The hardest hurdle - Motivation

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by Creamy, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Creamy

    Creamy New Member

    Feb 9, 2014
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    Hello all.

    I want to confess that I have wanted to be a game developer for over 10 years now. When I was in primary school I messed around with games and enjoyed modding them, starting with making levels in Doom. I did a little self study in a few languages and since then I have just fooled around starting little games and never getting far with them. I have so many game design folders of stuff that interests me and I want to have a go at creating, I don't want to say they are good ideas, just things that float my boat. Whats the point in making games if your not creating something that you want to create?

    But the issue that has plagued me for all these years, more so now that my current job requires so much of its own study and extra work, is finding motivation. Its alright to have dreams and to think of a piece of software you want to create, but actually spending the time to study programming/computer science, getting experience by creating simple software, and then spending the huge amount of time in a project that will hopefully turn into something close to what you envisioned. I'm not talking about making yourself spend time doing this, I mean enjoying yourself while you do it and choosing this as a hobby over everything else.

    I have periods on and off where I get into a routine of study and programming, but then this falls off usually when work or other parts of my life take away the majority of my time. Or I just loose interest.

    What I want to know is how you people work yourself up to doing this? Is the secret finding another like minded person? I have often thought the key is to find someone to work with that way you both can help each other and its a lot more exciting. Or is it just the case that if you place a brilliant video game or a women/man on one table and a 2000 page c++ manual on the other, the only people worthy of being game developers are the people who run to the C++ book without a seconds thought?

    I just feel kind of bad. I live in NZ and game development is really kicking off and I probably could of been there and been someone if I actually put the hours in. maybe I could have found a team if I was skilled enough.

    So before I ramble on anymore, what do you guys do to motivate yourself?


    PS - I know some of you will say that I will have to quit my job, go on a course for a few years and then look for any kind of game industry job I can find. Apart from the fact that I don't feel that secure leaving my current job when there are a ton of people wanting to get jobs as game developers, I don't want to work for someone. I want to make my own games. Yes, this is a silly dream and its likely to fail, but the only reason I want to be a game developer is to make the games I have always wanted to make, not work on grey-brown-cover-shooter 26. I have always thought that if I could make some small games (and I mean small 1-2 man games with half a year production time) for experience and found a group of like minded people, I could have a shot at making something cool. I'm still not talking triple A title, the majority of stuff I want to make wouldn't require a big team.

    I don't want to sit down at code Final Fantasy 14 over a weekend, probably the biggest game I want to develop is a 3d Rogue-like, I'm talking small hobbiest games that would hopefully have a chance at making some money in digital sales.
  2. julianjulian8

    julianjulian8 New Member

    Apr 23, 2014
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    I think the main motivate of mine is the impulsion of creating sth and show them to others. Learning is always boring and tough, but once you think you can eventually realize sth, it would become worth to do. I have a full time job in the morning, and I have to learn programming and work on my personal project at night. It lasted for a few years. Maybe I am old enough, I don't think it's very tough.

    And, I agree with you. You don't need to make the stuff very commercial to amuse everyone. That's also why I want to become indie. I have made too many commercial work in my daily job. I too know about what they are. So I think maybe give up making money, express you true color, at least as the first step.
  3. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

    Jul 27, 2004
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    I'm in the same boat as you from a time-availability perspective (probably even more so because I have two young kids). You can start by searching these forums with the key word motivation. You'll find other similar stories and tips there.

    I've been working on the same game for over 4 years at about 5 hours per week (not much at all) after coming home from a full-time development job and there are times when you just don't feel motivated. Here are some tips that work for me:

    - Make sure you work on a project you are passionate about. Most likely you are going to be spending at least a year (part-time) making even a small game so make sure it is something you aren't going to grow tired of easily
    - I create a task list and prioritize the tasks. I estimate how many hours (or 4 hour blocks) each task will take and mark next to each how much time was spent.
    - I work on the tasks in priority order EXCEPT when I'm feeling completely unmotivated, then I'll look at the list for a small, fun item to work on. This gets me motivated and once it is complete I am usually motivated enough to start working on a bigger item.
    - Instead of working a half hour one day and an hour the next, I dedicate a 4-5 hour block of time once or twice a week. This cuts down on the ratio of time it takes to get into the project vs time actually working on new stuff
    - If you find yourself taking frequent web-surfing breaks, use something like the Pomodoro Technique to create a good surf-to-work ratio
    - I don't do this often, but sometimes showing your progress to others can get you motivated about it again
  4. Leon

    Original Member

    Aug 2, 2004
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    I agree with everything Bruno posted. I also posted this list a while ago with some of my own thoughts and things I do. Currently, I am in a LONG drought of not getting work done. Two things I'd add to my list are;

    1) Often times I find my issue isn't motivation per say, but just simply getting started. I struggled to just start working on my game, and then once I get over that hurdle, I actually get some work done.

    2) Add tons of Comments to whatever you're working on. I was pretty good about this, but after not having worked on my project in a month, I've checked where I last was and I'm a little lost as far as what exactly I was working on and what I had accomplished. At the time I figured I'd get right back into working on it, so I didn't need to add as detailed comments as I had, but a month later... Yeah... If you can spend five minutes adding comments and prevent yourself from spending thirty minutes what you were doing, it helps. A lot.
  5. aaro

    aaro New Member

    Apr 24, 2014
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    You couldn't have more accurately summarized my feelings.

