[The Game Prodigy's Brice Morrison discusses the leap between amateur and professional game-making, emphasizing that dedication is key to perfecting one's craft.]
There are many things running through an indie or student developer's mind when working on a game. What fun ideas can we do? What will the game artwork look like? Should we set up a blog to tell people about it? Should it be difficult or easy to play through? Who will be the main character? When will we be able to just get started and make a game and play it?
These are all important questions, but the most important question that a developer should ask themselves is this: "Am I committed to finishing this game?"
"Why would anyone not want to finish a game, especially this fun game I'm working on now?" you may ask. Well, one thing that many indie developers don't realize, my past self included, is that the feelings of working on a game project are a bit like a rollercoaster - they change over time. What was fun in the beginning may not be fun a month or two down the road. And that is a situation to prepare for.
The indie game world is littered with unfinished games. Projects that were once promising are abandoned, either because someone on the team quit, the developer lost interest or just got busier, or they decided that they couldn't bring themselves to polish out those final bugs, and continually tell themselves, "I'll finish it one day". The graveyard is vast and the consequences dire.
Thus, if you want to one day have a game that you can share with friends, with the world, and with game industry recuiters, it's a good idea to plan to finish.
I was the founder of University of Virginia's Student Game Developers, an organization still thriving today to help students work on game projects and find jobs in the game industry. When we first started our little ragtag organization we had trouble finishing projects; we would start about 4-5 in a semester and then by the end they had all ended up abandoned.
So we realized that something needed to change. Instead of focusing on doing massive projects that keep ballooning out of control, we tried to humble ourselves and stay smaller. "No one cares about an innovative game, a fun game, or a beautiful game that was never finished." That was the motto that we developed. The number one goal for all of us young developers was to finish a game by the end of the semester. That was more important than anything else; if we didn't finish the game, then we failed.
So how did this turn out? Since then, Student Game Developers has finished several high-quality, resume-worthy titles each semester. Many alumni have found their way into the game industry. And we can look back on our projects with pride, because we took them the distance.
There are a couple of things that a student or indie developer can do to finish their game. Let's run through a few.