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The Stress of Game Development – Tips for Survival – Extra Credits

The Stress of Game Development – Tips for Survival – Extra Credits


Before we start, big thanks to Joe here for stepping in as our guest artist this week. There is just so much to love about making games. Dreaming interactive worlds into existence is just an exciting thing. Of course, making games is also very challenging, requiring all manner of technical and creative skills. But there’s also another kind of difficulty you face making games, one not discussed nearly so often: The mental stresses of game development. ♪ Every phase of development brings its own mental strains. So today, I would like to offer some tips for minimizing those stresses. Stress Points #1: Coming up with an idea. When starting a new game, there’s a lot of pressure to make the right decision about what to make. At a professional studio, this decision will determine the next several years of people’s lives. At a smaller studio, you may be literally betting the future of he compny on this next game being a hit. My advise here is to not let yourself get bogged down searching for the perfect idea. Instead, just pick a pretty good idea, and charge at it. Building prototypes, and iterating as fast as you can. Experienced designers know that success often comes not from picking the absolute best idea at the outset, but from making the most of the idea you do pick. By testing and iterating on your chosen concept as early as possible, you reduce the risk of pursuing a flawed idea while keeping costs low. Once you’ve got a proof of concept prototype that’s been well-received, then it becomes much easier to move production forward with confidence. Stress Point #2: Getting in over your head. It’s tempting to let plans spiral when you’re excited and invested in your own game success. At some point, nearly all designers have publicly over-promised, and then fallen short on delivering on time …or at all. They have all got war stories and lessons salvaged from the wreckage. Failing to ship may sound like something that happens late in development, but we most often set ourselves up for these failures early on, by promising something before realizing it’s beyond our means. Just keep in mind, players tend to prefer a well-polished simple experience, over an ambitious idea that is badly executed. And you would be surprised how challenging it is to polish even a simple experience to a commercial level. Stress Point #3: Project fatigue. If your only prior game design experience is Game Jams, adjusting to longer-term projects can be really tough. It sometimes feel overwhelming, or like everything’s at a standstill. You start questioning the entire project. You struggle with burnout, you think about quitting. You may feel jealous or inadequate when comparing your work to what other people are doing. These internal struggles are part of what keeps turnover so high in this industry. When these times come, remember that other game makers are going through this too, and you can, and should turn to your peers for support. Remember that big things happen one step at a time. So celebrate the small victories every step of the way. And remember to take care of yourself, eat healthy, take walks, sleep right, get fresh air, and spend some time with non co-workers. Passion is important, but so is sustainability. You are no good to your team or your players if you burn out. Think big picture, not just about the game that you’re making now, but about all the games you would like to make someday in the future. This is a marathon, so don’t try to sprint the whole way. Okay, so let’s say that you have survived production, good for you. And you finally ship the game, congratulations. Breath the sigh of relief, celebrate, and then brace yourself for one of several things that might happen next. Stress Point #4: Your game flops. Let’s say you launch your game, and…silence, crickets. Sadly, this is the most common outcome when releasing a game. As great as it is that so many barriers to entry in the market has fallen, those barriers were partly in place to block games from going to market if they were unlikely to sell. It is now much easier to get your game into a marketplace, but that is equally true for the competition, and there is more competition now than ever before. Nearly 20 games get approval on Steam green-light every day. On mobile, over 500 new games are released daily. SteamSpy recently shared that 38% of all games on Steam came out last year. With so, so many new games flooding the place, fewer titles can be featured, and it’s rare to even stay atop of the new release list for long. And this no longer applies only to first-time amateur projects, either. Professionally developed games get lost in the crowd, too, dead in the water on release. The only thing you can do he is try everything possible, long before the game’s release, to make sure that people know about it, and are expecting it, s that people will dig to find it once it’s out. Like I said, flops are the norm now, and it is just devastating to morale. If it happens to you, just pick up the pieces, keep your head up, and try to make and market your next game even better. Stress Point #5: Your game succeeds. A more successful game release can lead to a tidal wave of player feedback, and some of it is going to be brutal. Strangers just do not care what you went through to make it, and plenty of them will happily mock your work and say things to upset you. Sometimes we can learn useful stuff from this feedback, sometimes it’s simply people taking their own frustrations out on your game …or just being toxic jerks. And the harsh words always stick with you longer than the nice ones. Sadly, you have to develop a thick skin in this business. Because the more popular your game gets, the more negative responses you’re going to receive. Stress Point #6: Your game really succeeds. Sometimes a game can do so well, either financially, or just in terms of awards or exposure, that it leaves you just freaking out over how you’re going to follow it With great success, comes increased expectations for what you do next. Gone is the freedom of taking big risk in the safety of obscurity. It’s also very easy to trip over our egos in the wake of success, to trick ourselves into believing that our game did so well because of our talent and our good judgement. You start overlooking all the other factors that got you here: Your humility or your caution, your process, your receptiveness to feedback, and the will to improve yourself. As much of a hindrance as self-doubt can be, it can also be a help. A form of internal quality control reminding us that we can do better. In the wake of great success, it’s really easy to start giving your hunches too much credit. Just try not to lose sight of the actions, thoughts, and other people that got you there. Oh, and one last thing, don’t count on every single game being a back-to-back hit. Even accomplished designers don’t expect that every time. Some people do achieve it, but it is incredibly rare. Most devs budget the money from one successful release to cover their next several attempts. Many devs dive back into Game Jams or low-profile personal side projects, just to loosen up between the major efforts. All of this to say, making games is awesome. Most everybody we know who does it agrees that it is worth it, but it is also really hard, and sometimes it’s hard in ways that are really difficult o see until you’re deep in the process. But if we didn’t enjoy a good challenge, I guess we wouldn’t like games so much, right? See you next week.

