RWDevCon Inspiration Talk – Finishing by Kim Pedersen

Do you not always finish the awesome game you set out to make? Find out some techniques to help you finish what you start and get your app on the App Store! By Kim Pedersen.

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Note from Ray: At our recent RWDevCon tutorial conference, in addition to hands-on tutorials, we also had a number of “inspiration talks” – non-technical talks with the goal of giving you a new idea, some battle-won advice, and leaving you excited and energized.

We recorded these talks so that you can enjoy them, even if you didn’t get to attend the conference. Here’s our next talk – Finishing by Kim Pedersen – I hope you enjoy!


Before we start, I’d like to ask you all a question: How many of you have started a project that you felt really good about, but later abandoned it and never finished it?


Yeah, I thought so. If you look around the room, you’ll see you’re not alone. The thing is, if you’re anything like me, you probably have a graveyard full of unfinished projects piling up on your hard drive.

Now, abandoning projects is not always a bad idea. In fact, in the life cycle of any project, you often have to stop and re-evaluate whether or not that project is still worth pursuing.

If you find yourself abandoning projects, not because you made an objective evaluation of the feasibility of the project, but simply because you lose motivation, then you have to stop and think why you have gotten into this bad habit.


The First Step is Realizing You Have A Problem

I was in this situation not too long ago. It took me a long time to realize it. In fact, it wasn’t me realizing, it was my wife that made me aware of it.

What had happened was that I had worked on several games that year. None of them had really amounted to anything. I just started this really exciting game that I felt very good about, had really much passion for it.

Then, along comes my wife, and she asked me, “What are you working on”?

I showed her this game, where I was at that time. I started talking about how great it would be, what features would be in it, and showed a lot of enthusiasm for it.

She didn’t share that enthusiasm. She asked me instead, what had happened to the game I worked on the week before. The one that I was always talking about that week, and I was very enthusiastic about.

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I told her that this game is much better, so I should spend my time on this one instead.

All she said was, “You spend so much time behind that computer programming, it would be easier for me to understand the time you spent behind the computer, and accept it, if something came out of it.”

That hurt. At first, I became defensive. I was thinking, well, I’m not doing this as something that I need to make a living from. It’s a hobby to me.

I was getting a lot of joy, and a lot of knowledge from doing my games, until I actually realized a very, very, very horrible truth. I was not making games. I was making pieces of games.

Although I had all of these great ideas, and some of them could actually have been something good, I had nothing to show for all the time I had spent making those games. I had spent four years on iOS development at that time. I had nothing on the app store.

That was a horrible thing to realize. So, I started to think, why had I gotten into this bad habit of abandoning projects? I started to think of all the reasons why I was doing it. What I figured out was, I’m not alone in this.

I had gotten into a place where I was haunted by the three-headed monster of incompletion.

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Monster Head One: Over-ambition

The first of these monsters, or heads of this monster was over-ambition.

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I was constantly over-ambitious with everything I did. When I got an idea for a game, what I was envisioning was something that looked like a AAA title that would come out of a big game studio.

I didn’t have the time for that, nor did I actually sometimes have the skill to do it. So, I ended up abandoning projects altogether, because I would never, ever finish what I had set out to make.

Monster Head Two: Underestimation

The second head is underestimation.

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I was constantly underestimating how much time it would take to make these games. What I didn’t do was plan, so I had no idea around how long it would take me to make these games, or what it would take to make them.

I would often think that I could make this game in two weeks, and then several months later, I was still working on it. I had this 2D game, a simple runner with a twist. It always has a twist, right? I thought, “This is simple. It will take no more than a few weeks to make, so I will have something on the app store soon.”

Two months later, I was still working on the game. I initially thought, how hard can it be to make a game where you press the screen, and the player jumps?

What it takes to make a game, is not just to make the code to make the player jump. That will take five minutes. You also have to:

  • make the menus
  • make the achievements
  • make the art
  • make the sound
  • and so forth.

So, I never got anywhere, because I never had a good idea about what it was I was making.

Monster Head Three: Scope Creep

The third head is scope creep.

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I really like that word. I’m the master of scope creep. It’s horrible.

A good example, again, a game I was making. It started out as a simple 2D game with one screen. Again, months later, I suddenly start to look at what I was making. I had made a 3D game with a maze that was procedurally generated, and endless.

In fact, it had nothing to do with what I started out to make, except for one thing. The player wore a hat, and not even that hat was the same. It had turned from an Indiana Jones type hat, into a miner’s helmet.

Scope creep can be a big obstacle.