Coming to terms with scope, day-jobbing, and self-care


For about two months now, I've been working on a new game each week. This is largely a follow-in-the-footsteps type of move, where I hope if I walk the same direction that I will end up in the same place as folks who are better developers and designers. The goal has been to fail fast and learn to find what works and doesn't. At some point though, I got caught up in other aspects of game-making, wanting to polish and complete ideas well beyond what really constitutes a prototype. This was probably at least in part due to the desire to share them here, on itch, and so wanting to present something, well, presentable. 

With the deadline for any one of these games being one week,  as the scope grew, so did my stress--which of course had an inverse effect on enjoyment and output. Surely, I should practice and experience the whole process making games, but it deserves more time than one week per project. Indeed, even what seemed like modest scope was too broad for the past few weeks, and when it came to planning I set myself up for failure by spending earlier time doing what was otherwise later stage work that I could cut if I didn't get to it later. It was work that made the games present better, but not necessarily work that made the games better.

Rereading some of the texts that originally inspired me, I realized I was quite overdoing what passes for prototype, and also accumulating unwarranted stress over the publishing aspect of it. Most of Jan's prototypes, Rami explains, never make it past their internal review! To that end, I might not have something playable that I want to share each weekend, but I still intend to stream the dev, tweet screens, etc. I think the "get it ready for itch" part was distracting me from knowing more about the games I've been making. I think that knowing will help me make the next one better.

To be fair, it hasn't been a ton of time that I've been sinking into prepping games to show here, but it was definitely a non-trivial amount. Stacked on top day job responsibilities (which have coincidentally been, let's say, "intensifying"), a commute, etc., I was just getting way off target time-wise. I needed a rest, so I didn't work on my own game this week; I did help playtest a game made by one of my friends who helped with Traffic Jammers. I am getting back on the prototype train this coming week, in a sort of odd fashion; I'm going to add to an existing prototype that I haven't featured on stream or on itch before! I'm pretty excited about this one, and I'm not going to hard cap myself at one week--the idea just might take a bit longer to implement and I don't want to skip on that.

To sum up, I lost sight of what prototype meant, distracted myself making things look nicer than they needed to for prototype stage, and got worn out on it pretty quickly. Don't do that. I'm going to recenter on keeping prototypes prototypes, but might not be as strict about the per-week thing because sometimes I just need the extra day or two. And if you've read this far: thanks! I hope something here helps you. Cheers!

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