Saturday, December 18, 2010

Continue talking, procrastinate. Postmortem of how I didn't finish a game in more than a year

It has been quite a busy week for me, had an Xmas party yesterday, celebrated my parent 40th wedding anniversary, start the Xmas shopping (I know I am kinda late).  But I did read the blog from @karnakgames that has hit me hard as he was talking about "Stop talking, start doing. Postmorten of how I made 2 games in 10 days".  And then if this wasn't enough I got the dread 30 days notice from Apple iTunes Connect team as seen above this morning in my mail box... ooops!!!

Well which has lead to come out of the closet and speak out...

Yes I tend to talk too much and do less :-( (and as we say in French : "Gros parleur, petit faiseur"), which one of the many reasons that has lead me outside of the path to finish my first game Mythlound : Maurlack Tower.  So without further talking here is the majors reasons that cause me trouble.

Scope & Hardware Change

Originally Mythlound : Maurlack Tower first ideas was conceive while looking for a game to build on the newly announce Xbox Live Community Games (known now as Xbox Live Indie Games).  It was a more simpler game, luckily it was still in early stage of design when we switch it to iOS as the main target (the prototype was still a paper one so no actual line of code or harder decision had been set in stone).  But because of this change of hardware target it has change the scope of how it was going to be played (using touches instead of a joypad).  So had to rethink how the whole interaction was going to be done and while thinking about this, more ideas came up about adding combos, magical items that would change the dynamic of the games.  Of course who say more ideas to add to the games, means the original scope is going to be larger.  Another flaw with the hardware change was not to get an actual real iOS devices to test prototypes early on and to to think the simulator would be enough (hey it was just using simple touches, no gestures or accelerometer), oh boy how wrong I was (totally had to re-prototype and redesign once more)!  I dunno if in my next game ill have the same trouble, hopefully ill stick to one hardware and not change it, and keep a more concrete set of features and stick to it and try to avoid the usual feature creep as my time is priceless...

Time Management

My times is indeed priceless especially like I mentioned in my previous blogs about being "The Part Time Indie Game Developer".  As I already have a full time jobs doing at least 37.5h/week if not more sometime, then to this you have to add my commute time in bus (between 45m - 1h, depending on traffic).  By the time I am ready to do something on week-days its usually around 19h and I should go to bed at around 23h.  As time is short it need to be manage well... and there is my major problem at the moment.  I didn't do a serious project planning with milestone with dates when I should really had.  So hours passes, days passes, week passes, month passes and what do you know it's already more than a year and the game is still not fully done :-(.  If I had more seriously sit down to seize the scope of the project and divided it in smaller tasks what need to be done and put some deadlines, I will a bit more control of where I spend time in the different part of projects and try to stay on schedule.  Hence this is one of the reasons I decided to set up the game in iTunes Connect as a hard deadline 90 days ago.  Now I've got the warning that I have only 30 days left to submit my binary.  If I really want to succeed for this date, ill definitely need to review where I spend my time and how long it will need to complete the remaining tasks.  Funny enough I have no problem to do this at work during the day time and do it very well, but once I am at home I get into more casual/relax mode and fall into the trap...  So if you have good recommendation of tools that will let me schedule my time properly for a project and some other time management tips let me know (ps. also if you know how to get an extension for the iTunes Connect submission contact me...)

Distraction & Procrastination

The ultimate ingredients that are a recipe for project disaster... Distraction and Procastination.  Those 2 never seems to leave my side since I started this whole project since more than a year ago.  As I previously mentioned in my "The Part Time Indie Game Developer" those are my worst enemies which lead outside the path to finish my game.  They all look very innocent at first but beware of them, as while you're not looking they lead you outside the path and deep into the woods.  For the distraction part I don't get much trouble with TV (as it's located deep into the cave, aka my basement) and it has been a long time I didn't get hook to any TV shows (it also help I don't have those channel where they are some interesting shows).  But I do have some gaming devices (a PS3, a Xbox 360 and iPod Touch), the PS3 and Xbox 360 aren't the main culprit (don't play too much on them), but the iPod Touch due to its portability natures, games being cheap and of course doing development on it and following the iDevs community is another thing.  Sometime ill spend some time watering my flowers, designing/flattening lands, exploring Orlandes, etc... all this at the touch of my finger tips on the device I am suppose to use to develop my games, quite hard to resist (one little game, just a little bit more).  Apple them self doesn't help either, releasing some new cool iOS devices at least 3 times a years (new iPhone in June, new iPod touch in September and iPad in April),  which gave me more ideas of new games to develop (I know, I know I should finish my first game first, sigh!).  And all of this lead to only one thing, the procrastination part.  As with so many thing distracting me, it's way to easy to say : Nah I will just play a little bit of this... I'll read those articles first... etc...  Always thinking they are tomorrow and I'll have more time on the next day, pushing further and further when thing should be done.  And one day you have brutal wake up call...

I have now less then 30 days to solve the problem and go back to the right path, can I do it?  This is what we gonna see in the following days, weeks!  Wish me luck and if you have tips to help me feel free to let me know.  Keep the hopes alive!

This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of indie iPhone development blogs featuring two posts per day. You can keep up with iDevBlogADay through the web site, RSS feed, or Twitter.


  1. Oh, that's bad :(

    I would say to avoid TV at all costs, but you already does (I don't even have TV at home, me and my wife find it useless :).

    One tool that really helps me gets focused and also shouts at me when I'm procrastinating is RescueTime: I wrote a post about it: It's nice to see your progress on the next day, like: "You spent 10 hours on twitter, 1 minute on Xcode, you are between the 10th less productive persons".

    For keeping track of the TODO I use the minimalist and free: For bigger projects I use

    Good luck and don't forget to talk back if you need something :)


  2. Just upload a binary and reject it - then you can procrastinate indefinitely!

  3. Two games in ten days? sounds like two very awful, low-quality "Games."
    Don't be so hard on yourself. Just define what you want to do, and do it when you can. It's that easy.

  4. @Andres: I'm the developer of the "awful low-quality Games", and I could tell you that the games are not low-quality, they aren't just "full featured games".

    One of them has 10 levels, with two simple objectives. Check the video and the other is a "Mini Game", but it's complete.

    The only downside is on "Santa in a Hurry" that needs some balancing, because in this case I didn't have time to test the levels, but that also don't qualify the game as "awful". It just needs an update (what is on the way, btw).

    So, please, before judging someone's else work, try to do it yourself better or first check how is the work done, so you can really judge it.