At first I wanted to write a post for all people beginning their journey in game development, cause many ask me for advice. I wanted to write something inspirational but I’ll leave that for another time. Now I want to write about the aspect of game making that 99% of people never get to experience, because they never ship their game, they fail to finish it. I have just finished Soldat 1.4.2 and released it. What is it like to finish a game? Believe or not releasing the game is the downside of game development.
The main reason I’m writing this is you’ll never finish your game if you don’t get this. You have to accept the downside, that means that it will be hard. You’ll spend a lot of hard hours working on practically nothing. None of the players will see your effort, cause all they can see are the new features or changes in game balance that affect them. This effort is unfortunately necessary because it WILL be noticed if you don’t do it. I’m talking about fixing bugs and glitches. Ironing them out is the hardest and most painful task. It is not fun at all. Worst of all it takes out your precious time which could be spent on adding new ideas.
The typical graph of software development shows you that planning and coding the game is about 30% of the time spent on the product. I’d say realistically it is 10%. I have a personal joke which states that I’ve written Soldat in 3 days, the rest was bug fixing.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
And it gets harder and harder. Each Soldat patch brings new problems and the time spent is even more. I had 1.4.2 actually ready 2 months ago. All of this time was spent on hunting bugs and fixing them. There were 6 beta versions and 4 release candidate versions. And this was a small patch that didn’t introduce as much as previous ones. The final stage of developing the game is the most painful and boring for everyone and it takes most of the time. I’ve learnt to compensate this by focusing on other games. About 3 years ago I just started to work on other stuff in the meantime. That is the only way I can keep my sanity and my motivation. Cause motivation is all. Without it you’re a vegetable, a couch potato.
This is why I’m writing this. You must understand a certain paradox. You will never get anything done if you’re not motivated to do it and yet there is no motivation when you reach a point where your game is “ready” but there are bugs which will make a lot of people unhappy because they can’t play. This place is where 99% of game developers fail. All was fun and games until this point. Suddenly you realize making games is actually hard work.
It’s hard work, as everything that you want to achieve in life! You gotta push and fight through it! But I said this is not an inspirational post so I’ll cut the crap. I want you to accept the fact that 90% of your efforts in making the game will be just dull work. If you can accept that and be happy with the 10% you’re on your way to success.
Your brain software version 13 billion
You will be on your way to achievement, because this is how your brain works. Understanding how your brain works will help you solve the mystery how actually YOU do stuff (duh). Your brain is just a complicated mechanism. It is a state-driven AI machine. It is a computer with a software program with millions of years in development time and billions of patching done every generation. This is how it works in the context of completing a game.
You imagine the game you want to make. You drool as if you were hungry and saw a fresh piece of meat. You feel how it would feel to make that game and to have it, to play it. You decide you want it.
Feel that? What have you done here? You have decided that you want the good feelings. Now this is VERY important.
You go do some research, you learn to code etc. You start making the game, you see how fun and exciting it is. You encounter some problems but most aren’t big enough to spoil the fun. You reach the end phase of creating the game. All is ready, you release a beta version. Suddenly all hell breaks loose. Thousands of bugs overwhelm you. You get to know that no two computers are the same. Bill’s XP and a Geforce 4 does not equal Ted’s XP and a Geforce 4 in the real world. You are dumbstruck. You start fixing the bugs. Suddenly it becomes frustrating. You notice you are not having fun anymore. What is this? You didn’t want this, where are the good feelings?
They are gone because you’re a finite state AI machine which communicates with emotions. Problems raise exceptions in the form of frustration and anger. Now you use your logic and you conclude that it sucks to make games. Or don’t you?
This goes a lot deeper, all would be well if you would just accept that you don’t wanna make games anymore. You see, you don’t really know what your brain is telling you. It’s all a matter of interpretation of the conscious mind. The conscious mind reaches false conclusions because it operates on limited amount of data. What actually is just a sense of effort because you have to work harder now you interpret as “I don’t have time”.
Lack of time syndrome
It’s utterly frustrating when I hear this. There is no such thing as lack of time. You’ve all the time in the world! Time is infinite! What you don’t have is motivation! Fuck, when I’m motivated it doesn’t matter how much spare time I have, I might not even sleep or eat just to do the thing I want. There is always time for the motivated person! Work, school, your cat are all excuses, they are all bullshit that you come up with to lie to yourself and to others.
Next time you conclude that you can’t finish the game because you don’t have time, shut the fuck up and listen to me. This is your false reasoning! A bad interpretation of feelings. This is lack of emotional intelligence, a lack of understanding what is actually happening in your body and brain. Lack of proper knowledge of what stage you are at. End result of false expectations.
Lack of time is a lie! You have simply reached a wrong conclusion. So what actually happened when you didn’t finish that game and you stated that you haven’t got time to do it? Remember when I wrote “Now this is VERY important”?
OK scroll up, I know you didn’t remember.
What do you do? What do you do?
You decided you want the good feelings, and at the same time completely forgot about the BAD feelings! This is a problem of even the most intelligent and “realistic” people. Also this is also a fallacy of optimists. You won’t accomplish anything if you don’t think about the downside. If you don’t consider the bad things nothing will happen. This is because they WILL happen. Whatever you think of, how well and beautiful it will be, the fact is in the real world you WILL meet obstacles. There WILL be a downside. If you didn’t accept it at the time you were making a decision to go for it, once you encounter a big problem you will act surprised! Why is this such an effort? I don’t feel like doing this anymore, if only I had more time…
I probably haven’t stated properly what I wanted to say. Anyway I’m gonna write a lot about this subject and all will eventually become crystal clear, so if you are interested in this kind of stuff read my blog. The thing to remember is that you have to know about the bad things that will happen. As I stated in my previous post Why your next 3D MMORPG will fail, if you’re a beginner you don’t know what you don’t know. So educate yourself, read my blog cause I’ll tell you more about the downside and build smaller stuff so you can get a sense of how much effort it will be to make games.