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31 January 2009 @ 03:59 pm
Indie Game Night 01/09 and a MiniMonthly Postmortem  
Indie Game Night this month was great! We had a ton of demos to see and I got to give a presentation about my minimonthly project. ^_^

I met a lot of new people and I hope everyone else had a good time too.

Below are my speech notes and here is a link to the flash presentation I used while speaking.

http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/postmortem/postmortem.html


This is going to be a talk about crunch time and about motivation for developing games and the lessons I learned about it from my minimonthly project. It will be a MiniMonthly Postmortem of sorts. I wanted to do this since I am ending my MiniMonthly project and that is what is on my mind the most.
Feel free to ask me about any of my thoughts or ideas, and come play #11 and #12 when we move to the expo.

Motivating Crunch:
A MiniMonthly Postmortem

What is a minimonthly?
-my project I've been doing in my spare time
-testing motivation to make games via game ideas
-started as a new year's resolution to keep up my skills
-quick and easy games, doable in only a day or two
-whatever game idea I was most excited about that month
-due date every month
-could only work on it during that month
-ok to reuse source code and art assets
-no picking up pre-existing projects
-posted to my vazor222 livejournal blog
-not shippable
-but at least first playable
-unless I ran out of time (#9)

Lessons learned from the MiniMonthly experiment
-will cover each of these five areas over the next few slides
-Crunch, Time, Motivation, Inspiration, Extraversion

Lesson 1
Crunch
-The Basic Pattern of Crunch
-the initial burst
-the slack-off
-the regular grind
-the crunch
-team crunch is caused by bad management
-typically the amount of work is underestimated (#4)
-games are complicated things and making them work takes time
-feature creep
-personal crunch is caused by procrastination
-even on this presentation -_-
-it seems like it is not much work, so do it later
-there is no immediate pressure from a deadline
-knowing when to give up
-battling crunch
-combat underestimation with research and buffer time
-combat feature creep with priority lists
-design and set goals such that you get immediate and fun results at each step of completion (#11)
-try to get a consistent and congruent time to work (#11)
-try to set a non-distracting time/place to work
-draw the line; set a time when you stop no matter what
-battle procrastination
-break down features
-set daily and weekly goals
-give up when the feature is making you miss your goals for more than a week
-redesign or rework another way (#8)
-escalate or cut the feature

Lesson 2
Time
-when there's not enough
-what not to do
-don't do any design, just make it and design only what you have to
-don't burn yourself out in one night!
-set a limit to make sure you are fresh the next day
-when there is a lot
-don't over-budget!
-incremental builds (#3)
-do what motivates you the most (#3)
-if you're finished, you can stop!
-think about ideas for the next month
-the first and the last
-the first will be good because you have this great idea
-the last also will be good because it is your last one

Lesson 3
Motivation
-what motivates you?
-for me it is having an awesome idea and wanting to see it made
-even more awesome is seeing people react the way you were hoping
-which happened to me on #1, #3, #5, #6, #7, and #10 ^_^
-being motivated from other people's ideas
-you can try but it never works for me
-except for #8 which was partly for my wife
-fun work vs work work
-fun work (career development work) is more fun than work work
-playing games or slacking off is more fun than fun work
-work work could keep me from getting fun work done
-and games could keep me from getting fun work done
-but I did not let them take those weekends I had set aside
-feature cut and scaling back (#8)
-it is very easy to think you're keeping the scope down with design decisions early on, but the reality is the less time spent on production, the less game will be made (#9)
-external sources of motivation
-people to show the game to (like how #10 was helped by Indie Game Night)
-somewhere to keep a record (e.g. a journal or a blog)

Lesson 4
Inspiration
-if you are like me, you have game ideas all the time
-over time, you get some ideas that are more powerful than others
-use them at the start to get off the ground (#1)
-save one for the very end (#12)
-EVERYONE is a game designer
-discuss ideas with people and you will always get a few new ideas
-remember about motivation from other people's ideas
-if you still want to do it, be sure to credit where due
-don't get too absorbed in the design and feel
-it inevitably leads to procrastination (#2 and #9)
-make a feature first, and decide how to design it as you make it
-keep track of all your ideas, but only implement and focus on what you have time for (#5)

Lesson 5
Extraversion
-if you've worked on games long enough you will eventually level up your jadedness
-you realize people don't like anything but their favorite games
-you start to think about your audience when designing
-having an audience is key for good design
-having people who can give you feedback is a big motivation
-playtesting will help you improve
-sometimes things that are clear to you will be confusing to others
-bugs and inconsistencies in the design can be pointed out (#3, etc.)
-you can get a measure of the response you get and how well you did in evoking the response you wanted
-collaborating can help
-but only if you ask for something easy
-and only if you don't need it and it is easy for you to incorporate
-ask every month often to find a time
-sit down, set a goal, do it, and then don't bother them until next month
-don't promise to give anything in return (again, remember about motivation from others)
-except for be sure to credit them!

MiniMonthly vs other side projects
MiniMonthly
-you can do it
-you can set a monthly goal that is doable
-stick to your deadlines
-move on if not; you can't fail
-you can't do what you can't do
-if you're not an artist, don't do art
-if you're not a coder, don't do code
-but whatever it is you can do, get better at it
-but you can do it
-you can learn to do a lot of things in your spare time
-month schedule is closer to typical milestone schedule
-learn sooner rather than later that your project is or isn't going anywhere
Other side projects
-might involve working with a team
-design compromises (and blather)
-responsibility
-waiting (not really- no excuse)
-length of time
-no deadline
-usually unknown
-can continue to grow indefinitely (unlike studio-developed games)
-end up unfinished
-lose motivation over time
-too big can mean too much work
-more finished projects look better

How you can do your own MiniMonthly
-decide what you will do
-code, art, writing, etc
-monthly ideas that inspire you as you go along
-or fun features that all add up to one big project
-decide how you will do it
-what tools will you need and when/where will you have access to them
-how you will make yourself accountable

Links
-http://vazor222.livejournal.com
-http://vazor222.livejournal.com/tag/minimonthly
-gamasutra.com
-gamedev.net
-sites geared toward your field and tools (SDL, Torque, XNA, Flash, Photoshop/GIMP, Maya/Blender, etc)
-igda.org - ask your peers
 
 
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