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Oh yeah, here’s the hard part. Ask anyone who has ever built a game and I am sure they’ll agree that this is where it stops being exciting and starts requiring some real determination. The honeymoon is over, the initial glory of your incredible idea has worn off and you’re left looking at your ‘to do’ list which seems to have no end. Stuck for motivation? Aren’t we all…

There’s no sure method of getting through the doldrums. Generally you just have to knuckle down and force yourself to get a bit of work done and take each step at a time. There are a few things that you can try, however, and they might just help, even if they don’t magically restore your motivation straight away.

Take a break: My mother always told me this as a kid when I was having trouble doing a school assignment, and we all know mothers know best. If you’re really having trouble getting anything done (you know the symptoms: refreshing forums, playing solitaire, drumming fingers on the desk) then you may as well not be at the computer at all. Get off that seat and get something else done! It might be spending 5 minutes vacuuming the carpet, 30 minutes going for a walk, an hour taking a nap or maybe taking a whole week off from working on the game at all. Find whatever works for you and do it – one of the main reasons that I made my short game Awakener was to take a break from working on a bigger project that had left me in the doldrums for a couple of weeks. As soon as I find myself away from the project that has been killing my motivation, I find myself thinking about the game again and getting keen to get back there and keep working on it. Keep in mind though you’ll probably take a little while to warm back up when you get back to working on the game, so don’t expect to come back from your rest and immediately get loads of work done. Do a few small things to get yourself back into the state of mind and then get cracking on the big stuff.

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First full screen from Ben's upcoming game "!"

Play some games: This is something I remember ProgZmax (ed. aka  Shane Stevens) telling me one day, and I’ve never forgotten it. It works. If you’re finding that the thought of working on your game is just not inspiring at all, go back and remember why you fell in love with computer games in the first place, and what made you say “I wanna do this myself!”. Play an old favourite, pick up one of the new titles that looks interesting and has people saying good things about it or see if you can find a copy of that cult classic game you always meant to try. Invest some time in other genres than boring old adventure games (hey, I make them, I’m allowed to call them boring) and check out what other genres are up to. I get way more cool ideas from other genres than from adventure games.

Tell your friends: It gets hard to stay encouraged when you’ve played the same scenes over and over and over again to get the just right. It doesn’t feel new or exciting, it feels like you’re trudging through the same boring stuff. When this happens, I often send an alpha build to one of my (very patient) friends and get them to tell me what they think. It’s fresh to them, and they’ll often point out the things they like which reminds you how much you like them, even if you’ve stopped noticing them. There’s no greater motivation boost than someone telling you that they like what you’ve done, or suggesting an exciting new idea to try. Heed was an interesting experiment of mine – I was working 50 hours a week and had been trying to get myself to get back to working on games for months but I couldn’t find the motivation whilst working so full time. I decided to start working on a short game scene by scene, creating one scene at a time and releasing the game bit by bit to readers of my blog as each new section was done, as a webcomic author does with their story. Yes, it meant I ended up with a very linear experience, but it also meant that I found the drive I needed to get a game done through getting feedback after each scene was done. I may have built it with an unusual and unconventional method, but the regular feedback meant that I managed to push myself to finish another game in a time where no other method was working to get me motivated.

By the same token, if you get people to try your unconventional ideas early then you can make sure that they work before you jump in and build your whole game. If you make sure you get it all working in the early builds, and get people checking it for you, you save yourself lots of extensive (and boring) reworking when the game is much bigger and people say “Hang on a minute, this isn’t very fun to use”.

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Chapter End

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Go to Chapter 4: When do I Stop?

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Shoot, I got abducted!

About The Author:

Ben Chandler (aka Ben304) is a prolific creator of freeware adventure games specializing in Adventure Game Studio. He is best known for: “!” Awakener; HeedMan Boy vs Doctor Sock; Annie Android: Automated Affection; Shifter’s Box: Outside In; Trance-Pacific (in collaboration with paolo); IWWHIIWWHITOMIROTPG: The Game! (in collaboration with monkey_05_06); and Shoot, I Got Abducted!. You can visit Ben Chandler’s own blog full of writings on gaming, game design, and creating graphic art here.