Ren'Py specific questions should be posted in the Ren'Py Questions and Annoucements forum, not here.
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Personally, I have depression that often gets in the way of more large scale projects, regardless of what they are. Right now I'm working on my first large VN which I know will take quite a bit of time, and I was hoping to make a sort of mini-VN for the Ludum Dare this weekend so that I have a proof-of-concept/a project to show what my finished work can look like. Last time I started on a bigger VN (one I even posted about on here some time last year), I got frustrated with trying to learn the code I needed to in order to make the type of game I envisioned and gave up on it. Little set backs or roadblocks I don't know how to pass can do that to me fairly easily, especially with things I'm not all that confident in to begin with. But this is a little different.
Things have been going really well with my current project. I've written down my plans, my full story outline, implemented features I wanted so that all the foundation is there for what I want to make happen within the VN can be done whenever I reach the point in writing that I will need those features. I still need to finish customizing the GUI, but I finished the one for the regular reading screen and was really proud of how it looked. So my main focus now is the writing. At the beginning, I set a goal for myself to write at least 1k words a day on the script to ensure I was always making steady progress, but other things came up and I wound up missing a couple of days, and somehow it has just made it really difficult to get back into writing. I sit down to write and it feels pointless, like there's no possibility I'll ever finish it anyway. And I know that's just my own head getting to me, but it's still hard to shake so I haven't been making progress like I've wanted to.
So what about you guys? Do any of you deal with similar problems or get easily discouraged by setbacks? What do you usually do about it?
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Realize that your project can only ever be finished if you put forth the effort to make it happen. And every minute you're not working on it is a minute that could be spent getting closer to your project's release. In other words, the only person who can truly stop you from succeeding is you.
Set concrete goals and deadlines that you can potentially fail to meet. Get in the habit of working consistently every day, at the same time every day. If these aren't possible then figure out why, and if you do fail to meet your goals then re-evaluate why that happened and what you can do to improve your time management. And if a particular problem seems too frustrating or difficult, break it down into smaller problems that you can handle one step at a time.
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There are several factors that come to mind with motivation. For example the size of your project, your time management skills, your passion and your discipline.
I think most people at some point bite off more than they can chew with projects, either because they have a lofty vision, or their project gets out of control in size. This already is a problem in itself due to the sheer size, but it will inevitably lead to demotivation due to the amount of work and time that will be needed to complete the project. The key to avoiding something like this would be to try to keep your project within your ability, or to scale it down when you see it get out of control. You could always simply complete the core story/vision, and add it to it later.
By no means am I saying not to create a large project if that's what a creator wants, but it's probably not a good idea to do this when it's your first project. It's better to complete several shorter projects first, or to finish several projects that are incremental in size, before doing that one big one. This way you'll be better equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience. You'll also have more confidence since you'll have already completed other games.
Time management is another big issue to conquer de-motivation. You should have a rough outline of what assets are needed to complete your game, and the amount of time they should be completed in. Having no schedule or due dates for your game or it's assets is one of the worst things you could do in my opinion. Even if your game is just for fun, you still need to self impose a schedule. Having no deadlines can and will lead to wasted time, meandering, de-motivation and worst of all, abandoned projects. That being said, it's important not to beat yourself up if certain areas go beyond their allotted time to complete, if they progress slower than anticipated or if a few days of work are missed. All of which will probably happen.
Depending on how hardcore you want to get, you should eliminate as many distractions from your life in order to complete your game (Tv time, spending time on social media, going out, etc) and optimize your daily routine to free up more time too. Another good way to stay on track with personal tasks is to use a stopwatch or some sort of clock and set it for however much time you have allotted for yourself. So if you have 2 hours for writing, set up the alarm on the clock to go off in 2 hours, (personally, I use a chill upbeat song as my alarm). The psychological effect of being on the clock will keep you focused and you'll probably write better and more then without the clock. Doing this everyday is also a great way to build your discipline. You could do this with any task.
Another great tip for completing tasks is to split them up into smaller bits and complete those in order to complete the larger goal.
Passion is another important aspect. You should obviously be passionate about the game you're making, especially if it's a larger one. No to little passion equals no game or abandoned projects (again). It seems obvious but you need to choose a story/concept that you believe in so much that it will get you through the rough times. You could be passionate about completing a game, but more importantly you should be passionate about the game itself and it's story.
This doesn't get mentioned a lot, but discipline is also highly important. When you're running low on motivation, don't want to work on your game or have crippling self doubt, discipline will get you through them. All it is, is the ability to consistently work on a task regardless of everything else, or in spite of how everything else may be going. Discipline itself is a skill that needs to be learned and built through sheer habit, but it will definitely get you through the rough times. In fact, it forces you to do so. Everyone will have different levels of discipline, but it's something anyone can learn and increase by consistently sticking to a task over a period of time.
