As I'm starting to finish out development on my first game Super 80s World, I wanted to share some tips on the hardest thing we all deal with: getting your game to done!
Super 80s World has been four years in the making as a side-project -- at least two years beyond expectations. I thought I'd start with the number one lesson I've learned.
Less of a lesson and more of a technique. We all know that the key to finishing a game is to keep it simple. We also know, when you're acting as your own product designer and developer it's much harder to put boundaries on what you do.
Here's what worked for me. It comes down to a technique Warren Buffet used that is discussed here https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/not-to-do-list.
The idea is really simple. We all have to do lists. They grow exponentially on game development projects leading to disorganization and discouragement. They make us lose focus - running down every rabbit hole we find.
So create a NOT-TO-DO list. And with every new thing that comes to mind - think long and hard which list it belongs in. It's difficult at first - you'll feel like you're killing your darlings. It's ok - after a little while, when you see how much it helps you focus, how productive you feel you've become and how much closer you are to finishing you're game, you'll enjoy dropping things in that list. It will become second nature.
Of course you can always go back to that list - when you're done - when you run out of ideas. You wont. Anything that is really important keeps swirling around in your unconscious and will continue to pop up, inevitably landing on your to-do list.
Another big part of this, in ruthlessly cutting things from your to-do list, is evaluating every idea based on two factors. The first is easy - how good is the idea? The second we often underestimate - how much work is the idea? Cut anything that's too much work... let it bubble up if it's important. Find the easy solutions and be creative with them.
After three and half years without the NOT-TO-DO list, I started employing this technique. In just a few months I felt more productive than I'd been since I started the project. Rather than stealing life from the project, taking ideas away actually breathed new life into a game that was much more focused. Beyond constraints breed creativity, they lead to a more fully-formed idea. It won't feel "all over the place". It will feel like a game that left nothing on the field.
And even better - you'll get it done!