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on not releasing a game in a while

i haven't released any kind of small game since 2020! it's mainly due to finishing my degree and going straight into working full time, but i still find the time. the most crippling issue now are my standards

analysis poisoning

ive read a lot of books and watched a lot of lectures from the best minds in game design, and while its given me the tools to climb over walls when i run into them, its made my standard for myself skyrocket way past my ability. its almost like a re-introduction of paralyzing beginners-perfectionism

now when im making a fun throw-away toy, it gets put through the thousand lenses of scrutiny given to me by great thinkers. lenses that should only be reserved for too-big-to-fail mass-appeal AAA game, and even then, most games that come out definitely don't go through that level of thorough thought. the designers make conscious sacrifices in some areas in order to elevate other areas - the important and most productive part is knowing what to chop.

im still working hard on making a system deep enough for actual individual expression and that can be done with the most barebones of applied theories, so its really not helping to bog myself down in textbook methodologies and sciences applied only to games made to be a person's lifestyle, worth $60 upfront and a microtransaction-based subscription service thereafter

so, how should indies think?

"if a game's worth making, then its worth making badly" - albert einstein

a lot of very productive people have an ethic of ignoring all academic-style* advice and going purely from gut instinct

* this is what id describe textbook gamedev theory as, like jesse schell's lenses, or raph koster's theory of fun. or even anything that very clearly fits into a formula. you'd be able to describe some games as made literally by-the-book


a lot of my very productive friends make cool stuff with this approach. even when ive recommended talks or books, theyve take it w a grain of salt because of a very specific sentiment that i see that a lot of artists share: they trust their gut, they want to have fun and explore, and they want to derive their own theory. innovate with a fresh mind, rather than hone on something they dont have a clear handle on yet

this sorta mirrors a lot of artists journeys. you just start Drawing because there's ideas you want to express, and this just seems like the natural way to do it, yknow? this way its more likely you'll create stuff that comes from a pure, unfiltered place of passion. the gap between the spark and the reality you're trying to bridge is so incredibly thin and unobstructed that real art can almost spill out of you

but theory is where the answers lie when you've ran into a problem you can't solve on your own, and solving that problem is important. its a bit of a common error to aliken it a recipe you need to know beforehand before starting to cook. its not a known routine to perfect and hone, its an area of innovation, you're trying to experiment, yknow?

so, im going to try and kick myself out of this rut of feeling like im always working, but never having stuff to show for it. the hardest part of being in this situation is getting back into that "just make the damn thing shittily" mindset. so how can we do that?

how to make things that suck; what works for me as an overly-self-judgemental ADD-haver

  1. public hyper alpha. its even more alpha than alpha. it is barely the blurry thought of your game-to-be. but its something! if your game is mechanics-based, dont make art, make everything coloured blocks, and code it with no care for cleanliness - you'll likely scrap it later anyway. if your game is methodical, story-driven or heavily depends on art, dont code at all, look into making a paper prototype. even think to yourself - does it need to be interactive? could this game be a comic, or a book? can this meeting be an email? can this email be a Literally Nothing ?

  2. dont actually give yourself a deadline. it feels so bad and will make you sick of the game and incite panic-crunch. the unfinished game will always be looming over you until it's complete in its entirety and you'll have no idea when to put the pen down. instead, give yourself an exact set amount of time per day to work on this game, and accept you'll eventually get it done. the only thing you need to do today is that slot of time, then youre free.

  3. (1. cont.) doubling down on the first point. i cant stress this enough. i am talking in the realm of 10-30 minutes per day working on a game. you'll get it done faster than you think. draw a sprite or two, sketch out the design of a level, then call it a day and relax. my largest game project was done using this method and i did not feel the slightest bit burnt out on it, start to finish. i could work on it indefinitely.

  4. (1. cont. again) tripling down. if youre the kind of person that says "ugh thats so little time i could easily do more" NO!! *slaps your dick*. trust me its better than the 0 minutes you're doing. even if you become motivated and start doing sick all-evening sessions, you'll quickly fall back to doing 0 minutes a day again. you never burn out on brushing your teeth, right? so make it so small and effortless for yourself that you'll never burn out. motivation will never be an issue, because you dont need motivation to do a total pushover task like that.

  5. when i come up with a game, i very often play it in my head, and most often i get one recurring "clip" playing over and over. if you've got a very specific idea in your head, try and make literally exactly that thing first. the brain-to-reality process is usually very enlightening, and sometimes a little disheartening. at this point, you can probably tell if the game's worth continuing

  6. start before thinking about starting. if the thought "oh yea my game" even enters your head, immediately do the brain equivalent of blasting music so loud that you don't hear your brain trying to talk you out of getting work done. just open up aseprite or gamemaker or whatever and start doing stuff, its not hard once you're moving. fighting against your brain trying to talk you out of it is the hardest part of any task

  7. 70% rule. when making decisions, choose one you know you'll be at least 70% happy with, and stick with it. be comfortable knowing that despite the fact it may not be the best choice, its a pretty good one for now.

  8. when its at all playable, get someone else to play it. even just the thought of someone else playing your game immediately brings you down to earth and you can tell if your game blows or not. if it's something you're embarassed to share, maybe its worth shuffling around a little more or figuring out why that is. all of my favourite games to this day did not have that initial embarassment of showing to friends.


cool!!! im going to keep trying to make stuff. i still dont have answers for why i havent released anything in a while, but i think its due to my standards being higher. im sort of done with jam-sized minigames, they dont give me that much satisfaction anymore. but, a good game can still be technologically jam-sized. it all comes down to if you've made a system that is deep, explorable and talk-with-friends-about-it-able. vampire survivors hits this category and anyone could make a game like that - but the hard part was having the initiative to come up with something fun, then making the freaking thing, where so few people do.


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