot about self-improvement on this channel we talk a lot about motivation and getting to know yourself and that kind of thing because paying attention to your feelings is really important. Because if you feel like you are getting burnt out mental health is a thing too. In in at least in the United States culture we don’t value mental health as much as we do physical health. So you can call out from work if you have a cold but if you feel burnt out and you don’t feel like going to work you can’t call out and say hey I don’t I don’t feel like going into work, they won’t accept that as an excuse.
When they should. Because mental health is just as important as physical health. And that’s why i say monitor your feelings understand like how you feel understand the things that are coming in your brain. Like for me like one of the big signs of burnout for me was when i started waiting my computer. There would be periods when i would just i would either not want to get out of bed or when I got out that I did not near my computer. I would make every excuse possible I would go to Starbucks I would go see movies i would do all kinds of shit to stay away from my computer.
And and at first I didn’t know that what’s happening I didn’t know that because I wasn’t paying attention but once I started paying attention to myself and I found out like how how I react to things right. And this would definitely happen for the last 10 years or so as i’ve gotten older. Like I didn’t pay attention to this stuff at all like in high school and stuff. But definitely over the last 10 years I’ve kind of gotten older and got a little more mature I pay attention to how I feel and how I interact with the world and that is a big sign to me when I avoid my computer that something is wrong. And so rather than avoid whatever it is and let it let it give me anxiety and let it affect my sleep patterns and and do all that, i pay attention to it. I feel it, I ask why am I feeling this way.
And then I can usually solve it. And usually it has to do with some things that i perceive to be out of my control and i sit down and I say okay how can I take control of this situation, or how can i fix this or how can I make it better. And that has this piece i know it sounds like when the least important things but it’s one of the most important things of this whole thing because i noticed for longer-term motivation for me it is not usually the project that derails me it’s not usually the complexity or the technical difficulty or anything like that it is something comes up, it affects me in a way that I’m unaware of and i just start feeling uncomfortable.
I start feeling like I don’t want to do the work. I start feeling that way. And I now that I pay attention that feeling and I understand where it comes from and then I can fix it at the source i can take a week off I can take a month off I can take you know day trips somewhere i can consciously make choices to reduce workload. Sometimes dude I’ve avoided pieces of code so I just outsource them. I call up one my friends are like hey dude you know a hundred bucks can you write this piece code or I have I have a series of outsourcers that i pay by hour too.
Like yeah you don’t want like you want to reduce your expenses obviously but there’s so many times where like I’d hit a roadblock like that and the roadblock is not technical. I’m perfectly capable of writing that piece of code or making that piece of art or whatever it is but there’s some kind of mental barrier there for whatever reason.
So getting over those mental barriers understanding when there are mental barriers is really important and then just moving forward regardless of what happens with no judgment with no feelings of guilt with no feelings of any of that stuff was really important for me.
So this has been a hell of a journey for this video it’s been a lot longer than i thought it would but i hope you guys got some use out of it. These were definitely the top five things that have helped keep me motivated through a lot of my longer projects and i hope that they keep you motivated as well.
I know that a lot of us are working on projects now so please leave me your top tip for motivation down below in the comments, i always love to hear from you guys but this especially on you know I’m not a master this this is just my experience so I would love to hear other people’s experiences maybe adapt some other people’s techniques. But until then I am Tim Ruswick and I will see you guys next time.