21 Things That Will Help You Finish Your Game

From what I’ve experienced in my own game development, and from what I’ve seen in different boards, finishing a game can prove to be pretty difficult. Here’s my 21 recipes to aid if you want to finish your game (I’ve used all of them earlier, and currently using many of these. They do seem to work).

#1 – Get the tools you need
This might sound really basic, but I think it’s really important and worth mentioning. In order to finish your game, you gotta have the right tools. If you need some libraries, then get them. If you need to get some new software, get it. If you need a better mouse or drawing board, get them. If you need a better monitor, or new video cards, get them.

Get everything that you really need. (Reading How to create your first game might be useful too).

#2 – Simplify your design
This one is a big deal. Read carefully. I believe that we all have massive amount of ideas about what our game could be. In fact, I think there might not be a limit to all the features we might want to add. It’s easy to become a feature creep and keep adding and polishing new stuff over and over. (Don’t get me wrong: it’s okay to polish your game)

…but at some point you gotta think what is really important. What features are really worth developing.

If this means cutting some features or simplifying your design, then don’t be afraid to do that.

#3 – Have a deadline
Some companies publish games on basis ‘when it’s done’ and I presume that’s okay if you have unlimited funds. The rest of the world might need to think a bit about the financials too. If this means putting a deadline, then don’t be afraid to do so. I aim for a certain (unannounced) deadline in my own game development, and I might move it a bit to get some features (we’ll see) but still I have one.

It helps you to focus, when you have some sort of idea about the deadline. I’m not saying that it would necessarily need to be written in stone: you can always become more specific as the time passes and as you see how the development goes (for example, you could start your development by saying “comes out in year 2009”, then in March you could say “comes out Q3/2009” and in July you can say “will be released on September 2009”).

#4 – Have several smaller milestones/deadlines
This one is a big thing too. It’s an excellent motivator to have smaller deadlines. In my own development I’ve used “a new release every couple of months (on average)” and while there’s certain problems with public development, I’ve noticed that it’s good way for motivation to have clear smaller milestones & deadlines, and not just one big deadline.

#5 – Stop fooling around
Okay, many developers do stupid stuff that has nothing to do with game project progress (been there, done that… and will probably do so in the future). That stuff won’t help you finish your game.

If you wanna finish your game, you gotta stop (or at least reduce) all sorts of unnecessary crap that you’ve piled for yourself.

I let you ponder more what I mean by this tip.

#6 – Get rid of the unimportant
If there’s some unimportant tasks, assignments, or “stuff” that’s blocking your development… then like get rid of it.


#7- Figure out what’s taking loads of your time
Somebody or something is stealing your time.

I don’t know who or what it is (my blog perhaps?) but I’m certain you have something that steals your time. You probably already know where you waste time. It might be simple as email or tv.

Whatever it is, figure it out… and eliminate it (okay, don’t like kill anybody – just stay away from people who take your time).

Don’t forget to check out 100 ways to be more productive.

#8 – Stay in motion
This one is a biggie again – especially for those who do their game part time or as a hobby. You gotta stay in motion.

When you stop working on your game “for a moment”, you’ve stopped the motion. Getting back to moving will be harder. If you keep on working your game day after day (every day), you can rest assured that at some day it will be finished.

If on the other hand you take couple of weeks break from the game… you’ll lost your motivation and will find it much more difficult to continue on your project.

Keep taking steps – even small steps – forward all the time. That’s a crucial for finishing your game project.

#9 – Take screenshots
Taking screenshots and sharing them can be really motivating. By taking shots you can see your own progress and show them around. By having screenshots, you have visible stuff about your progress.

It’s important motivator, so take those shots (It’s also fun to watch afterward how your game looked some months ago).

10 – Use your screenshot as your desktop wallpaper
This one helps you focus on the main goal: if you see your game every day, you’ll remember to work on it. Feel free to change that wallpaper too every now and then (it’s bit dull to watch the same background for too long…)

#11 – Create a video
Another good way to motivate yourself. Create a video and put it online (here’s beginners guide to editing your game videos that’ll explain step-by-step what to do).

Similar to screenshots, it’s a great motivator to see your a video about your game.

#12 – Fix nasty bugs
Nasty bugs will grow bigger if you don’t squash them early. You will be more motivated to continue when you know that your code is good and has all the major bugs killed.

Code filled with bugs is a killer for motivation.

