So a few days ago I was rambling on Twitter about how “unstable” I’ve been this year. Instead of advancing in a steady direction, I’ve been constantly questioning myself, and starting, abandoning, or failing at a multitude of things. I was ranting on Twitter because, after around 60 work hours, I’ve decided to abandon yet another thing: the short one month game I was working on to define the kinds of games I want to make.
And why am I abandoning it?
Basically, because it turned out not to be a “one month project”. As usual I was ambitious, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I didn’t realize that I was too ambitious for the deadline I set myself. How did I realize this? Well, I decided to sit down and do a proper planning session, and estimate the duration of every single task individually. This was basically applying the “segmentation effect”; the idea is that the time estimated for a task is significantly smaller than the sum of the times estimated for the sub-tasks that form it. So in theory, estimating the duration of a project by estimating its part is the most accurate way to do it. It also helped that I used the tasks I had already done as a reference for similar tasks. Of course, it’s still not perfect, and to err on the side of caution, I followed the classic rule of thumb of taking my best estimation and adding 50%.
The results weren’t uplifiting. To complete what I had left the game, once winter break was over, would take around 7 months. When I started doing this estimation thing, I was willing to give myself some more time to work on the game (because really, the important part was the content, making it in a month was a self-imposed goal), but going from a 1 month project to a 8 month one was too much for me.
And so I decided to de-evolve; I still wanted to make a simple game to represent the type of games I want to make, but it had to be even simpler than what I originally thought. My goal now was to make a 5-minute “artsy” game, with the self imposed restriction that I would have to be able to build a prototype of the entire game in 2 to 4 hours. And so I did. It’s a simple one level game, but I think the concept behind it is very neat, and it’s actually quite related to what I’m going through personally. How long will it take me to actually make it though? I broke down the game into tasks, did some (admittedly pessimistic) estimations and I got 80 hours… in other words, around 2-3 months. (considering my winter break is coming to an end and I won’t have that much time)
“2-3 months for a damn 5 minute game?!?”, I went. But then again… it actually feels right.
This is part of a bigger problem I haven’t faced properly but need to if I ever want to develop games professionally: developing games is slow, and it’s even slower if I work alone. But I’ve made small games before haven’t I? And wow, what a coincidence, they were both developed in the small time-frame of approximately a month. So why could I make those 30 minute games in a month and now I’ll take 2 months for a 5 minute one? Well, ignoring the simple fact I have less time now (with the time I had then this game would take me approximately 1.3 months), the important thing to note is that I’m not satisfied with these games. I mean, I’m still proud of what I did, and they’re both fun and interesting games, but they’re far from the original vision I had for them.
I guess it would be fair to call myself an obsessive person. Not overly-obssesive, but I’ll take (or want to take) the time to make my vision come true, and that takes quite some time. My best example of this is the Fountain of Life object and animation from the canceled Life’s Impetus. It’s not perfect, but it looks great, right? Only problem is that I spent around 150 hours on this. 150 hours. On just one asset. At the time I rationalized it as being acceptable since it was one of the most important assets of the game (which is true), but looking at it now, it’s a good example of what I mean when I say my “vision” for the games I want to make require time; if I am to get it to the level of quality and polish I want my game to be at, I require time. Ruins of Time only has half the content I originally planned. Sky’s Isles was a constant torture since I always felt like “I could do this so much better, if only I had more time!” (this feeling actually turned out to be a problem later on…), and in the end I didn’t even manage to incorporate a proper story.
So… it feels right. 2 months for a simple 5 minute game is ridiculous, but making good and highly polished games in a one man team is ridiculous too. In a way, this game is my last stand; I honestly feel like I have to make this game, even if it takes more than 2 months, even if it takes more than 3 months, because I’m tired, tired of abandoning ideas and tired of canceling projects.
Urgh… I’m a bit of an mess now, aren’t I? Nevertheless, thanks for reading. I’ll be trying to post some updates on this game, although it’ll be hard to do so without spoiling much.