Was asked to make a post about this. Quite honestly, this one is pretty tough to talk about, I am not a motivational speaker nor do I want to be. This will be primarily what motivates or doesn’t motivate ME. It can vary from person to person what will motivate you but I think that overall, you have to motivate yourself to do it. Outside motivation only lasts for so long. If the project is short enough, it might be helpful.
I think the first realization that needs to be made is, your game is very likely going to take you longer than you think it will, that it will require more effort than you think it will, and that you can’t trivialize the effort you will need to do to make a game. By “game”, I mean a serious attempt to make a game and not like a 3 hour “lol the hero dies if you step on the town, and game overs if you hit a slime!!! Oh and the princess is Sonic the hedgehog lolol” types of games. If you are already experienced with making games, you may also know the effort it requires and can judge it more accurately for yourself. Otherwise, be prepared, the “It doesn’t seem that hard, I can get that done in a week!” can very well turn out to take weeks or longer. Problems come up, things don’t work as they ideally should, team members can come and leave, people may show little interest in your game, things happen!
Motivation? Oh right. I mention the effort required because this is something you’ll want to keep in mind before you work on your game. The design and planning portion (and you should at least do a minimum of planning and not just wing it entirely) should also have you consider what you can do or can’t in your time frame. If you’re trying to stick too much into your game, you can end up working for ages and see no end in sight. This is not very motivational! A game can take years to make (1-3 I’d say), and if you work on the same game for far too long, you’ll likely want to quit or have a bunch of other game ideas you want to work on instead. There aren’t many people who can continue on working on the same game for over 5 years and finish it.
Money isn’t quite the motivator you might think it is, which I know firsthand. Even being paid for pixels, I can become demotivated if someone is requesting changes upon changes or has a terrible attitude. So if you don’t like something very much, don’t expect “Being paid for it” to change your opinion of it in the long term. If you are already motivated or happy enough with the project, then it can make it even better.
The other issue that can arise from taking too long on a project is a noticeable increase in skill level, on your part. So the parts you started working on (nearly always the intro) will seem bad and crude compared to what you can do now. So then you remake it. Then start getting on a loop of remaking since you have to make the later parts match up, and now you have new ideas that you got… some remaking is good and can be necessary, but take care to not go in and spend all your time doing it. If you are a perfectionist, remember you don’t quite have all the time in the world to make something. Sometimes that little pixel that looks off in the NPC up in the middle of nowhere really isn’t that important! On the other hand, for those who love to rush things, slow down and take your time. Details are important too. A balance is good and something you’ll want to find.
You’ll want to know why you are doing the project, especially if it’ll be a long time commitment. Because frankly, there will be lots of things that may not be fun and lots of work you’ll have to do to get back to what you like to do. If your game is entirely “Demon arises after 1000 years and goes to destroy the world and only the chosen one can stop it”, you may halfway question why you’re even bothering and just quit. “Why are you doing this?” “This project is special to me and has a theme I wanted to put in that the game revolves around” may have you stick around to finish it because it’s unique to you and isn’t just “This person did it, and better than I could have so why should I try?”. Personally I don’t find it interesting for me if I feel like I’m doing an inferior version or copy of something that exists. If I want to do something, I want to bring in something unique to it.
Your project can also be there to help you learn new things. Doing things such as research, acquiring new skills, practicing what you learned can help you stay motivated on it. So it doesn’t seem like you’re wasting time since you’re learning new skills from it. It’s particularly helpful if you can learn how to do some of your team members parts too (if you are on a team) so if someone runs away, your project isn’t lost and you can continue on without them, even if it takes longer. Having team members leave can be quite demotivating so be sure to treat them well! They are helping you achieve your vision, not slaves to do your work for you!
Speaking of “Project isn’t lost”, use one of the various ways to back up your project every so often! Your motivation will plummet a lot if you lose all your work and have to start from a 2 month old backup. You can use dropbox, flash drives, external hard drives, file hosting online, sending it to a friend, various ways to back it up. I suggest you do this pretty regularly, something can always happen!
Deadlining yourself can be helpful too provided you aren’t giving yourself too harsh deadlines. That way, you have a goal to reach and can apply yourself to work for it instead of thinking you have all the time in the world to do it. Joining a contest (1 week, 1 month) can help for a short game, and don’t worry about being perfect in that time period, it’s much too short for that so it’s better to just do the best possible in that time frame. You’ll have already beaten out the 80% that quit before then. Deadlines can be set by someone else or self imposed, but stick to them if you’re going to do that. It helps particularly when you’re getting near the end. “I will do one quest a day” might be one such thing, that you need to reach this goal before you go to sleep for example.
For me, I love environment art. Scenery, towns, architecture, all of that. So when I need a dose of inspiration, I tend to go to pixiv or another site to go look at scenery art. It inspires me for technique, level design, setting design and gives me a goal to reach. Apparently that doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s something I love looking at. Legend of Manas art style is beautiful and I would love to make a game with that sort of style/beauty to it, which is why I get motivated whenever I see such pretty art. Listening to good music can be inspirational/motivational too. I keep one good song on loop if I really need to focus on working on something instead of wasting time switching tracks all the time.
See this is why I don’t post on my blog that much, I end up writing too much once I get a topic!