Every indie game developers battle of getting started

When building your first full length video game its easy to think everything will go over smoothly. You’ll role various features, complete design documents, and program a fully polished game. WRONG! That isn’t ever how it works. A large portion of the game creation process is trying something, realizing it was a terrible idea, then reworking it. To set expectations, expect to rework your game over and over until it feels right (or as I hate saying “fun”).

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When starting a game the dips in progress are enough to make most people quit working on it. A lot of days you feel like no progress is being made.

Progress loss (its inevitable)

As we’ve been working on A Dragon Named Coal we’ve found that progress on a game comes and goes. Sometimes you leap forward, followed by falling miles behind what you expected. For example we had a huge graphics rework on A Dragon Named Coal a few months ago because of HTML5’s technical limitations. This set us behind our desired schedule by an entire month. When you’re a small studio starting out with no budget these  problems can keep you from sleeping at night.

Loss of progress during game development when something doesn’t work is common (but you never get used to it). As you make more of these mistakes you’ll find that development gets faster, less problems arise, and the final product is better. You do need to be careful that you don’t aim for perfection though while creating your game. Otherwise you’ll run into the trap many studios have where they run out of budget or take 10 years to release their game.

From the progress chart, you can see that the longer you work at the game the more minimal your progress loss will become. That and you’ll be able to crank out more content. Keep in mind though that this chart could span the lifetime of a 5 year game. So this jumps and dips can come and go month by month.

Don’t keep secrets, share for help

I would say if everything is going smooth you’re either an extremely seasoned game dev veteran, one of the best game designers of our time, or  something wrong is brewing. Make sure you’re actively sharing information with other game devs or running alpha test with your friends. I know somebody who recently spent a year in secret working on a game  that sounded awesome. But as soon as I played it there were obvious game mechanics that weren’t very enjoyable. Sharing the game earlier would have saved him a lot of time.

Keep on fighting

From experience I’ll say there are days where I don’t want to work on games after losing a ton of progress. To get over this I try to share my current progress with other friends / game devs. There encouragement helps to remind me that moving forward I can learn from my mistakes to get work done faster and more efficiently in the future.

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