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23 Sep 2013

The True Value of Quitting and Walking Away From Your Game

There’s an old saying that states, “success means knowing when to quit,” and truer words have never been spoken, especially when it comes to game development. You may have an idea for the next great indie game in the back of your mind, but when you actually try to implement it? There is a chance that it will not pan out – even a few months after you are already neck-deep into the development process. Thus, understanding the difference between knowing when you should scrap the project and move onto something else and knowing when to continue with the development of your game is one of the most important disciplines you can learn.

Yet, how can you discern between the two? How can you, as the old Kenny Rogers song goes, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em?” Here’s a few ways you can look at your project objectively to understand the true value of quitting the development of your game.


Does the Cost Outweigh the Benefits?

If the cost of developing your game is outweighing the projected earnings you are going to achieve, then it is time to take a step back. Of course, you need to figure out why your game is costing a fortune to develop, and you need to have a plan of attack to lowering the amount of the development costs. If you cannot lower the cost initially, you may want to place the development of the game on ‘pause’ rather than scrapping the game altogether and move onto another project.


“I Can’t Make it ‘Fun.’”

Have you ever found yourself muttering this sentence? It has happened to me countless times when I have attempted to write new short stories and new chapters of a novel. There are instances in which we think we have a great idea, but when it is being implemented, the ‘it’ factor simply is not there. For writers of fiction and game developers alike, it’s the ‘fun’ factor. For researchers that are writing scientific articles, it’s the ‘aha’ factor. For documentarians, it’s the ‘interesting’ factor. For those that work creatively, your work has to tickle a part of your audiences’ brain, and there’s no one, distinct way to achieve it, nor is every idea going to have this factor.

Here’s some bad news for you guys: if you cannot make your game fun, you need to scrap it. Moreover, if it is taking too long to find that ‘fun’ factor, again, you need to scrap it because it is getting in the way of games you could be working on that has the fun factor. You may think that by taking some ‘trial-by-error’ approaches to finding the ‘fun’ factor you will eventually find it, but if you have to search for a long time to find the ‘fun’ in your game, it really isn’t worth pursuing. You cannot force a game to be fun; it happens naturally as with anything fun. Sure, you can finely tune various aspects of the fun elements of your game, but if there isn’t one aspect in your game that is fun? Again, scrap it.


One Project Demands More Attention Over Another

Have you ever started developing a game, only to get an idea for another to which you begin implementing it to see if it works? You begin developing this new idea, and before you know it, you’re developing a game you are more excited about than the other project, and the best part? The new idea seems stronger, better, more defined – and the development process is (currently) moving along nicely!

This sort of thing has happened to me before in my writing, and it related very well to game development. I had written a few dozen pages of a novel, when suddenly I thought of a great idea for a short story. I wrote it, and before I knew it, I had turned that short story into a few chapters of a potential novel. Within a week, I had written the same amount of pages as I had with my original novel, and everything seemed more refined than the other novel. So what did I do? I put the novel on the backburner, and the chances of me coming back to it are fairly slim unless I get a burst of inspiration that I can use toward the novel.

Developing games is by and large the same. If all of your good ideas are going to one game rather than another, you may want to consider ‘quitting’ the less inspired game in the meantime and come back to it whenever you get that burst of inspiration. Who knows: developing your new game may breathe new life into the other project in the long run, meaning the game you are ‘quitting’ now could be resurrected into something even better.

And if you do not get that burst of inspiration ever again? There’s no shame in leaving the game unfinished.


“My Heart Isn’t Into it”

You could be developing the most technically impressive indie game to ever grace Steam, mobile devices, consoles, etc., but if your ‘heart’ isn’t into developing the game, then your game isn’t going to be as great as it could be. Passion is an odd thing to measure. Without it, your game suffers, yet with it, it can turn a technically mediocre game into an incredible experience. Look at Super Meat Boy, for instance. Team Meat created a game they were passionate about, and when you play it, you can simply tell that they loved what they were creating. Had they hated every step of the development process, we would be presented with a game that wasn’t charming, wasn’t unique – in a sense, a game that fell ‘flat,’ and that would have hurt the game as a whole. Yet they didn’t, and what did we end up with? Super Meat Boy; one of the best indie titles of the last few years.

And that’s really one of the two main ideas concerning these tips for quitting. If your ‘heart’ isn’t into developing the game, it’s time to move on as your game isn’t going to be as fully realized as it could be. Alternatively, if you are truly passionate about your game but you cannot make it truly as fun as you want it to be, again, you may want to consider moving on.

Quitting isn’t about failing: it’s about knowing when to move on to better things. It takes discipline to be certain and a great deal of ‘pride swallowing,’ but by learning how to quit and knowing when to quit, you will be setting yourself up to release the best games that you can develop.

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