Lessons of a game dev

Work ethic advice I gleaned from developing my own video game.


A screenshot of the code and the finished product, weighing in at over 7,000 lines of code.

Ella Whalen, Staff Writer

Early February of this year, I set out to create my own video game—namely, a point-and-click escape-the-room fangame similar to the game series I was creating it from (more details available upon request). While it all takes place in the same room—namely, a small chapel—each of its four main segments and its two secret endings has its own puzzles and soundtrack, totaling seven songs (that I wrote), over 150 image files, and hopefully at least half an hour’s worth of playtime. It was the largest project I had ever undertaken, let alone of my own free will, and while it ate up five months and a lot of late nights, it is also the creation I’m most proud of to date. Along the way, I ended up discovering both faults in my management skills and strategies to get around them, and I would like to pass them along for anyone jumping into any personal projects themselves.

Firstly, don’t stress yourself out about a final deadline. Of course, if someone else is setting your deadline for you, there is cause for concern, but when you’re creating something mainly for yourself, it’s often better to pace yourself and let your ideas come as they will instead of rushing to some mark. I ended up taking over twice as long as I expected—one month, I had difficulty sitting up from rib pain seemingly every weekend, but the other two were just from lack of energy and motivation, and as it turns out, that’s okay. It got finished when it was finished, and if anything ended up the better because of it, as I got a lot more ideas for some secret endings and the like that never would have been included if I made my deadline.

You should also try to work on what best suits you at the moment. With me making much of my game entirely from scratch, there were many different facets I could work on at once, from programming to drawing to composing to revising what I had already done. Whenever I sat down and forced myself into a specific one when I wasn’t up for it, it became more of a slog than it should have been, and the work went a good deal slower. Motivation might not lead you to where you think you should go, but it’ll lead to where it’s best to go—I did most of my composing in a single week with barely anything else done, yet it turned out a lot better than what would’ve happened if I left it until the end.

Lastly, not everything needs to be perfect. I know my game certainly isn’t, and there’s parts of it that I still feel a fool for not fixing, but if I were a perfectionist, I would have practically doubled the project’s length again for minimal gain, or perhaps never finished it at all. Instead, it’s done, and I’m largely satisfied. Especially for creative works, things look a lot messier on the working end of them precisely because you’ve been the one working on them. It’s a lot harder to notice a piece’s flaws from the outside, and that’s a fact to take solace in.