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Dev Log #2 - Game Dev isn't Game Dev

It begins with a dream, much like anything else. Maybe it's that game you played when you were little that planted a seed of wanting to bring the joy of video games to people. Maybe it's that hobby you had that you realized you can use, browsing concept art that you felt you could match, at least if you worked hard enough. Maybe you're the person where gaming led to an interest in computers and coding, where you understood that you could bring your ideas to life. You might just love the way you can tell a story like none other through the medium of games. Or, like me, maybe it all begun with a lawn mower.

I've realized that my ideas is what propels me forward to wanting to pursuit game development. I get this idea and I spend a week just exploring it in my head. These are the themes I can explore, these are the mechanics, this is what I can do, and so on. It becomes like a tree. An idea is planted and the moment it is, it starts to spread and grow. I, like the good gardener, prune where is needed, water and nurture where the growth is good, and in the end, I have something I can start working with. Then I don't.

The danger of having ideas is that most of them gets stored in my infinite backlog of ideas and seldom see the light of day after that. It's still there, but it stays just an idea. And I might ask why, but there are a few reasons why that is, and how to make sure that it does not stress you out.

As a guy with ideas, I often have multiple projects that I started because I was passionate about it, and got a bit into it, until it got harder, and I stored it. Even now I've had do cut my ongoing projects from three down to two. I have the book I've written that is going through it's third draft. That's what I do during my spare time. I have Some Wait Dreaming, the game I'm starting a company around. It is important that I know that this project take absolute priority. Having a team that depends on me having it as a priority helps a lot. That's the only game I'm working on. I had a hope to develop a smaller game in my spare time, to be ready for release at the end of the year, but had to drop it.

That was a roller coaster all in itself. I started with a brand new idea that I really loved, but it grew to a beast I were not going to be able to do in a year. Instead I picked up another smaller idea where a lot of the pre production and the skeletal code were already done. But I just didn't have the time for it. It's frustrating to have to give up on something you've grown and been passionate and nurtured for a while, for something that you, while still being passionate about, has started to feel like routine. That's a danger in developing games. When you get distracted by new projects nothing ever gets finished. Finish your projects is the best advice I can give here. There is few things as satisfying, even if something else seem more interesting at the time. Just like in many parts of life, the grass always seem greener on the other side.

I did not mean to write that much before getting to the actual subject of this dev log, but there you go, I hope that was of some sort of help as well.

One of the things that I feel takes a lot of the charm away from game development is all the things that does not have to do with game development. There is this moment in your game dev journey where the veil is drawn from your eyes, where you notice the tiny man behind the curtain. Where you realize that game dev isn't just game dev. I've already written about the amount of work you have to put in just to get noticed, and that is one large part of it. But there is more. We've been planning for three weeks now, where at least 90% of our time has not been developing the game. It's been about prioritization, it's been about getting everyone on the same page, handing out roles, planning sprints and tasks that will need to be done, discussion other games, individual planning of sprints and tasks, and so on and so on, and on and on...

Pre production is the most important phase of development in my opinion. It doesn't really matter if you're developing solo or in a team, you need to do the work on pre production. Parts of it is exciting, like sitting down and discussing the themes you want to work with, setting tone, thinking about art style and soundscape, thinking about how it all can be tied together in the mechanics, thinking about things like the primary gameplay loop and such. Other things are not exactly what you imagined there where you started to dream about game development. Things like mapping out dependencies, writing down routines and pipelines, deciding on a hierarchy if you have a larger team, making sure that not only one person has all the power. A lot of this disappears if you work for a larger developer, but not all of it. You need to be sure you know and plan and so on and on.

I think there is a case of managed expectations. No work is just craft. A hobby is, but if you want to be serious about game development, especially if you are attempting to start a company, or is part of a start up, you have to put in the work. In his book "Les jeus et les hommes", Roger Caillois talks about the difference between work and play, saying that any game played for money is no longer a game, it is work. I can understand that sentiment in game development as well. No work is just fun. There is a switch in the way we think, when what we do is because we want to earn money from it, and not just for the fun of it. These are the things you need to understand in order to not be discouraged. Game development is still a lot more fun than most jobs out there, but if you think that you not going to have to work for it, or think that you only have to deal with all the fun parts of it, you are only fooling yourself. That's where you will get disappointed when you finally do encounter the parts where you encounter busy work. That's where you start to think towards other ideas you have, to find that initial fun part of game development, which in the end only means that nothing ever gets done. As someone who has finished creative projects, I know that beginning a game is nowhere near as satisfying as finishing it.

We've just started to produce the game, and what will follow is five more weeks of production, until we have something we can release as a proof of concept that represent the eventual finished product. You can't do that in six weeks if you haven't put in at least three weeks of pre production.

It will all work out in the end, if we don't give up. Here's a song to lift your spirits, hopefully!

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