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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Something to Point To

I thought I'd do up a bit of a thought piece to do a sort of "bulk response" to a question that I get asked quote a lot:

"Where do you find the motivation/time to make such a large-scale game when you have a full-time day job?"

I get asked this question an unbelievably regular amount of times, so I thought it might be worth doing up a blog post about it so I can just point people at it rather than having to repeat myself. Plus, about 50% of the people I explain it to turn around and scoff at me afterwards, and having it in a blog means that I don't have to see them do that.

Anyway, it's true that I have a full-time day job. I work Monday to Friday, full-time hours and, as of the end of 2012, have been doing that for eight years (the same job, too. Woo!) yet for the last three of those years, I have also been doing 10 hour days, 7 days a week, working on Malevolence - an incredibly large-scale project. I've done this while managing two mortgages, finding time to spend with my wife and friends, and maintaining a number of hobbies.

To the people who ask how I do it, it comes down to four key things: pride, passion, desire and sacrifice. And what I do isn't something unique to me. It's not some bizarre, TARDIS-like device I keep in my garage. It's something that anyone can do, many people DO do, but not many people WANT to do.

Let me break it down into the categories and explain myself further:

PRIDE: Pride is a big one, if not the biggest. Pride is essential to success. Too many people, when contemplating something unique, will not even start on it because they aren't confident enough in themselves to do it. They start to fill their head with excuses before they've even begun, and then it doesn't happen. Others might START the project, but hit their first roadblock and shoot themselves down. They'll hit a bug they can't fix or get stuck trying to work out a method that they can't figure out and they'll tell themselves that the entire project will be like this and that they can't finish it. This comes down to a lack of pride. There are two types of people: those who seek to find out what they're capable of, and those who don't care, or are too frightened to find out. I haven't listed people who KNOW what they're capable of, because a true seeker of knowledge should always be surprised by new things that they are capable of. If you were to tell a younger version of myself the things that I would accomplish some day, I would have told you that you have the wrong guy. I've always been confident in a lot of areas, but terribly shy and unwilling in others. But the more I tried, the more I could do. When I failed, I tried again until I got it right. If you don't have self confidence, you'll never make it. So the first step is to believe you can do something, and believe that you have the skill, or can acquire the skill, to make it happen.

PASSION: This is a must. If the thing you are working on holds no passion for you, then it is the wrong thing. A big project is like a marriage. You must be dedicated solely to that thing, and see it through to the end. But before you can do that, you have to be WILLING to see it through. That takes some self analysis before you even get started, and that is where pride comes in. Find something that you have just got to do in life. Something that you can't help thinking about. Something that, when uninhibited, gives you tremendous joy unlike anything else. For me, that is making video games. Particularly seeing people PLAY the games that I make. I said earlier that it's like a marriage, and this may seem controversial to some, but a marriage that ends in divorce, most of the time, wasn't thought through well enough in the first place. The same can be said of a project. If you are willing to drop a project half-way through, that means you should never have started it in the first place, because the level of passion that the project needed and deserved was never there. When you start a project, it can be fun, but you need more than fun. You need that deep rooted love of the idea. The dreams of your future with that idea. You need to be so connected with the project, and so dedicated to it, that when times get hard, you stick with it. You work on it. You fight for it. When you hit a bug that is IMPOSSIBLE to fix, you step back from it. You take some time to think it over. You clear your head, and you go back to it. If you do this, you will see the problem from a fresh angle and it will get resolved. If you hit that wall and just quit, then you didn't have enough passion for it. If the passion isn't there - and I mean proper passion - then don't even bother with the project, because it may just end up as wasted time and resources.

