Thursday 14 December 2017

Game Development From Home

I do all of my game development from home, as I'm sure many people do, at least when starting out. This is because for one, I'm 17 so I legally couldn't move out if I wanted to and two, I don't have any money anyway, so yeah- whatever.

The point is that I've spent enough time trying to be productive in a fairly chaotic and uncontrolled environment to hopefully offer some helpful tips to anyone in the same or a similar position.

I think it's quite important to avoid thought-based traps. Things like "I'll work on my game when it's peaceful" or worse still, "I'll work on my game when these damned kids have grown up". For context, yeah, I'm the oldest of a lot of much younger siblings.

Both of these sentences are shifting responsibility away from your present self, which is unfortunately the most important version of your self to motivate. If your situation is anything like mine, it really isn't feasible to work on your game late at night. In my experience, working late at night is generally less productive and of a poorer quality than getting something done in the morning or mid-day.

After a full day of keeping up with household demands as well as school or work, I find that getting something done is a much more grueling task. I have two solutions to this. The first of such solutions is to push such thoughts out of my head entirely, or to realize that it's not going to be any easier to work on my game in the evening because I'll be tired by then. It balances out and I just have to actually get the work done.

The second solution which may not be possible depending on who you are or what your responsibilities are is to go to sleep at 9pm almost every night and wake up by 5:30am. This nets me 8 or so hours of sleep while still having a few hours in the morning to wake up and get into working on my game with minimal distractions.

I could probably fill another entire video with tips on how to get to sleep so early in a noisy household, but I'll keep it simple here since my YouTube channel is actually still about game development. Ear plugs are your friend, as are noise generators, as is making peace with the fact that people might wake you up while they probably don't mean to. Be cool, calm and let your mind wander a bit. Drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids. Last but not least, ease into a significantly earlier sleep schedule by going to sleep at say 10pm and waking up at 6:30am for a few nights, and then you can get into sleeping at 9pm and waking up at 5:30am. Of course, your times may vary.

Another general tip for game development from home is to avoid the tendency to go make a drink to buy time so you don't have to work for a few minutes longer. I'm quite guilty of this and as a result I drink like seven cups of tea a day. To avoid this, it helps to open up your game, poke around and see what you need to get done before getting up. In my experience, once I get up my mind has left the gamedev zone and is now thinking about whatever other miscellaneous rubbish wanders in instead.

The idea is that if you make a mental note of what you're about to do when you get back, you'll put your beverage of choice on your desk and be easily able to get back to work without being inclined to spent another moment to finish your tea while you figure out what to do.

Plus, it can provide an extra incentive to the thinking bit since your ability to go get a nice hot cup of something depends on your ability to figure out your next task.

Though I don't do this, some people set themselves rigid hours between which they will or won't work on their game. For instance, between 8am and 4pm, I'll close everything else on my computer and only allow myself to work on my game. You can experiment with whatever works for you in particular, such as a five-minute break every hour, a fifteen minute break every two hours, an hour as a "lunch break"- the point is that it can be helpful to not have a super liquid schedule. I would give myself a more rigid schedule, but that's difficult given the fact that I have to go to school and that sort of throws a spanner in the works for a few reasons.

Lastly, don't overwork yourself. This isn't to say be lazy and slack off because obviously that's not gonna help anyone but make sure to recognize from as reasonable a view as possible whether you need a break or not. The unfortunate truth is the the universe will not be kind to you if you take too much time off. I hate to be the "tough love" guy, but indie game development is really very hard and you need to recognize that your job is to make the best game you can in order to have a chance at staying afloat in the industry, let alone getting anywhere truly successful.

If you overwork yourself, I believe that you will almost always make a worse product. Spreading yourself too thin too fast usually means that you won't have enough butter on your toast and you ripped the bread in the process. In order to make a good product and to be at maximum efficiency, creativity and productivity you need to take some breaks. Be reasonable and allocate time to take a step back and have a potentially brutally honest look at what you're doing, where you're going and what you're going to do about it.

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for more videos that are very tangentially about game development, but applicable to most fields of creative work where the creator is sufficiently independent. It's kind of like a cheat for YouTube. Brand as a gamedev channel and then go off and make some random stuff, all the while keeping your audience sufficiently fooled so as to not have everyone unsubscribe.

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