The organised developer

If you’re working on an ambitious game development project (which you totally are, so don’t go and hide it now), it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re going to get lost at some point. Why? Because game development isn’t a trivial undertaking, silly. You have to get yourself organised if you want to max out your game development potential, so here are three easy pieces of advice to follow:

1. Start commenting your code!

Code comments can add clarity. And sometimes flavour.
Code comments can add clarity. And sometimes flavour.

It may sound cheesy — or painful — but you need to get into the habit of commenting your code. Why? Because it’s very, very easy to remember what your code does for, say, a few days. After that, things get hazy. Writing a “plain language” comment in the middle of your code, such as “//This algorithm lets the character do backflips” (the slashes are comment markers so that your compiler doesn’t throw a fit) allows the future-you to look at the code you’ve written now and go, “Ohhh, THAT makes sense!”

Commenting your code also prepares you for work in a team-based environment: after all, how is another person supposed to interpret the gobbledegook that you’ve scrawled unless you leave an explanation?

More code commenting evangelisation over here.

2. Get a design doc!

Design documents are the theoretical skeleton of your game, outlining rules, interactions, and classes, so that you have a nice overview of everything before you dive in and realise that you have to rework entire sections due to poor planning.

“Proper” design docs are pretty technical, involving scary stuff like state diagrams, interaction events and data modellers. For hobby dev, however, you’ll want to do something a little less intense: just get yourself a notepad document where you can scribble all of your game design ideas, flesh out potential obstacles, and try to make predictions about what the game will need.

You can even go wild and use the doc as a canvas for free writing.

3. Start a dev diary!

A dev diary is a very flexible concept. It can be personal and informal, or public and structured. It can even take the guise of a simple forum thread, where the game’s creator regularly posts updates about the project’s progress.

Writing about the work that you do can have a positive effect on your productivity: it forces you to think about what you’re doing and how quickly you’re achieving your project milestones. This promotes a more disciplined, deadline-oriented mindset.

If you get more ambitious, it can even be used as a marketing tool for more high-profile game development projects. For a great example of this, consider the Wolfire Blog.

A screenshot from the Wolfire dev diary. Pretty-looking, yeah?
A screenshot from the Wolfire dev diary. Pretty-looking, yeah?

And don’t forget …

Have fun with all of the above! Make witty commentary in your algorithms. Sit down for ten minutes and scribble the most random ideas you can think of in your design doc. Start working on a Starcraft-themed brawler and post up your dev diary for entertainment value and great justice.

Get organised in a fun way, and the rest will follow!