Freitag, 24. Februar 2017

Don't be this kind of Developer!

Ever tried this? Planning out your entire gamedev project - at once. In every little detail.
I tried doing so - with Hack n Plan. I laid out the entire array of features as detailed as I could. It was nice in that it helped me how large it will become. However: It did not work out at all for me. After a while, I found myself overwhelmed by the volume of tasks I've set up and ended up demotivated enough to never touch that Hack n Plan project again.User error doesn't make the tool bad, however.

So what was the problem here?

I cannot focus because of too much clutter! And I'm clutter-minded already:

It starts with detailed and seemingly endless todo-lists. If I don't clean up and these lists grow to large, this is what happens in my head:

Out of 1000 important tasks let's pick the least important one because fuck progress!
There is SO MUCH to do!
Where the hell am I going to even start, oh my god, oh my god
Before I work this long list, let's take a look at this game I haven't played in forever!

Developer meltdowns are BAD.

READ: Ways to boost your productivity

What one must do is to trick oneself into working and getting comfortable with what one is doing.

That means, getting rid of all things that's preventing you from doing it: tuning down on the "lazyness threshold"; fostering a habit that comfortably enables you to get shit done. Like, going to the gym that just happens to be on your way home when calling it a day.

Something similar can be done using this 5-step-iterative approach:
  1. Evaluate
  2. Structure
  3. Implement
  4. Take Notes
  5. Repeat

How does it work?

  1. Evaluate the current state of your project: find out what bugs exist and what still needs work.

  2. Structure the current iteration.

    Create a todo list consisting roughly of:

    • 10% new features
    • 30% extending existing features/improving user experience
    • 60% bug fixes
    If you have a list from step 5 in a previous iteration, use that list as basis for bug fixes and extensions.
    New features should be a lower priority; if they are "spontaneous features": Get rid of them. NOW. KILL IT WITH FIRE.)
    Ensure the extensions/features/bugfixes are meaningful and leading you to your goal; which is finishing your game in time - NOT playing with your game mechanics until it's perfect which it will never be.

  3. Implement the todo list.

    Do it blindly. Do not think much. Do Shia a favor and JUST DO IT.

  4. While implementing, take notes for the next iteration:

    • Bugs
    • Issues
    • UX improvements
    • Code refactoring
    Avoid adding new features to this list AT ALL COSTS

  5. Repeat.

How can you implement that into your work flow?

I've started to treat the changelog as my todo list when I am in step 2 (Structure). I will take notes there to solve problems or figure out how to implement or improve features. When I'm done implementing a feature, I remove the implementation notes and reword the feature for normal folk (gamers) to read and understand.

For step 3 and 4, taking notes while implementing, I have started to use a separate text file for bugs and issues I encounter in this iteration. I keep this one seperate from ideas for features. The file with ideas is the most spontaneous one and consequently its priority should be very low to zero.
So I don't lose track of what was done, these three files are included in my git repository and are regularly committed.

All these measures help me control the flow of features into my game. Ever since I've been applying this I haven't implemented new ones - most of what I do right now is improving the user experience. It seems to work well - or at the very least: better. :)

Do you have any ways to conquer your inner lazy demons? Share your story in the comments or hook me up on twitter!
READ: The benefits of getting out of your comfort zone