1000 Words A Day Habit And How It Relates To Indie Game Development

What’s one thing an indie game developer can do every day to improve upon his craft and keep the momentum of working on his game projects on daily basis?

It’s a common habit for fiction and non-fiction writers to write at least 1000 words per day rain or shine. The idea behind it is to practice their craft everyday and to create a consistent output outlet. This got me thinking about what could possible be the equivalent for indie game developers?

If we’re serious about creating games, improving as professionals and are committed to releasing high quality games on consistent basis our goal should be to develop some kind of daily output system that helps us build our skills, make progress on our projects and keep us moving forward. But what could that possibly be on daily basis for indie game devs?

The reason I’m asking this question is because I recently decided to be “all in” in my pursue to be an indie game developer and really focus to try to make it work. The decision to be “all in” requires certain level of discipline and commitment.

Recently I wrote about Ten Habits That Stop Me From Finishing My Game Projects. I’ve been conscious of these habits and making sure that over time I’m able to improve on them. I’m looking into other creative fields to see if some of their struggles relate back to game development.

Writers face a similar dilemmas, if they’ve committed to writing a novel/book, they have an overwhelming task ahead of them. One way that helps them is to focus on consistently writing 1000 words a day. It’s a manageable daily amount that if done every day for extended periods of time gets a healthy amount of work done.

1000 words is a smaller goal of a much bigger undertaking. Finding the equivalent in game development might not be as easy (I tried to make a list) but the principle remains the same. Break it up into smaller tangible daily tasks, keep showing up daily and you’ll get where you want to be eventually.

What are your thoughts? What do you think the equivalent of 1000 words per day could be in indie game development? Comments welcome below.
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12 Replies to “1000 Words A Day Habit And How It Relates To Indie Game Development”

  1. A hundred lines of code a day? Or revised code if that’s where you’re at. 1000 words is pretty easy so it seems similar. I think I’ll try that :)

  2. Perhaps something like “make a complete prototype every week” or “thoroughly explore a challenge proposed by a core game mechanic per day” or maybe “create a new aesthetic every day” would have a similarly productive effect. It’s a lot harder to quantize progress with video games than with most other media.

    1. Hi Andy, agree with your point that it’s a lot harder, and a lot of it depends on what exactly are your responsibilities within a team. Are you an Artist? Programmer? Designer? etc. As somebody who’s initially going to be wearing many hats perhaps it’s a daily sequence of tasks rather than just one single quantifiable goal.

  3. Try to write a method a day (or week) on something you have never done before

    first day could be writing it from scratch second day could be refactoring

    1. Good way to practice. I’ve been getting into a habit of taking quick notes while playing smaller browser/ipad games, picking a small mechanic which I think is interesting and then trying to re-created it in Unity.

      1. Hi Tomasz,

        This is an old reply digging through your archives but I’d thought I’d chime in as I find expert performance really fascinating!

        I haven’t read Gladwell’s Outliers book in a while so I’m not exactly sure if he mentioned this but the key with practice is doing deliberate practice (which is basically working on techniques relevant to your craft and mastering the things you’re not good at).

        I don’t know if you find this in your own practice (maybe less so as an indie developer) but I find that when I’m at work, there’s barely enough time to experiment, try new things and learn new techniques. Most of the time, because of time-constraints, I have to rely on things I already learned and just reproduce these in a new context. Sure, I’m working “in” my craft/field but I’m not necessarily working “on” my craft.

        I think you’ve hit the nail on how to go around this though (by re-creating mechanics you see in other games). You’re learning new things you haven’t mastered yet (the game mechanics) but you’re also gaining a lot of insight in terms of the thought processes of other game designers (how the mechanic was working well, its shortcomings, etc.).

        Gladwell might have mentioned this too but this reminds me so much of one of the studies by a researcher named de Groot who studied expert chess players. He basically found that expert players were able to anticipate more chess moves than amateur players. They also understood the game at a deeper level (saw patterns of moves and knew a move’s possible shortcomings, etc.).

        I suppose in your case, you’re developing the same things (being able to anticipate what mechanic might work well in certain circumstances and how a player might respond)!

  4. I draw at least 5 hours a day, maybe not on weekends. A better regime would be practice 8 hours a day, like musicians do, but it’s hard to keep the discipline when you’re not always working on something that you’d like to work on.

    There is this belief, started in the 90’s by a Swedish sociologist, don’t remember his name, that you can become a master of a certain skill by investing 10.000 hours on it.

    Being truth or not, it’s certain that practice makes it perfect, or at least close to perfect.

    Implementing a different system every week, designing ideas every day, sketching monsters every 2 hours. It’s all about fighting inertia, but even people who ‘contemplates’ life too much are doing something in the end.

    1. I’ve heard the 10,000 hour rule before, I think might have been from one of Malcolm Gladwell books. That’s a lot of practice hours.

      Big attraction for me to indie game development is the variety of different types of responsibilities one person has. Ideally it would be a daily task list that includes, coding, design, art, animation that’s split into small manageable chunks that serve as fire starters to get things moving.

      The 8 Hours a day, daily musician routine sounds interesting. I think I’ll dig deeper into that.

    2. Hey Fellipe your illustrations are cute!! Are they 3D rendered or is the plastic specular feeling pure 2D handcrafted? Just curious. :)

  5. For a developer in your position tomasz, you would be practicing a variety of skills as you’re building nearly everything yourself. Perhaps you set aside an hour or two every day to accomplish this? One week you could draw/build at will anything you want. Another week you could brainstorm game ideas/mechanics or perhaps do some game research (play new games). A third week could be for some kind of programming practice… Just a couple hours a day.

    1. You’re right Steve, spreading myself wide on variety of different skills. Just the last couple of days the list included coding, 3D modelling, UI Design and scripting, particles, texturing, UV Layout… I’ve been brainstorming on ongoing basis by keeping Evernote near by to drop down any new ideas. Coming to a conclusion that there is no one thing… focusing on one project and putting in the time on daily basis to get it done might be the closest thing.

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