Ten Bad Habits Stopping Me From Finishing My Indie Game Projects

If only it was as easy as coming up with ideas, prototyping, creating gameplay, creating assets, testing, bug fixing, promoting, shipping etc. We’d all have several games finished and shipped by now. Unfortunately there is a whole new side to indie game development and arguably to most creative endeavors that constantly stops us from finishing our game projects. The following are my ten mental roadblocks/demons which I’m fighting on daily basis to finish and ship my games.

I Delay Doing The Work
A texture waits to be painted, a character needs new animation cycles, a mesh needs to be modeled. The amount of work is overwhelming, the path to completion not very clear. Work needed to be done is not as exciting or sexy as I’d like it to be. What do I do? I find ways to push back doing the actual work, I focus on things which I tell myself are important but most likely don’t contribute as much to the final goal of finishing and shipping my game project.

I Think I Lack The Ability To Complete My Task at Hand
If only I read one more article, perhaps a new tutorial, one more game design/art/code book I’ll be better prepared for the task. After reading one, I move on to another always thinking I need to improve more. Thinking of always needing to improve stops me from actually jumping in and making decisions that will move me forward towards finishing.

I Can’t Commit To A Solid Plan
I have rough ideas for my games. In fact lots of ideas. I have troubles committing to a single one. This makes it difficult to commit to one single solid plan, focus on that one plan and work efficiently towards completing it. This has me creating work that’s not keepable. I frustrate myself with things that ultimately will not be used in the final game.

I Don’t Keep Myself Accountable
I want to get things done but I don’t keep a detailed schedule to check my progress. I have vague goals of what I’d like to accomplish but often change them as I see fit. Nobody is looking over my back so I think there is always plenty of time. I don’t keep metrics to test whether I’m on track to meet my own deadlines. Days, weeks, months go by feeling like not much progress is being made.

I Lack Focus
I have too many things on my plate. Too many side projects. Too many directions and possible paths to take, the amount of other work/choices is adding too much extra stress so I find excuses to procrastinate.

I Can’t Decide On The Direction I Want To Take
I spend too much time thinking of perfecting my ideas, I find one idea that I like but after few days change to another. I’m unable to decide what idea I should go with. I keep looking at other games and each new released game makes me want to change direction. The integrity of original design breaks apart or at least in my head it feels like it breaks apart. I jump from one idea to another ending up not getting much done.

I’m Not Giving It 200%
I want to make a great game, but I don’t put the right amount of effort to make it happen. I choose to consume media that doesn’t contribute to the final goal of finishing my game. When I finally start working on something I get easily distracted by other less important things. I don’t put enough time into making things better and making solid decisions that will move me towards completion closer.

I Worry About Things Outside The Scope Of Making A Game
Obviously there are things which take higher priority than working on the game. It’s hard to keep in a healthy productive/creative mental state when there are things outside of the scope of game development which are more important and need mine attention. That can include finances, relationships, health etc. Minimizing these worries by maintaining good health and having positive healthy relationships with others is important. My ability to focus and getting things done increases ten fold when I know these worries are taken care of.

I Fear How The Game Will Be Received
The “what if” thinking paralyzes me and stops me from creating. I fear the game is going to be a failure and my time making it will be a waste. Perhaps it’s the opposite I fear that it’s going to be a big hit and I’ll be in the spotlight which will not make me comfortable. I’m stalling to finish the game over-thinking the final outcome.

I Don’t Ship
The amount of work I’ve put in to making a game means nothing if I don’t ship. Shipping is not easy. After few months working on the same project, the assets lose their appeal. Judging gameplay is difficult because you’ve been so close to it for so long, I start questioning if what I’ve done is worth sending out. The mind is in overdrive thinking of all the possible ways I shouldn’t finish it.

I fight several of these demons on daily basis. The more of these I can eliminate any single day the more productive the day becomes. There is no single day where at least one of these doesn’t creep in. I’m being aware, and moving towards accepting these as part of the process rather than something that stresses me out even more.

What are your thoughts on this? 


9 Replies to “Ten Bad Habits Stopping Me From Finishing My Indie Game Projects”

  1. I fight with these same issues, somehow seeing them in plain text and knowing they’re shared seems to help. I think it’s an amalgamation of a few but I feel like one of my biggest issues is trying to be perfect the first time around. I’ve worked with software for long enough to know that it doesn’t work that way, but none-the-less I try to develop a completed product in one go. Need to create something that works, and then make it better and better.

    1. I think that quest for perfection kills a lot of projects before they get released. On one hand we want things to be perfect but if that kills it from being released than something needs to give.

      1. My Aunt had a great saying about that:
        “The perfect is the enemy of the good”.

        I think we all do the same thing – for me, it comes from pride in the work. You can look at it and say “I made this! ALL of it! And it’s AWESOME!” So naturally, you want it to be awesome. And you’re writing new functions, and you think “Ooh – it would be cool if I could just pass an index and have it handle everything, instead of having to to pass in the sprite and do the physics elsewhere”, or whatever, so you start ‘refactoring on the fly’ – but that means you have to stop building the game and start working on infrastructure, refactor for consistency throughout the whole code base, etc…and now you’re ‘stuck’.

        I put that in quotes because obviously, not only are you still making progress, but it’s progress that will help you immensely down the road. (Until you change your mind again. ;) Still, you don’t see the GAME getting any further along, so it feels like you’re spinning your wheels.

        I think that’s one of the key requirements if you’re going to do this stuff – you have to look at the day’s work, and say “I built a particle system today!” (I actually said that recently ;) – and be JUST as excited by that as something like “I just made an awesome new weapon today!” The key is to put the hours in, focused on a meaningful task. Exactly which task it is, doesn’t matter.

  2. I personally find it very motivating to have my game online. Its rawness shames me into getting work done on it just so that less people think the early version is the best I can do.
    Also, I really like the /r/gamedev Screenshot Saturday. I feel that I should have something new to show every week and so am forced into getting meaningful things done.
    I am going to end by shamelessly plugging that same game. Play it here:
    and read my last blog post on it here:

    1. Great to have communities where you can get feedback from peers on regular basis. Sharing something that’s work in progress is still something I’m trying to get used to though.

  3. I’ve fallen into some of those traps, and I still work full-time in a demanding job, so I get very little done. My development is extremely incremental. I think they key is focusing on systems and getting those systems up and running before moving on to anything else.

    1. I found it difficult to get any meaningful work done after coming home from a full-time job as well. It’s a big reason why I’ve decided to take same time off and see if I can make it work full time.

  4. You must be psychic because I pretty much have experienced and continue to experience every one of the issues mentioned and I still have not managed to finish a single game. I `want to` very much but all these issues get in the way. Thanks for sharing them so I know I am not the only one and can bring more awareness to my process to not let these things take over.

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