One of the best ways to increase the chances of your game project succeeding is to identify and mitigate risks early on.
Today we’re going to talk about something that can hurt your motivation over time.
Something that has the power to make you quit.
Something you don’t even think about, but it is there, watching your every move.
It eats starry-eyed game developers like you for breakfast every day.
And most of them aren’t even aware of its presence!
I’m going to show you what it looks like, and teach you how to defeat it!
Are you afraid yet?
You better be.
Because we’re going to talk about the law of diminishing returns!
What is The Law of Diminishing Returns?
I’m pretty sure you had an amazing idea for a game at one point in time.
Overflowing with enthusiasm, you fired up your favorite game engine, and started bringing your ideas into reality.
You were amazed at the progress you were making.
You felt invincible, and it seemed like nothing could stop you.
The finish line seemed only a few days away.
Except a week, or maybe a month later, your progress grinded to a halt.
It didn’t happen all at once, rather, it was a steady downfall as you delved deeper into your project.
You woke up one day, looked at that big bloated project you’ve been at for weeks, and you no longer knew where to pick up.
It was not a project management issue, you just no longer felt like working on it.
That’s when you gave up and moved on with your life.
When Progress Requires an Increasing Amount of Effort
The law of diminishing returns dictates that your work will require more efforts while also producing fewer results.
In the case of creative projects like game development, results can be interpreted as your personal motivation, the perceived progress of your game project, and the overall satisfaction you get from your job.
Why is it such a huge a problem, especially nowadays?
The answer is simple: never has it ever been easier to make games.
You can start a Unity project right now, and within 5 minutes have a functionning level, a game character that runs and jumps, a smooth camera system, an advanced combat system with guns and explosives, professional lighting, and all the bells and whistles of a commercial video game.
If you have some cash, you can go further than that and purchase even more ready-made assets.
Game development is easier than ever.
The problem is: you get used to that level of progress, and you start expecting to make giant leaps all the time.
When you’re not advancing at the speed of light in your project, you interpret it as a failure. You get frustrated and your chances of giving up increase dramatically.
These unrealistic expectations need to die.
What is the Solution?
The law of diminishing returns, much like gravity, is a universal law. It is always there, whether you’re aware of it or not.
So how do we defeat this invisible enemy?
I will summarize my personal solutions in a few points.
First, you need to …
1) Have Realistic Expectations
Murphy’s law says: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.
There are always unexpected setbacks in every game development project.
Stuff will take longer to get done than you think.
Problems that you didn’t know about will arise, and you’ll have to deal with them, and it’s going to take time to do so.
Be more realisitic with your expectations.
Even with all the advances in technology, the fundamentals of creating art and making games have never changed.
A great tool like Unreal Engine or Unity will make your work more comfortable, sure, but it will never compensate for your lack of experience, wisdom and patience.
Be patient. Any valuable work takes time.
Be present in the moment.
Enjoy every little step.
2) Learn To Motivate Yourself Properly
If you’re easily falling victim to the law of diminishing returns in your projects, maybe you’re not motivating yourself properly.
Motivation needs to come from the inside, rather than the outside.
It is something that pushes you forward when everything in your life tries to slow you down or stop you.
The little progress you’re making during the day matters more than you think.
Enjoy it. Be proud of yourself. Celebrate.
It’s good to look at the big picture once in a while, but don’t let it demoralize you.
Everything Mankind has built since the dawn of time started with little baby steps.
So go ahead, set clear and realistic goals.
Break them down into small tasks that can be accomplished within the hour.
Focus all your energy on one tiny task at a time, and forget the rest.
You can spice things up by mixing tasks with more visible outcomes (e.g special effects, new graphics, sound effects) with less visual tasks (e.g engine rework, refactoring, optimization, QA).
For a bigger motivation boost, have your task list written down somewhere, and at the end of the day, look at everything you’ve accomplished.
You are a little bit closer to that big picture than you were yesterday.
Let that be all you think about, all that motivates you.
3) Be Aware of the Law
At some point in time, your returns will diminish, there is no escaping it.
Be aware of that, and it can completely change how the law affects you.
Let it do its thing, and know that things will pick up.
In my personal experience, things always pick up.
Creative projects are full of surprises, challenges and new beginnings.
In game development, there are a lot of opportunities to add significant value to your project and flip the law on its head :
- Anything that has to do with polish: new graphics, sounds effects, or music.
- Making menus, heads-up displays and other GUI features.
- Adding new game mechanics that support the ones already in place.
- Adding new game modes that change the rules or alter the game world, and introduce new challenges for the player.
- Creating tools for a more comfortable development experience for you and your team: visual debuggers, editor extensions, level editors, … etc.
- For programmers: refactoring old code to make it more elegant and efficient, adding automated tests for a more reliable code base. Taking on a big programming challenge.
Next time your project falls victim to the law of diminishing returns, you know how to handle the situation. Good luck!