    I share your pain - I have three children, am in the military, and am finishing my college degree, all on top of my irresistible desire to learn to program. It seems like after my important obligations, I have little time (or motivation) to study programming. However, I manage, and for a few reasons:

    1. Have you tried just giving up on programming? I have. At points, I've become so frustrated with my inability to manage time, obligations, and programming that I've said aloud, testifying before my (very supportive) wife that "I'm done". Yet, here I am. I can't quit it, I don't know why, I just feel aimless when I try to give up - knowing this is a huge source of motivation, in a weird way.

    2. Have you found an active programming community? This has been hugely important in keeping me focused. I use Reddit and G+ mainly, both of whom have myriad communities for programming.

    3. Have you considered beginning with another language (one that's not C++)? A good friend of mine who is a software engineers believes very strongly that C++ should not be a newcomer's first language. Try something a little more intuitive that reduces the programming burden (C++ requires manual memory management, often cited as a huge hurdle to new programmers). Python and Ruby are both full-fledged programming languages, and are good starting points in programming. If you'd like to see what they can do (as far as game development), look here for Python, and here for Ruby.

    I'm learning Python now, and while there are still frustrations, it's so much better than my previous attempt at starting with Java (which was an unholy nightmare). If you're interested, I've got some great resources for learning it.

    If you'd like to keep in touch (one newcomer to another), PM me and we can do Facebook or Google+ or something. Like I said, community has helped me immensely, and I've been fortunate enough to make a few friends in my pursuit to learn Python.

    Good luck!
  6. Macro

    Macro New Member

    May 20, 2014
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    I often work on LOTS of projects, be it game or web based. I have worked on some for years only to have them just get left on the sidelines for another or for some other reason (often because I know no artists so when it comes to art production my coding skills wont save me). It is VERY demotivating at times HOWEVER! it is only demotivating if you look too far ahead or constantly think of EVERYTHING that needs to be done.

    I tend to do an Agile-esque plan for my projects where I will do a high level plan of the work required, break it down into manageable chunks and put some context to the tasks, so when I get to them I will be able to remember all the context for the individual task, or if I get any other help I can show them clearly what needs to be done. This revolves around decent requirements and solid acceptance criteria. If those don't mean anything to you or you don't know what agile is then go google it (and BDD is a helpful thing for explaining your stories/tasks). This way I can see at the high level the project is not very far along, but I don't need to worry too much about it, I just pick off the next task and just get on with it, as it is a lot easier to continue on a project when you know what the next step is after you finish the next one, if you just manage it like an endless torrent of work then you will get burned out as it will be hard to see how much you have done and how much is left and its like being stranded on a long mountainous road somewhere without a map of how to get home or to your destination.

    Putting the planning and management of your projects to one side one other thing that keeps me going is often the fact that I am always learning something new, and as a developer (my job) it helps being able to add the stuff I learn on my personal projects onto my CV or implement on projects in work. So if you see it as a kind of personal learning thing as well as a project with some outcome at the end it is a lot easier to keep yourself focused and motivated.

    So assuming you already do the stuff above to give yourself the best start and on-going motivation on your projects lets quickly talk about the way you work on your projects, and for this bit I will be assuming you are all coders as artists/musicians don't quite have the same issues, and its often coders who start the projects. So you have a great idea, lets say "A procedural space game" and you are all hyped up at how brilliant it can be.

    Now the next steps you take generally from experience fall into 2 categories:

    - The Tinkerers
    You get the idea for the project and then decide to start making the engine for it, so you start by making some object management system, you write some entity system, abstracted rendering system which you always go back to as you think of something you can optimize. Then you will start writing other bits of functionality you think will be handy to have later on and you will probably be doing this as a console sort of app to begin with and you will be debugging it constantly and really pleased with the performance of it. A few months down the line you start to get to the position where you think you are about ready to start on doing the actual game, and you give up as you don't know where to go next.

    - The JFDI-ers
    You get the idea for a project and you open your preferred game engine (unity, unreal, cryengine etc) and you start putting in some prototype scripts for procedurally generating a zone/area for you to fly around, then you add some procedural ships, asteroids, space stations, npcs. You then start to prototype some logic to generate the universe to link together all the areas you have created. Then you start to think about how will your combat controls be handled and do some prototype flight combat control systems, and think about how the user will interact with the UI and in game entities. A few months down the line you have a rough prototype that looks ugly but shows the bare bones of your idea, and you will probably continue that project as you have started on a game, not just tinkered around with code re-inventing the wheel.

    I have a friend who will ALWAYS try to re-invent the wheel, it took me forever to get him to just use unity rather than making his own engine/framework/abstraction layer on tops of something else before he even got to the stuff which matters, which is the key to a lot of this. The quicker you get started on the GAME the quicker you will have to make those hard decisions like how does a player get from A-B, how does the combat work, how is health and damage managed, is there an inventory? All these questions will keep you focused on the actual games development, the rest of it is not about your game, its just some technical hurdle to jump over and what's the point of spending 3 months doing all the technical hurdles and then realising the game concept does not work when prototyping it.

    So save yourself time and use a pre-made engine, plan your project out at a high level and remember that even if your project fails you have learnt something which you can use on your next one.

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