Stuck on your game, what do you do?

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Post: #1
I am finding myself often sitting in front of my game ideas, and feeling that I have spent all my energy I could muster on it. Normally this would happen when the implementation proves to be too complex, or the idea to far out there.

Normally I would then let the idea be an idea, and do other things, sometimes for months, until I can come back and work on it again (or never).

So what do you do, when your games are too much to bear with anymore?

Maybe you don't know the feeling, so maybe you can post about how you don't have these moments, and why.
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Oldtimer
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Joined: 2002.09
Post: #2
Short answer: when I tire of coding or designing, I plan.

Usually, I get stuck when I don't know how to go forward, or when I feel that I have too many options ahead. At this point, I list all the things that need to be done, break them down neatly, prioritize, categorize and estimate their completion times. I list bugs, improvements and do the same to them. I usually spend some time commenting code and ironing out memory leaks and the like. Then, I just go back and work my way down the list.

Mind you, I do not do this superficially. Usually, a schedule "refactoring" is usually a ten-twenty hour thing.

I was planning an article on my project management process, but seeing as the project itself has derailed completely, I might be better off making a small post on it instead. Rasp

Anyway, I have three documents:
Ideas: This file just contains a braindump of cool ideas that I might want to keep track of. It's sort of a cookie jar. When I get really low on motivation, I pick something from this list and implement it. Basically, it's broken into three segments: "Graphics", "Interface/Gameplay" and "Miscellaneous". Bugs do not go in here, they're always at the top of the schedule, no matter what.

.plan This is basically the schedule I was talking about. It's blocked into general areas such as "Network play", "Engine improvements", "Online highscores", "Game Advisor" - often each area corresponds to a code module. I make long bullet lists and cross them off as I finish them. This way, I can easily see my progress. Each item is broken down enough to be approximately one hour or work.

Specs This file contains very thorough breakdowns of each "area" from the .plan file. For instance, what's called "Add iChat integration support" in the .plan expands to a 15-item bullet list in here. That way, I get bite-sized tasks that generally do not take longer than five minutes to fix. Great motivation booster.

Then again, when you don't feel like working on a project, take a few days off. Clear your head. Go running.
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Post: #3
Fenris has about nailed it with his reply. For example, when I got tired of working on Pawns I would sketch out puzzles on graph paper. Sometimes while commuting to or from work I would plan out algorithms in my head for some of the more difficult bits. On a good day I would avoid difficulties and solve design problems before I'd even written a line of code.

Also, I find that showing my work to someone else is one of the most fun things about game development. So as I start to lose interest I make plans to release an early version to a friend. This in turn forces me to make it presentable and to cut non-critical features so that I have something to show sooner.

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Post: #4
Thanks, Matt. Rolleyes

Quote:Also, I find that showing my work to someone else is one of the most fun things about game development. So as I start to lose interest I make plans to release an early version to a friend. This in turn forces me to make it presentable and to cut non-critical features so that I have something to show sooner.
That's really good. I'll have to employ that too!

Let's turn this thread into a "motivational booster thread"! Wink
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Post: #5
Fenris Wrote:Then again, when you don't feel like working on a project, take a few days off. Clear your head. Go running.

Sheesh. If I went running every time I got sick of a project, I'd have circled the continent. Wink

"Yes, well, that's the sort of blinkered, Philistine pig-ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage."
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Post: #6
What you should find as you get more experienced is that you'll start more projects knowing what needs to be done and how long it should take. So you'll get less problems of diving in with no idea how you're going to make something work.

pah, who am I kidding! Smile You'll still get projects where you dive in on a basic game idea and a technical theory. However you should end up with more projects where you've got a proper deadline and hopefully you shouldn't start too many games where you've no idea if the basic gameplay will work or not.

One thing we tend to do when designing a new game is code up the absolute basic gameplay in a weekend. If the gameplay for a game doesn't work in really basic form in a weekend, it probably won't work at all.

