The Vanderbelt mansion from my game Null Recall

7 Motivation Problems

Demotivation comes from distractions. Pre-distractions happen before the task: imposter syndrome, entertainment, analysis paralysis. Mid-distractions happen when doing the task: burnout, context switching, perfectionism. Post-distractions happen after the task: negative criticism.

Imposter Syndrome

Any time I pee, shower, eat, or exercise, I say, "I am the rank 1 solo game developer in x genre". This is technically true if our game is niche enough.

If 1 in 100 people are good in a skill, then being good at 3 skills makes us 1 in a million. America has 330 million people, so 330 Americans have the same 3 skills. I'm somewhere between rank 1 and 330.


Take notes while enjoying entertainment

The more we look at other work, the better we can spot details. A video editor might watch their favorite movie, and pause to take notes. A game developer might play their favorite game. An artist might browse their favorite artist's portfolio. A musician might listen to their favorite track.

Topics to write about

Remix a specific piece

A remix is when we take pieces of an existing art, and incorporate it into our new art. Using existing work saves us a lot of time, because we don't have to rebuild from scratch. Remixes allow us to experiment quickly and discover innovative combinations, or to discover what our tastes are. Masters will naturally remix, because they get bored of doing the same thing 1000 times.

Trying to edit the whole piece will be too hard. Focus on remixing a tiny element we find interesting. An animator can download a model, instead of making their own. An artist can trace an image and paint over them. A video editor can make a trailer using an existing film or TV show. A musician can sample a note, or many bars from a track.

Write down best practices

After about 2000 hours of practice and study, we probably have many workflows. Write them down and try to optimize them.

Analysis Paralysis

Pick long-term goals with guaranteed benefits.

Who wants to spend 4 years, and $20 k on something just to find out it is useless? If we are unsure of a long-term goal, our commitment constantly waivers, so the chance of failure increases. Guaranteed benefits, reduces this self doubt.

Common examples

To find other proven, long-term goals, look at history to see what has stood the test of time. For example, monetary inflation is guaranteed. Nature loves the path of least resistance. Water, electricity, and fire flow to the easiest path. Usability reduces the path of resistance. Learning a foreign language guarantees us access to that culture.

Prioritize short-term goals to serve long-term ones

I define design as the process of mixing/ blending/ harmonizing different ideas to create a product that is unique, elegant, and beautiful.

A game designer can work on many tasks: UI, inventory, world map, lore, rebinding keys, localization, character creator, SFX, VFX, shaders, animation, soundtrack, voice acting, game trailer/ gif. None of these serve the long-term goal. A game designer is trying to create a unique, elegant, and beautiful gameplay.

Gameplay involves some character doing an activity. We should focus on making the character and activity fun. If the activity involves combat, then the combat should be fun. If it involves dialogue, then the dialogue should be fun. The tasks listed earlier can be done afterwards.


Fantasize about the next project

I will fantasize about making games in other genres. It would be too expensive to make 2 games at the same time, so my fantasies mostly revolve around writing a design document, watching and reading reviews on competing products, collecting references, sketching ideas, outlining a story. Game developers like to call this pre-production.

This idea is similar to new game+, prestige in Call of Duty, smurfing in a MOBA, or creating a new class in an RPG. It is fun to be a beginner, and crush newbies. A fantasy project is like crushing a newbie project.

Remake, Restart

A remake, remaster, or study is a copy of an older art work, but using modern technology. Remakes also save us time, because we don't have to do research. We can directly compare the original with the remake to see if it is better. I mainly use it as a quick anti-depressing tool. When I fail, I can say, "See, at least you're growing".

The standard answer to burnout is taking a vacation. A restart is when we stop a project, and return to it after a long vacation. I have restarted my game 2 to 3 times.

Context Switching

Have the ingredients ready before cooking

If we're cooking eggs, and suddenly want to add cheese, then leaving the stove could cause the eggs to burn. We can turn off the stove, but it would of been faster to just have the cheese ready.

Many skills require us to reference documents. An artist might reference a photo. A romance writer might look at romance scenes in movies. By having the references/ ingredients ready, we don't have to waste time searching for them. Searching is dull, so constantly stopping to do it can dampen our excitement for the task.

Work on one specialization a day

If I have to write, draw, and make music in a day, then I have to gather references for all 3 tasks. I have a bigger upfront workload. Another downside is that changes are harder to make. Say I finish the writing task first, and then move on to the art task. What if I realize or someone discovers an error in the writing task? I only have 1 monitor, so I would have to close all the art reference files, and open up the writing reference files.


Get feedback

A perfectionist might seek out easy tasks, because they can do them well, while avoiding the important tasks, because they cannot do them well. This can cause them to obsess over minor details, and miss deadlines.

Getting feedback fixes this problem, because people will point out how lack luster the important parts are, and gloss over the details. Once the important part is good, people can start to appreciate the detail.

Incremental upgrades

A perfectionist might avoid learning new skills, because it takes a long time to reach the quality they are aiming for. We don't have to learn the whole skill. Pick parts that are interesting. Treat it like a try before you buy kind of situation.

A 2D character artist might want to learn how to model characters, but does not want to learn 3D because it would take a long time to reach the fidelity they are use to in 2D. They can start sculpting just the face, then render it as an image. They can load the image to their favorite program and paint over it, and draw the body like they normally would.

Negative Criticism

I'm not famous enough to receive death threats, but I have seen a lot of bad internet arguments.

Avoid these pitfalls when responding