DESIRE: The motivational speaker Eric Thomas tells a story of a man who visited a wealthy, successful guru, and told him "I want to be successful and make lots of money, like you. Please teach me how I can do this" and the guru told him to meet him tomorrow, at 4am, at the beach. The next morning, the man went to the beach in his best suit and met with the guru. The guru told him "if you want to be successful, then walk out into the ocean". The man thought it was an odd request, but he walked out until he was waist-deep in the water. The guru called out to him and told him to walk out further, so he walked until the water was around his shoulders. He called back to the guru, saying that he didn't understand how this could possibly make him successful. He already knew how to swim. So the guru waded out to him and forced his head under the water. No matter how hard the man struggled, the guru held him down under the water. Just before he passed out, the guru lifted him up again and immediately asked him "when you were under the water, what did you want to do?" to which the man said he wanted to breathe. More than anything he wante to breathe. The guru nodded and said "When you NEED to be successful as much as you NEED to breathe, then you will be successful."
And that's just it. When you're suffocating, all you can think of is to try and get some air into your lungs. You don't think about catching your favourite TV show, you don't think about the football final that's coming up, you don't think about work... Your entire existence becomes centered around getting some air. Everything you do - every thought, every action, goes towards getting air.
Until you think that way about success, it'll never properly happen. And that links strongly into the final topic...

SACRIFICE: This is the one people can never get past. When Friday night rolls around, everyone I know goes out for drinks, goes to parties, goes shopping, goes to the movies, goes to dinner... I go home and work on my game. When the football grand final is on, everyone's having mates over, doing beer runs and camping in front of the TV to watch it happen (or are at the game in person)... I stay at home and work on my game. When people finish work at their job they go home, grab a drink, put their feet up and watch TV, resting after a hard days work... I get home, turn on my computer and work on my game. When it gets to 10pm or so, people go to bed to get their healthy 8 hours sleep before work the next day. I stay up until 2am to work on my game. When other people have their project up on one screen, they'll keep checking their Facebook or getting distracted by Farmville or wanting to play games rather than work.... But I'm there, both screens taken up by my project, surrounded by notebooks full of equations, entirely focused.
And that's just it. You have to be willing to sacrifice things that don't mean as much as the project. You have to be willing to give up sleep. People will tell you it's not healthy but you can get by on small naps. You have to feel like you CAN'T sleep in case you miss a chance to do something awesome. You have to be totally engaged. There have been many, many times while working on my game that I have completely forgotten to eat and my wife has had to intervene and practically force-feed me. I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive, caring wife who thoroughly understands and respects my level of investment. Having that sort of backup is a HUGE plus in this sort of thing. It doesn't have to be a partner/spouse, however. Often simply being surrounded by like-minded people is enough, and you should stick with those people, and avoid people who distract you by trying to get you to go out and get smashed on your evenings. Many people will stop at this point and say "hold on, hold on. You can't expect me to give up enjoying myself!", but to that I say that if this project that you're supposedly passionate about isn't as important or more important than those other things, then you can't be that invested in it.

Now, don't get me wrong - and I know people are going to ignore this part of my rant in the comments, but I think it's fine to have a casual project, rather than a full-on life consuming project. It takes a very special level of dedication to have such a life-controlling thing like that hanging over you. But my main point is to the people who say that they just "can't find the time" or "can't find the motivation" to get anything done... I'm telling you. the time is there. The motivation is there. You just don't want it enough. Perhaps it's time to stop blaming other things and start taking a look inward.

11 comments:

  1. Wow, that's and Impressive read. I liked it :)

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    1. Thanks for putting up with my rant :)

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  2. Very well said. I've been working on a not-my-day-job game project myself for almost 2 years now and I know exactly what you're talking about.

    Though if a guru was trying to drown me I'd wonder if I'd made a bad judge of character along the way. :)

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    1. ahahaha very true. Well done for sticking to your project! Keep up the awesomeness!

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  3. Thanks, this was exactly what I needed to hear right now.

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    1. Glad I could help! Stick with it! If you're on this kind of path, then it'll be worth it in the end!

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  4. That's definitely one of the more motivating posts I've read on the subject of keeping creative juices flowing. I'll have to link to this on the site, as it's pretty much essential for anyone.

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    1. Thanks for the praise :D Definitely feel free to share it around!

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  5. It has to be the most motivational text I've ever read. I thank you for this, it may have changed my life. Really... Thank you!

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