Making an RPG is a big undertaking. A complete computer role-play game requires a lot of code and content creation. It's easy to get fired up and inspired to start making your game but fire and passion wane. Far more projects are abandoned than finished. How are you going to ensure you stick to it and finish your project?
I remember when I first got in to game development I was fresh out of university and living in Japan teaching English. In a portion of my free time I was doing gamedev. Like nearly everyone's first game, the scope was absolutely insane but I worked on it every day - I was inspired. Well, I worked on it every day until I didn't, life happens, and eventually it became the first in a long string of abandoned project. Perhaps if I'd scoped down drastically and used the method I'll reveal here I might have had something more to share than just a common hobby-developer story. (It wasn't all doom and gloom, I used those skills to get a masters degree, a career in the games industry and to write my first book).
Track your progress. Your chances of finishing a project drastically improve if you use tracking. I'm not a fan of overly general abstractions so let's drop down to a concrete way to start tracking right now.
Implement these tracking instructions as you read, once you finish the article you'll have a +33% ring of project-finishing to show for it! Seriously take the actions.
1. Create a Spreadsheet
I use Google Docs because it's free, accessible from anywhere and less likely to be lost in a hard drive crash. Choose whatever you're most comfortable with; Excel, Numbers, Calc or similar.
2. Create Columns
Across the top make the following columns: date, action, estimated progress, next action.
These columns record your progress on the project.
- Current date (in Google docs
;will autofill in the current date). That's
- What did you do on the project today? e.g. Made initial town map
- Estimated progress
- How close are you to the end of the project or some sub-goal. e.g. ~1% of chapter 1
- Next Action
- The next thing you plan to do. It's best if you make this simple and very direct. e.g. Add a trigger to open the shop at the blacksmiths
Here's a link to a sample google doc.
3. Fill It in Everyday
Simple right? Fill it in everyday, even if you did nothing on the project that day. Each time you want to work; check your next action and do it.
Don't worry about deadlines or getting things done by a certain time, just do the tracking. Don't pressure yourself, beat yourself up - just track. If the tracking shows the project is way more ambitious than you thought quit, get help or scale back to something more doable.
Try and fill the sheet in the same time everyday. Try to do something everyday, however small - even if it's coming up with ideas, tweaking a map, editing a little bit of dialog. Momentum helps! The more often and consistently you fill it in, the stronger the habit becomes.
Find out where you spend your time
Be aware of daily progress, stepping towards a concrete goal
Always have a next action
The momentum-building habit of filling the tracking in each day pulls you towards a finished project
With these tracking powers you'll soon have your own, finished, amazing game.
When Measuring Progress Hurts
Measuring progress works when you're heading towards a goal. You need to have the goal; a vision of what you want to accomplish. It doesn't have to be super realised or broken down but you need a target to aim for. When coming up with the game idea, story, art-style, or characters, progress tracking is less helpful. For these more creative tasks it's better to block out time and free form ideas until something starts to come together.
Measuring progress works, I've listed four columns here but you want 80% of the effect for half the effort? Just use the first two columns; the date and the action you took. This is such a small amount of work that it should be almost impossible to talk yourself out of it!
Make a commitment right now, to fill this in today and tomorrow. Good luck, let me know how it works for you @HowToMakeAnRPG.