Anyone who has ever tried to make a game (or write a book / draw a comic series / insert long-term creative project here) is probably aware of just how gosh-darn difficult it is to keep going at it. Sure, that initial burst of creativity can fuel a working spree of a few hours, days, or even weeks if you’re lucky enough. But at some point or another, even the most focused mind working with the most amazing project is going to start wandering. Here’s some advice on keeping to the straight and narrow, creatively speaking:
If you find yourself struggling with those big game plans of yours, try getting some practice with smaller projects first. If you find your average attention span for any given game to be about a week, start thinking about stuff that you can create in a few days or less. Not only does completing smaller projects give you a much bigger motivational boost than a mountain of half-finished Homerian epics, it also sets you up with a far more appreciable portfolio.
2. Be consistent
Sometimes our brains just deal better with clicking into steady routines. As tempted as you may be to engage in periods of frenetic game dev activity followed by long cooldowns, you’ll probably end up doing yourself a world of good by opting to work moderately — and consistently — instead. Giving your project even a little bit of love on a daily basis makes a huge difference when compared to working with sporadic “chunks” on the odd weekend. Remember: once you begin a work session, it becomes a lot easier to keep going!
In general, people find it far easier to stick to commitments and work routines when they’re not operating in a realm of hazy uncertainty. Schedule time for your dev projects if at all possible — earmarking particular hours or days for your work is far more effective than simply thinking about “getting around” to it between games of DotA. Making yourself a nice, lightweight design doccie to sort your mess of a creative brain while you’re at it.
4. Chop it up
Jot down a bunch of project milestones and make them as small and frequent as possible. Doing this will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, and allow you to feel a steady sense of accomplishment as you complete short-term goals. After all, it’s far less of a mental strain to consider your work in terms of the next sprite animation or level design than it is to think, “Holy crap, I’ve got a whole MMORPG to work on!”
5. Keep it fun
If you’re a hobbyist developer who happens to be game making for the pure fun of it, you can take quite a few liberties with your work. Hate designing menus? Make do with a crude splash screen, or just hop straight into the game! If you’re not into the art side of things, focus on games with small, simple sprites that can work with fewer animations. If your project really does become the Next Big Thing, there’s always time to work on the annoying details later. As long as you’re not completely abandoning or confusing the player, you should feel free to do what’s fun for you.