#13 – Don’t squash unimportant bugs
Some bugs are unimportant and might just disappear when you remove features or replace modules.

There’s no need to fix everything.

#14 – Stop having unimportant meetings
If there’s more than 1 people in your project, then you gotta listen to me.

Read these two blog posts: 7 golden guidelines for having meetings and 3 mistakes to avoid when you arrange meetings.

The best way is to avoid them. Yeh, it might be nice to have chit chat with other people, but very often you’ll be better off without the meetings.

Meetings are bit like nuclear power.

Use it, but wisely.

#15 – Have breaks
Finishing games require your energy, so take some breaks too. Some people think that they can work around 27 hours a day and still have time for family, friends, kids and other hobbies.

You need to relax. You need to have breaks.

You just kill yourself if you don’t have breaks.

#16 – Finish bit by bit
And I don’t mean those bits and bytes. I mean that you gotta finish in small pieces. You need to be able to split your work in parts and finish them one by one. There’s an old Chinese saying that I cannot remember right now, but I can assure you it was something about not trying leap too far, but rather take one step at a time.

#17 – Create a cool feature
I created a small feature in my Dead Wake game: when you reload your gun, the flashlight will move just like it was attached to the gun (well, it is attached to the gun). It’s an awesome feature (stole the idea from Left 4 Dead by the way). It has close to zero gameplay value but I’m so freaking proud of that feature.

Creating something cool (if you think it’s cool, and at least somebody agrees then you should be fine) can motivate you and help you finish your game. Just make sure you won’t end up creating useless features over and over…

#18 – Keep coding, building and testing your game
This one is a big thing. You actually need to code and create builds. You need to see that you are progressing. If you don’t see your own progress, if you never build your game and never test your game… you don’t know what’s going on.

Make sure you code, build and test your game. It’s one major thing that helps finishing your game project.

#19 – Ask feedback
It’s amazing how motivating it is to hear people saying “This is great, the first real playable game I’ve seen using this engine.” or “Great work! I love these types of games.”. Sure, there’s people who will say what’s wrong, bad, ugly and whatnot, but hey – we were given ear holes so that we could put our fingers in them.

It’s not like we need to accept everything that others are saying. If there’s positive feedback, be proud of it. It’s a good sign. It helps you finish your game.

#20 – Visualize your goal
I think it’s a good motivator to think and visualize how your game will look like in the end. Thinking the end result can help you motivate yourself, but also help you finish your game.

#21 – Just finish it…
Or ‘just do it’ like they say.

Hey, that’s the thing you just need to do.

Just finish it.

It’ll feel really cool after you’ve done that.

How will you feel after your game is finished?

Just think about it.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I sort of disagree with the notion to avoid meetings. Meetings can be invigorating if only because they are scary. When you schedule meetings not only do you make a commitment to others to be there, but you also make a commitment to show some progress.

    Take it from someone who has been to meetings with nothing to show, or nearly ended up in such a position–it’s socially terrifying.

    Meetings also allow you to bounce ideas off others and vice-versa, using each other as sounding boards. After all, two-heads ARE better than one.

    The one thing to avoid is design-by-committee. You know, those meetings were each person chips in a mediocre idea that disregards the harmony of the design as a whole, followed by everyone spontaniously agreeing that the idea in question is an awesome idea. Another common term for this is “circle-jerking”, but enough of that.

    If your interested in the topic you might want to pursue further reading. A good place to start is “Tools for Teams: Building effective Teams in the Workplace” which is a book composed of several extracts from other texts, and utilized by the University of Phoenix as regular course material.

    On an unrelated note I find your blog both refreshing and insightful in many aspects. It has a taste of the amateur which attests to both the authors experience and veracity.

  2. #9 and #11 are extremely great suggestions, and it’s something I always do with my projects now. I love seeing the progress and it also gets other people interested knowing that the project is still going on strong.

  3. Putting a deadline is not impossible. It’s pretty easy actually… I’ll publish an article about this in a minute :)

  4. Putting a deadline. I think you shouldn’t put a deadline on the complete project as thats nearly impossible unless your an A List game developer and is never late. I think it’s best to put deadlines on single areas of your game.

    For example: 1. 1 week to create a story line, Due Date: 2.25.09; 2. 2 days to outsource sketch art & 3D Designs for them sketch designs

    etc.. good post though.

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