If you think you've got a great idea, but you're not sure if it's technically feasible, make it an R&D project and set a specific deadline. If it works, great you've got something new to try in a game, if it doesn't you've learned what to avoid and not wasted too much time Smile

Once you're in a project with a fixed deadline and you're being paid or your status as an elite games coder is on the line then it gets a lot harder when you're getting fed up of a project. As far as possible, budget time for fun stuff. As Fenris says, going for a run is great, as is walking off to have a think or just getting something to drink (non alchoholic) is good. When things get really bad, it's pretty much down to people with a professional attitude getting the game finished. N.B. someone who can give your ego a good massage (or good previous reviews/previews) can be a major bonus at this stage. Friends playing the game for the first time can be great for this, but be prepared to ignore every single suggestion they have if need be Wink

The one thing I've learned from working on big game projects with impossible deadline is this: Sometimes, when you realise exactly how big a workload you've got and how little time you've got left to finish a game, it's quite ok to scream a bit Smile
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Member
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Post: #7
I've dealt with a major burnout on every major project I've worked on so far. It's normal, especially if you work like a demon.

Typically, my first reaction is to focus on design for a few hours. It gives me a good break from staring at the screen-- I have never done a lick of design on my computer. It's all in notebooks (10 cents a pop at Target) and done away from my laptop. By the pool is great, and when I was taking class at UNLV, I would often bring the notebooks into class (which had the additional bonus of making it look like I was actually paying attention and taking notes.)

In uDG 2004 I also did an "art weekend" where I would work on the creative side of everything, namely the art and music, and made myself promise that if I caught myself with Xcode open at all over the weekend, I would kick my own ass.

When the burnout got real bad though, the best thing to do is walk away from the project for awhile. No code, no art, no nothing. I took a week off of uDG, and even a few precious days away from 21 Days Later. Both times it did wonders. For uDG 2004 it was a week of excessive drinking in California, and for 21DL I reconnected with an old friend, and also bought a box set of old Godzilla movies and had an all-day marathon.

MattDiamond Wrote:Also, I find that showing my work to someone else is one of the most fun things about game development.

Agreed. In addition, whenever I show my games to other people, their excitement also motivates me. If people ask to play my game, or even better, play it over and over again, I know I'm on to something good, and will go back to the project equally excited.

Justin Ficarrotta
http://www.justinfic.com
"It is better to be The Man than to work for The Man." - Alexander Seropian
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Post: #8
Zwilnik Wrote:One thing we tend to do when designing a new game is code up the absolute basic gameplay in a weekend. If the gameplay for a game doesn't work in really basic form in a weekend, it probably won't work at all.

I would like to modify this. I think that code involving any major libraries, algorithms, or structures that you've never used before should be written before starting, unless it's something that you can live without in the final product. I say this because my current project relies heavily on the Lua scripting language, and I've never used a third-party script engine before. I'm glad I implemented the whole system before I even put any graphics in, let alone gameplay, because it's taken me the past 3 days to work all the bugs out, because the guy who wrote the BlitzMax Lua module was smart, but somewhat crazy and nazi-like.

My web site - Games, music, Python stuff
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Post: #9
So, maybe the people who would answer this are not here anymore... Grin But what do you guys do for long-term burnout? I have a 7-8hrs a day job doing coding, and when I get home, the *last* thing I want to do is sit down in front of the computer again and do still yet more. I did that for my last big project, which was about 3 years ago. I've yet to finish anything else non-superficial.

I've got a couple of small things I'm trying to work on in the background when the mood strikes me, but it hasn't been striking me lately even for those. What's a guy to do besides just give up?

Cryptic Allusion Games / Cryptic Allusion, LLC
http://www.cagames.com/
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Post: #10
Dan Potter Wrote:So, maybe the people who would answer this are not here anymore... Grin But what do you guys do for long-term burnout? I have a 7-8hrs a day job doing coding, and when I get home, the *last* thing I want to do is sit down in front of the computer again and do still yet more. I did that for my last big project, which was about 3 years ago. I've yet to finish anything else non-superficial.

I've got a couple of small things I'm trying to work on in the background when the mood strikes me, but it hasn't been striking me lately even for those. What's a guy to do besides just give up?

Do a *really* short and simple and *fun* project.
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Post: #11
Start and/or enter a 24-hour contest.

My web site - Games, music, Python stuff
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Luminary
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Post: #12
Yeah, the 2-48 hour contests that (used to?) run on the IRC channel were always great, even when I'd been doing too much programming. Just long enough to get motivated and get some cool gameplay, and not long enough to burn out Smile
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