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With my art, I have a few specific streams that I listen to while drawing. That way I properly get my 4-6 hours a week in but don't do much more than that either and overdraw myself. Once I hit the too much drawing barrier, there's no drawing for weeks and a tough time getting back on track. And I don't do too little either, because those piling up episodes tell me how many weeks I haven't drawn...
Coding fortunately isn't as much of an issue, it's a chore to me rather than a hobby. I can just grind that stuff. Slowly. Slowly but surely,
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Your hobby is just that, a hobby.
If your hobby is fishing, do you set a goal to catch 20 fish a day? No.
If your hobby is carpentry, do you set yourself a goal to build five cupboards a day? No
If your hobby is skydiving, do you jump out of a plane every day? No.
Why then, must a writer write 1000 words per day?
Why must a writer refrain from indulging in the things that inspire oneself to begin with?
If you treat your hobby like a chore, it becomes as fun as a chore.
So I say take a breather. Give your hobby a short rest, you're taking all the fun out of it by forcing yourself and that, in my opinion, is the source of your demotivation.
pro·gram·mer (noun) An organism capable of converting caffeine into code.
Actually finish a project
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The first is that if I'm constantly demotivated by something (especially if it's a particular something, rather than all creative endeavors in general), I stop. I'm not making a living at this. I don't *have* to finish a game, a novel, or anything else. If it feels like torture, I don't do it.
But when the question is less "this feels like torture" and more "I'm not super motivated", I try a few things.
1. I try to make myself do about an hour a day of something creative. I budget that time in and, even if I'm just sitting and staring blankly at a computer screen, I'm there.
2. I let myself do crappy work. Maybe my goal is to program in 200 lines of code or write 1000 words. I let myself not get the programming perfect (I can clean it up later) or very good words (I can edit later). I just do it.
3. I set minor goals at times. Like, maybe I think of it not so much as "I'm finishing the game" and more "I'm getting this chunk of dialogue done". The second feels close to insurmountable (esp. with my current game where I'm about 150K into what I'm guessing will be 300K words). The first is doable.
4. I start with simpler projects. Starting with a super fancy game that's going to take me 1,000,000 hours to program isn't super reasonable. My first game took about 3 weeks. (Which is far more doable to maintain energy through!)
5. Sometimes I work on other stuff. I have a bit of a side project that I'm going to screw around with for a bit tonight instead of my main project because I need to do something that isn't the same old thing. (Plus I get to look at cute pictures of dogs, so am happy!)
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Of course I do experience times when my drive completely dies anyway, and when things seem lacklustre and pointless. What I usually do when that happens is one of these things:
1) I talk to people about my project(s). The dialogue often gives me new ideas or simply rekindles my excitement to work on my stuff.
2) I do some micro- or macromanagement.
Recently, I had a total writer's slump for several months. No matter what I tried, I didn't make progress. Then I discovered a website where you can make a sort of wiki for your project, and I just started writing down all the lore and made nice profiles for the characters and whatnot. I figured out many things I hadn't thought about, and people gave me feedback, and it gave me lots of inspiration to work on the actual story again.
Another example was a different project, which had come to a total standstill. I thought about it and realized that it was aimless and bloated, so I decided to lay out everything about the plot in a neat and clear way. I'm doing a complete overhaul, scrapping the boring fluff, improving the rest, and adding things that excite me instead. Kill your darlings, basically. It's liberating.
3) I just take a break and do other things. Play videogames, watch movies, etc. After a while, I start to get bored and miss my project, so I go back and look at it again. I usually read through what I already have to get back into the story. If that isn't enough to get my creative juices flowing again, I try options 1) or 2).
For big projects, it generally helps me to plan out everything to at least a rough draft extent. That way I can always see the goal clearly. You said you already have everything planned out. Maybe in that case try thinking about what parts you want to write most? I found a chronological approach to writing very restricting. Forcing myself to write what's happening next and postponing the parts I was inspired and excited about just resulted in me not being motivated to write at all.
Lastly, while setting a schedule for yourself can help, I found that it can also cause the total opposite. Like you said, once you fall behind, you somehow are completely out of the flow and getting back into working on the project becomes harder than before. Not to mention that in my experience, if you just churn out progress, the quality suffers. For me, it works best to just work at my own pace. Some days I don't feel like writing at all, others I write and write and write. I think the "write every day no matter what" rule is harmful and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Sorry for the wall of text! I hope it helps.
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I very much appreciate all of the advice and encourage people to still post more if they have any more tips to offer each other or others struggling with these sorts of problems. As for myself, I will just try to worry a little less about completion and pay more attention to progress. After all, if I keep making progress, it'll be done eventually.
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