You've started on that game you’ve been planning; maybe you’re well into development, but let's face it, once the hard work has settled in and the hours of debugging keep you awake at night, it’s difficult to keep up the enthusiasm and complete your game idea. Starting development on a game is easy; having a game idea is even easier; but we all know finishing a game is the hard part. Problems arise during development; the scope is to big; numerous bugs; or your idea just isn’t as exciting as it was during inception.
Developing multiple games at once breaks you away from the frustrations of your current project. During development, having a side project that is small in scope and can easily be completed in a short period of time will help boost motivation and give you the instant gratification you need to power through your primary project. Plenty of developers have seen this technique work for them. New sites like One Game a Month have grown in popularity and are encouraging people to finish games within a short span of time. The response from developers doing One Game a Month has been positive. Personally, I’ve seen great strides in my development when I take time to see a project through to completion in a short time span.
So, how do you create a side project that will help you blast through your game development roadblock?
To start, your side project must be small in scope, no more than a day’s worth of work and something you’re already comfortable working on. Game Dev Tuts did a great article on how to keep scope small. The reason for this is that you don’t want to be discouraged by a side project that’s just as difficult to complete as your primary game. The game doesn’t have to be fun - if you stick to a very small scope, it might not end up a game at all. It should be an experiment, or an idea that’s been bouncing in your head for a while (if you’re like me, you have many). The point is to complete something quickly so that you can regain confidence in your abilities and return to your bigger project with fresh eyes.
Having a small side project reinforces the notion that you are capable of completing something even when you’ve lost steam. It acts as a much needed vacation from your current project and can give you inspiration and motivation to see your visions to the end. As long as you keep the scope of your side game manageable and interesting, your bigger, more ambitious game may get a fresh new makeover from your newly inspired visions. More importantly, it keeps you motivated and gives you the mental energy you need to see the main project through.
Think of having a side project as taking a cat nap from the everyday struggles of game development, while still being productive and doing something fun.
If you're still looking for more inspiration, I found this awesome article on building games in your basement. Check it out.