5 Ways To Save Your Game From An Early Grave
March 30, 2013
Struggling to finish a game? You aren’t alone. Many GameMaker users suffer from motivational issues that stem from a number of simple causes.
It’s not unusual for a game developer to have a stockpile of unfinished projects. It can be frustrating and demoralizing when you realize you haven’t finished a game in a long time. It may be you’ve never finished a game.
The solution could be as simple as making a few changes.
Finding The Skill Set
Being an indie developer isn’t as easy as just having the right tools. Making a game requires a broad skill set. It isn’t likely you will be able to perfectly craft every aspect of your game from determination alone. For most people, it is usually the graphical work which can be a challenge.
If you want an at-home solution, don’t be averse to learning something new online or using material from a local library. Be it drawing, voice acting, level design, or simply marketing your game – many sites, including the ever popular YouTube, can serve as great educational tools. Written guides, forums, and blogs can be a great source of help too.
If you are ready to try something more substantial, you could see if there are any nearby video game design schools. Committing to a course at any educational institute to better your skills can be very worthwhile.
Keeping It Secret
A huge mistake people make is releasing information about their game too early. It could be a screenshot and a synopsis, or playable demo. It can be all too tempting to share a game half way through the development process.
This can be an instant kiss of death. Getting your game finished is the moment you can release it to the world, and getting feedback can be very rewarding. If you spoil it and get that feedback when the game isn’t done (which increases the risk of a negative reception) you may lose your motivation in a single hit.
At the time of this article, only 45% of all GameMaker game topics are labelled as finished creations. This means it is statistically possible that more than half of all games in the last couple of years that were released as WIP (work in progress) never saw a finished copy.
Hold back until you are in the final weeks of development (unless you have a specific marketing plan in place that requires exposure). Don’t share videos, screenshots, or demos. You will only hurt your motivation. Until your game is done, you don’t really have a game at all.
Commit To An Idea
According to a recent GameMaker Community forum topic, another common failing by indie developers is to be easily sidetracked by a new game idea.
Once you have started a game, you can’t be wasting your mental efforts by dreaming up other game ideas. Allow yourself to be absorbed in your project. Think about exciting new features you can add to your existing game. If you have any new game ideas by chance, write them down and forget about them for the time being.
It doesn’t matter how many great ideas you think you have if you never see them to the end. What good is it to have all of these ideas if you never thoroughly act upon any of them? Equally, if you find yourself immediately bored with your game idea, perhaps it’s not as good as you first thought.
Never be hasty about what new project you dedicate your time to. Ultimately, if you don’t enjoy your game, and aren’t excited about it, then how can you expect others to be? You should be enthusiastic even after a hundred tests and beyond.
Avoid Burning Out
It is very easy to kill motivation by working on your new game for too long. If you find that in the past, you’ve come up with an idea, worked on it rigorously for a week, and then hit a wall, that means you’ve burned yourself out.
Finding a consistent time to work on your game may be crucial. Keeping a “to do” list is also very helpful so you can appropriately spread out the work load over a certain time. Don’t turn your game development into a scheduled chore, but allow yourself to sensibly allocate time. If you do too much too quickly, you’ll have no energy or drive to work on it any further. It happens very often to a lot of people.
In the event of accidentally burning out, take a break from GameMaker for a month. Don’t work on other projects during this time, or you’ll break that commitment as discussed above.
Have A Battle Plan
Being an indie game developer means more than just making the game. You must have an idea of how you are going to distribute it.
If you are a non-budget hobbyist, or you’re looking to simply luck out, consider making YouTube videos, posting your game on an appropriate game forum (do not spam websites) and sharing your work with friends.
Connecting with other game developers using Facebook or Twitter will also allow you to build a small following who you can share your game debut with. Social media is great way to reach out to other indies. Don’t underestimate your fellow developer; they are gamers too, and chances are they’ll be more than happy to see what you’re up to.
Also know what audience you are targeting. If you are going down the commercial route (which even hobbyists should give a shot) and you are choosing to sell on a digital store, then you may be more motivated knowing you have an immediate platform to distribute your game on. The promise of making a few dollars or getting instant exposure can make even the most apathetic of indies excited.
Some utterly rubbish apps have made lots of money. Some very good apps have made millions. Some have managed to make big money simply selling their concepts onto larger companies. Can you score it big too?
Be open to learning new skills. Keep your game to yourself until it’s nearly done, and work on it at a healthy pace. Have an early plan in place before releasing it, and keep your radar clear of other projects and distractions that might steal your time and your motivation.
Adopting these guidelines as your own will add significant structure to your game development experience. Though it sounds simple, many indie developers using GameMaker don’t abide by these basic concepts (some people even seem to agree with them but never actually put them in place). There is no better time to change your ways than right now.