Feb 03 2012


Yesterday I tried to get some stuff done and I just couldn’t. Work was going slowly, I was feeling really stressed – I’ve been feeling gradually more stressed about work for the past month, to be honest, but it finally got to the point of making it hard to think clearly about the whole thing.

What’s really been getting to me is, I’m in the middle of this long period – about two months – where I’m changing lots of core stuff about Cardinal Quest and I’m not totally sure if it’ll all fit together and work well. Everything feels good in isolation, but I won’t know if it’s actually good until all this rough work-in-progress stuff starts to resolve into something shaped like a coherent game again.

Now rationally, I do believe it’ll be good and solid. Emotionally, I’ve been worrying about it and second guessing my own judgement. I’ve never actually designed a roguelike/RPG before, so hey – what if I’m making poor judgement calls and I don’t even know it? It’d mean the work I was doing would be a waste of time. Trying to get stuff done when you’re feeling it might not be worth it isn’t much fun!

Not having much confidence in the game and feeling unhappy about it was making working on the game pretty stressful. My first response was to try and power through by spending more time thinking about and working on it, but that just amplified the stress.

What I needed to do is twofold. Firstly, I needed to get a solid idea of where the game’s going to end up and restore my confidence in it. Secondly, I needed to create some space in my life insulated from work, so even if work was getting stressful it wouldn’t drive me completely crazy within a couple weeks.

So I shut the PC off mid yesterday afternoon and took a break. 😀

I’m already feeling much better and I’ll probably get back to work on Monday or over the weekend. I won’t be rushing it, though. More than anything this has shown me that I need to pace myself when things get a bit rough. Starting next week I’m going to try and get back into working days and taking evenings off instead of it all blurring together. I think that’ll help a lot. A month or so of taking it easy and methodically knocking through to-do list items and it’ll be properly ready for playtesting. From there on out, constant corrective feedback should make development much easier, emotionally speaking.

To anyone else going through a rough patch mid-project, lots of hugs. We’ll get through it 🙂

Related: Michael Todd gave this cool talk at the Independent Games Summit last year about depression in game development, Turning Depression into Inspiration. It’s good stuff.

2 Comments on “BREAK

  1. Hang in there Ruari!

    I’ve been hitting some rough spots myself with Auro, although it improved dramatically in the past ~2 weeks as the game really started to come together.

    Looking from the sidelines it seems like you are doing a phenomenal job. It’s scary to walk in unexplored territory, but at the end it is important to stay brave and take risks – fear makes people make boring games 🙂

    If you’re not feeling unsure about the game coming together it probably means you are playing too safe – as it’s easiest to be sure that it works if you just stay within the bounds of the comfy well trodden path.

    It’s also good that you’re trying to get some work/life balance, it’s the only way to avoid burn out in the long run.

    I would very much suggest not working on the weekend and maybe consider making it a long(er) weekend by not working at the beginning of next week too. We all need to take breaks!

  2. Taking the weekend off was more than enough. I’m ramping back up now, though I’m trying to organise my time better so I can switch off in the evenings 😀

    I totally agree on needing to take risks. Here’s to seeing them out as soon as possible.

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