100 thoughts on “The Stress of Game Development – Tips for Survival – Extra Credits”

  1. Step one I have down well, I think. Two I think I can handle with some conscious thought. Three, I feel I can handle well. Four, thanks for the advice. Five, I feel I can make it through. Six, I doubt it will happen, but best to be ready just in case.

  2. Question : It has been 2 days and nobody played me game. Is it common and i should wait longer, or my game will just not make it become somewhat popular ?

  3. This is an example of market saturation. I'm fascinated by how these games aren't having their prices fall due to conpetition. I guess that's due to them being imperfect substitutes

  4. Fun watch this after two semesters of game design classes. So many things you talk about are being taught in my courses.

  5. If they had waited until later this year to make this video, Cuphead might be in place on Undertale as the example of a huge hit.

  6. Hello Extra Credits! Thanks for good video and good advice. I think that this video can help many indie developer in Korea. So I finished making community subtitles about this video, translating English to Korean. I hope you check my work! Thank you.

  7. my advice to begginer developers: forget steam, post your game on gamejolt there is a significantly higher chance of people finding it

  8. What if you have a somewhat ambitious idea, but have a bunch of other responsibilities, like school, or your actual job or you just don't want to spend 23 hours a day on something that'll probably just wind up on gamejolt or newgrounds because nobody would support your Greenlight?

  9. How much of this applies on retro homebrew games?
    And any advice for game musicians? Right now the sector is tough: saturated and hard to have a good shot

  10. Tip one: Just pretend nothing is wrong and drown your sorrows in caffeine.

    Tip two: If that doesn't work, you don't have enough coffee.

  11. my game was a flop, but to be honest, I hate it at this point so I'm glad I don't really need to pay it any more attention. it would have been nice to get one download, sure, but it's probably better this way.

  12. My mom doesn't understand why I complain about being stressed out all the time about my game design homework from college and now I can show her this.

  13. These are all really good points, I should follow these
    3:03 "Sleep right"
    Looks at clock
    3:03 AM
    IT IS A SIGN!

  14. Not just game makers run into this, a large number of software projects and software engineers run into these same issues.

  15. This does not apply just to games, but to any entertainment medium of work. It's amazing that Extra Credits gives you great guidance for more than game development 😃

  16. For the after you release a game "one of several things can happen," you forgot "and then you get laid off" =P

  17. These are great to come back to over and over. I watched this when I first started my project and I'm watching it now when I'm feeling a little overwhelm. Good videos!

  18. It's worth mentioning that this advice is not only aplied to games. Little late on the comment i guess but thanks for making this video 🙂

  19. Tbh the art is good, but it just doesn't fit well with Extra Credits… Lol

    Btw would watch animations made with this style 😀

  20. 感謝,讓我在開發泥沼中找到了一點活力(つд⊂)

  21. You know me, I've left many comments before. I'm still going through all your vids, although sometimes I take months and months of a time out, only to come back after half a year passes…..
    …but anyway, this is the VERY FIRST vid of yours, however, where I was almost distracted as much by the art than by the words. Seriously great art in this one, you should have this guy back again, many times.
    Hell, make him a permanent addition to your team.

  22. Well i am a game developer and its true the start is stress full and boring when u have an idea u will just destroy ur mind thinking for new feature of the game design i think.

  23. Hi ! Your videos are amazing 🙂 I'm a game developer and I'm studying at the university while working on some little projects. Can I ask you something? Where did you study game design? Did you attend a specific course or you just studied on your own ? I'm really interested in Game Design. Thank you very much 🙂

  24. any game developer willing to help me with a few things in my game which I am currently developing please reply

  25. you didn't cover when you have a burnout of the time it takes to click "new game" in whatever game engine you use.

  26. Those images are sometimes far away from what is being explained, or my mind is working really badly…

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