Effectively Managing a Hobby Game Project

This question was asked on the new Game Development stack exchange website that is in beta. My answer takes a bit from my previous post and adds a few more tactics I use for development.

To-do Application
I use Things for Mac and ToDoList if I am working on a project on Windows. Alternatively, you can jump onto sourceforge.net or codeproject.com to grab a to-do application.

You will have a lot of sketches, ideas, design information that really needs to be aggregated into one spot. Having an application like this with your feature list will help you stay focused.

Small Tasks
“Implement Leaderboard View” is not a sufficient task. What does that involve? Break it down –

  • Create background artwork for leaderboard view
  • Create class methods that fetch score data
  • Create class methods that post score data
  • Create a view controller which will display a back button, reload button, and a table view
  • Implement the table view to load in the data from the model

Seeing the picture in finer detail will reduce your chances of missing a key element of your implementation and will provide you motivation as you tick off each task.

Keep the Scope Small
Don’t try to build Starcraft III if it is just you, scruffy, and purrdoodle. It’s just not feasible. Lower your expectations and find something you would still enjoy building.

Get something on the screen — you may be surprised on how big of a jolt to your motivation it will be. I tend to focus on getting artwork early. In addition I also am able to work with a musician who starts showing me stuff relatively early as well.

Have fun
If you’re slaving over your save state system all of this week be sure to follow it up next week with something that is fun. One of my fun moments was redesigning the animation system for my user interface.

You don’t technically need to start adding people to your team, but talk to other people about what you are doing. Jump over to tigsource.com or gamedev.net and start networking.

Start getting early feedback on your game. I’m talking about right after you finish your initial prototype. Let some of your friends mess around with what you have, get feedback, take notes, and revise your plan if needed. Be sure to test outside of your realm of comfort and cast a net that includes other game developers. Sometimes friends and loved ones are just not critical people.

Start a Blog
Talking about what you’re doing allows you to build a brand for yourself. This is priceless when it comes time to shipping your product. Just look at what Wolfire is doing. They are absolutely pure win at building a brand for themselves.

Take a Break
If your mind isn’t into the project at a specific time don’t try and force it. Get up and go for a walk or take a quick nap. That is the luxury of being an independent. In the end you’ll create a better product for doing so.