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Game Development is Hard, Okay? 5 Things That Suck About Making Games

Game development is hard. I mean, really hard and everyone knows it. You probably won’t finish your game. You probably didn’t finish several games before it. You’ll probably start some more games you’ll never finish. The thing is, not finishing the games isn’t the only reason game development is hard. Let’s learn from some of my failures so far.

Taking Time From Your Family is Hard

Putting it like this sounds kind of distasteful. Yeah, if you’re working on your game in the time you aren’t at your day job, there’s a good chance you’re taking time away from precious family time. You’re missing evenings with your wife. You’re skipping days with your kids growing up. If you don’t have a family in your life, you’re opting out of time with friends, watching movies and reading books, or even just playing games, the same medium you obviously care a lot about.

Making games takes a lot of time. You think you know that, but it takes more time than you already fear. Double that number in your head. Triple it. You can’t make all that time out of thin air, so if you want to make games you have to make sacrifices in your life.

Sacrifices are a part of life, and your friends and family want you to pursue your passions. Make a point to find a balance. Take a break from time to time. Share what you do with your family, and let them know how much you appreciating making time for your obsession.

Making Bad Decisions is Going to Fill You With Regret

There are an enormous array of great tools to help you make your game. You can find full engines and editing suites, vast communities of resources and plugins and starter kits, and a sea of tutorials and inspiration. You need to pick a platform, a language, a graphics stack, architectures, and more.

And you’re going to choose something wrong. You’re going to second guess the language you write your code in. You’re going to fret over the art directions you committed to months ago. Every decision you make is going to be a potential source of dread and self doubt in the future. Of course, you won’t regret every decision. You might even be happy with most of them! If you’re lucky. But you will regret something.

Mistakes are a sign that you’ve learned more than you knew when you made the choice you regret. Now, that doesn’t mean every time you look back at those decisions you should rip everything apart and start over “the right way,” because down that road leads to disaster and never finishing anything. But, you can stand to correct some of those bad decisions, and you can learn a lot from the rest of them. Why do you regret that? What can you learn from it to do better on your next game, without jeopardizing the success of this one?

You Will Disappoint Yourself

Great! You finished a game! Oh wow, it sort of sucks, doesn’t it? Finishing a game might be the impossible milestone many fail to grasp, but feeling satisfied with the end product, even when you do get that game out the door, can be just as elusive. It is painful to pour your sweat into a project and see something come out of that effort that doesn’t look like the plan you had in your head.

Maybe your art fell short or your never found just the right sound effects to pull it together. Maybe you underestimated the amount of writing practice you needed and your dialogue is stiff and uninteresting. Perhaps you banked on features and mechanics that your fledgling coding skills just couldn’t deliver.

Show your game to those friends and family who love to see you enjoy your passion and to the game development community that will recognize your achievements with experienced understanding. These people will give you a sense of perspective to appreciate your accomplishments and put you in the positive state of mind you need to tackle the next big game idea on your list.

The List of Game Ideas Will Grow Faster Than You Can Make Them

I was washing dishes after dinner today and I got a great new idea for a game, but my first thought at this flash of inspiration was “Damn it! Not another one!” because new ideas are like bee stings. They’ll hit you fast when you didn’t see them coming and that nagging feeling will stick with you for days distracting your concentration incessantly.

They say it’s the execution that counts, not the raw idea. You’re going to amass those ideas just the same and you’re going to feel attached to them. As you get further and further along on your journey as a game developer, you’ll watch the end of that list grow and the number of ideas crossed off as you complete prototypes and complete projects progress much, much slower.

Focus on everything that grows around the idea: from the implementation, the art, the community of players, to the promotion. Ideas are great, but learn to put little stock in them. If you pile them up, take comfort in accepting that all of them are worthless, because you can build a great game and a terrible game out of every single one of them. That means the idea isn’t just waiting to be a hit: you have to make it happen with what you build on that idea, so focus on what comes between writing it down and crossing it off.

You Could Have Made That Game Better Now Than You Could Then

There are game ideas that I am so attached to and so excited about that I can’t possibly force myself to begin working on them. I’m not ready to tackle them. They have too much potential for greatness to waste on this raw version of my game development skillset. Instead, I squander my time on ideas I don’t care about, have little attachment of interest in, and quickly get bored with simply because I’ve convinced myself I need “more practice” before tackling those big ideas.

The result is that I have no passion to put into my games and it shows, when I finish them at all. More often than not, it means I walk away from the game before it ever gets far beyond a prototype because I just can’t be bothered to keep myself engaged with a project I care so little about.

It is better to make your best ideas badly than to make your worst ideas well. Build things you care about. Build the types of games you want to make more of and can learn the most from. Use up all your best ideas and experience the joy of making games you really, truly care about.

There Are Enough Blogs and Videos To Engage You 24/7

You’re reading this instead of working on your game. You’ve spent time watching YouTube videos instead of working on your game. Learning from and engaging with the community is absolutely crucial, but can also be a massive attention sink.

Go make your game right now.


fruch said…
its funny, but you can attach your ideas to any field, for example I got a micropython board, now I have two of them at lots of ideas how to make games with it the my children would love to play.

so far a RGB led that you can control colors of it with a remote and a webpage.

and it's a time sink, everything is.

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