Write It Down – “I Dreamt” DevLog #1

By 06/05/2019 May 9th, 2019 DevLogs

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Today, well... Today was a bad day.

Whyever, with all the different ways to open an article (especially about Game Dev), have I decided to write right this one?

Well… sometimes bad days happen and I’d like to write about how I overcome them.
I know my future-self will need this, and hoping that other people may find this useful too, I’ve decided to write everything here.

This is also supposed to be a DevLog about my game, but since I’m experiencing everything written here while creating it I’ve decided to mix everything. It’s an experiment and I hope you like it! (let me know!)

Of course, all images below that are not stickmans are from my game “I Dreamt”, even if there are only a few this time.
You can also follow me on twitter to always stay updated about everything I do.

Developing games is hard.

Let’s start with this point: you won’t have an easy time.
Even when you think everything works, something may happen (like a forced software update) and you may loose days to fix everything.

More than random issues, there are also a lot of things that you have to do and think about, both if you are in team or alone.
So many things and so many pressure that hard days will happen, days where you’ll stop and just think about what you’re doing.

I’m working alone on my game and today I feel that I’m stuck in the same spot.
I feel that I’m developing in circles, doing a bit there, a bit here, confused.

Your personal life amplifies these thoughts by 1000 too, but time to time I’ll talk about this.

The right way is lost

With these symptoms, it happens that you quit everything and just think:

“What am I doing with this game?”
“What do I want to achieve, what is my goal?”

Skyscrapers to build not knowing from which to start. (Am I a poet now?)

“And now… what do I do?”

If you’ve seen me in some chat (for example on my Discord), you’ve surely seen the moments where I have these existential doubts.

Then, I’ve understood the error: I wasn’t writing anything.
None of my objectives, plans, ideas, work done.
It was all in my head.

And, unless you have a really big head (image for comparison below), at one point you’ll forget something.

Write it down

Write your objectives and track your progress.

Stop a moment and think.
“Why do I make games?”
It may be anything and it’s strictly personal, even as “just to try” or “as a hobby”.
The first thing that comes to your mind, got it? The one that drives you making games. Write it.

Mine is: Because I want to create an unique and memorable experience.
I want people to feel something (and I hope it’s something good) when they play my game, something that may make their day better, make them laugh and so on.

This thought is the one that helps you when you’re in difficulty, when you’ve lost your path.
This is your motivation, don’t forget about it.

P.S. Game’s quality wise: if the only driving reason is “BECAUSE I WANT TO BE RICH” I think that there’s a problem at the foundation (and we’re seeing the results in some titles nowadays). I suggest to not make this error, but who am I to judge.

Now that you know why do you make games, stop again.
“What do I want from my game?”
“What’s the feeling I’d love?”
Write it down.

Define your goals and stick to them.
It’s so easy changing scope everyday that you may forget the initial goal of the game.
Let alone if your organization is based on your mind. We are only humans, after all.

For example, on my game, I always wanted a fast paced combat system.
I wrote “HEY YOU FEBUCCI, YOU WANT A FAST PACED COMBAT SYSTEM DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT HEH IT’S FUNDAMENTAL!” (I talk to myself this way).
Then I looked at my game and what I had… it wasn’t what I wanted, at all.

So guess what? I’ve changed it!

Now, based on what I’ve wrote on paper, I think that I’m getting closer to what I want.
And now I actually know that I’m getting closer to what I want.. because I finally have records of it.
Something to look when I feel that I’ve done nothing.

If you’ve already started developing your game, here’s another question:
“What have I done until now?”

I have done a lot of things “under the hood”.
Dialogues and Interaction System, Combat System, the majority of the Story, a lot of music tracks, 90% of the needed scripts…
All ready to use.

I could look beyond and see the void (or worse: all the things that I still have to do).
I’d see that I still have to make scenes, sequences and timelines (that’s why the game feels empty for me… not much “material” to play), localization etc.
I’d feel sad, knowing that there’s a lot left to do.

But if I look behind… hey, behind it’s full of achieved goals.
Even if it was only one goal… better than zero!

When you look up your records and see that every day you’re making something, you really feel that you’re reaching the goal.
It could also become a competition between you and yourself, aiming to produce more things each day.
You have records of it, it’s not abstract anymore.

Now, a bit harder.
“What’s the selling point?”
“Why would people love to play it?”
“What does make it memorable?”

If you plan to sell your game, those are super important and hard questions.

Your game could be the best one in the world, but if people don’t know about it… no one would play it.

For example, mine is a Story Driven Action Adventure game and I believe that my personal way to tell the story is what makes it original.

I still can be really bad at writing and I could tell stories in the worse way possible (and in this case THANK GOD there aren’t others like me!), but the only way to discover this is to play the game and judge by yourself.

Even harder (at least for me with a Story Driven game) is:
“How do I market this game?”

I mean, I can’t tell the story because AAAHH SPOILERS AAAAH.

Marketing also feels super scary for me (and probably for all solo devs / small teams) because if I spend time marketing (or anything else, cough cough like writing this article, my tutorials etc. cough cough), the game won’t progress.
But hey, it’s necessary.

Thinking again about what I did today… now that I have tracks of it:

Today, well... Today was not so bad.

We now know what we want and what we’ve done.

There’s a tunnel, we need to define its end.

Plan, be realistic.

Based on my experience, I’ve seen maany beginner indie devs announcing a not feasible game.
There’s a reason why the meme “first game? -> MMO with 1k players” exists.

Here’s the question:
“Can I do it?”
Stop. Think about it.
Did you find the answer? Great!

Now trash it and think again.
“Based on scope of my game, all the amount the work I have to do and counting that I’m alone (or I’m in this team of X people), can I/We do it?”
Did you find the answer? Great!
Now put it aside and combine the answer with the following:
“Can I/We also do it based on our deadline?”
That’s the final answer. And it may still be wrong.

So.. the question that I’ve left in the end is:
“When do I plan to release it?”
Which leads to:

How do I organize everything?

Having a schedule is crucial. Period.
So many games don’t see the day light because of a wrong organization (connected with all the previous questions too).

I agree: it’s better to not release your game if it’s not ready yet… but this situation could get out of control and you could fall into the bad habit of always delaying it.

By releasing a game and having deadlines, you learn a lot.
It’s an experience that “delaying” can’t give you.
Then, you could learn from your errors and do better the next time… but how do you know that you’re failing something on the release… if you’re not releasing anything?

The development of a game passes through different stages, like:

  • Pre production (where you think about what you want and test prototypes)
  • Production (where you’ve set the goal of your game and actually make it)
  • Playables & Polishing (Beta etc, you’re near the end, improving what you have and fixing the last things).
  • Release (work done, congrats!)
  • [Don’t think you’ve finished it, you still need to commit patches etc… but that’s another story]

By yourself, judge if your game is doable, set deadlines and stick to it.

And guess what? Now you (we) have control of what we’re doing.
Others can see what we’re doing, the “tunnel” exists and by organizing our path, we’ve also defined its end.

Even doing one single thing each day leads you towards the deadline, and the deadline exists finally.

Thinking back again about today… I feel that I’m in the right path.

Today, well... Today was a good day.

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