It’s around this time of year I get all nostalgic for videogames I got as Xmas presents: Age of Empires, Baldur’s Gate 2… Mount & Blade Warband. Actually, I didn’t get that one as a present, so I’m not sure where the association comes from. But I’m also reminded of where I was this time last year, and it seems like every year it gets more unbelievable how little I’ve progressed.
This time last year, I was attempting NaNoWriMo again in order to finish the sequel (or one of them) to Cloudgazer. In it, there’s a scene where we get a look into the past of the main character Kiy, shortly after he became separated from his little sister Julene. There is this one scene where a young Kiy is bracing himself for the harsh reality that it may take him as long as a year to find her, as unbearable as that sounds. Those who read the first book (and the start of this one) know however, that Kiy will still be looking for her some 11 years later. I can sympathise with Kiy here, as I feel this is how so many of my project timescales go when I think back to the aspirations of my younger self.
I find it a little hard to believe I’ve been in the adult world, trying to make games and books and things, for nearly 20 years now. In that time, I’ve started so much and finished so little. It doesn’t seem to work to simply say “Alright, that’s enough, I’m going to finish something”, because I’ve said that enough times. When you don’t get the outputs you want, you have to change the inputs. So, a change of tactic is in order.
At the start of this year I tried out what I call the Monthly Mission system: set a single target for the end of the month that’s measurable and achievable, then so long as you meet it you don’t have to give up all your time to your projects but still keep moving forward. Sounds great in practice, but I’ve missed just about every monthly target since January.
I know I should reduce the amount of things I’m trying to do, but I am having a lot of trouble with that; I’ve had (what I strongly feel is) a brilliant design for a game pretty much sitting on the desk for the past 12 months, taunting my lack of time management and limited number of heads and/or limbs.
I recently came across Yahtzee Croshaw’s “12 Games in 12 Months” challenge, where the reviewer from Zero Punctuation attempts to build 12 videogames in a year and shares the process in a video blog. It’s a great process and some good concepts have come out of it already. Now, I’ve no doubt I can make a truckload of excuses for why I can’t make 12 games in a year: I just had a child; this gig is presumably his day-job so he can spend the full day on it; etc. But clearly it’s not all he’s doing, as he’s still got his reviews and such. Besides, I don’t have to make 12 games in a year; one would be a bloody good start.
The key is motivation–or perhaps a better term: momentum. Croshaw mentions this himself a few times, that need to keep on hammering at a project to see it through comes from more than just wanting to get it done. You have to be swimming in it, keep it loaded in the brainspace when you can. But I’m finding it hugely inspiring that such a thing is possible. Maybe a little self-belief is needed here.
So then, my approach now? Start everything I feel like, but keep it small and get it out there. See it through, get it online and into the hands of players and move on to the next thing. Maybe even blog about it too, who knows.