Motivation in Project Spark: the creator's perspectiveEdit
So here we are, at a time when big projects start to be in the works and the creativity juices running. We have already a basic version of Project Spark and now the community is steadily growing and new users get deep into kode, while advanced users are planning ahead.
So this article will talk about the sole element that makes us create: motivation. Where do we get it? What makes us want to create a game? Is there a reason or motives behind it? The answer is yes, there are motives behind every level and every project that is out there, and the reason some projects are different from others is because of those motives.
So how deep the rabbit hole of gaming creation you want to go? How strong and ready you feel to make a game?
Below, I am going to explain the reasons behind motivation:
Inspiration is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) motive to create a game or a project. It usually comes from a media source that you like to watch, play, read or listen. Being influenced by a certain theme, attitude or setting is what leads to inspiration. Getting inspired means you see a nice tower in a show or TV series and then you want to recreate it yourself and be proud of it. Inspiration means to read a steampunk book and then create your own floating world of forged iron and wonder. You can even be a logic person that gets inspired by mathematics and how can they applied to Project Spark and create simple but fun gameplay mechanics. Everything is possible, why not?
How competitive you are? How ready you feel to take on other creators from around the world and prove that you can be better? Sounds selfish, but it is a direct and decent motive to create. Don't get me wrong, being competitive is a wonderful thing for both you and the community. It is a win-win scenario. You get to raise the bar in quality of game-creation and the community gets to enjoy the result. Usually, this motive appears when a full-scale world competition will make you forget your standards and instead start reading tutorials to get better and rock the world. You know what you are up against, so you have to be good. That feeling will also allow you to learn more and focus better in your future projects.
But who said you can't get inspired on your own? The "progression" motive comes when you start creating something that excites you and you realise it is turning a lot better than you thought. Let's say you always wanted to make a tower defense game. So you start one, then after a lot of work you begin to get tired. However, you will realise that the result of your game has a lot more potential than you originally thought, like a store to buy towers, upgrading, more enemies types and seeing it all there working in real time will give you that wonderful feeling that says: "I am proud of what I made". And you should be, because there are no levels in this world that are bad, only ones that need work, which means time and motivation. Reaching a level of progression of your level will make you want to build more and more, polish and re-polish, the finishing touches on the painting you just made. Being a designer or a koder doesn't mean you are not an artist after all. Remember, that is a digital canvas you are working on.
There is another strong motive to create and it usually originates after you have created a project already that the community has tried. This is the final and most difficult one of all motives, as now you are adressing the crowd, not yourself. You may have a level that you think it is the worst thing you ever made, but if the crowd loves it, they will share this positive energy with you. And that is a motive. Something like this can be so strong, that could make you abandon another project and work for another one, simply because the crowd loves it. This is where the magic is.
That feeling you get by playing your level over and over after you saw a positive comment in a shoutbox or in your level details is what creativity is all about. It is something you get for making a game and working hard to make it good. This is the result of your hard work. There is no greatest motivation if you know that people will enjoy and then talk about your game, trust me.
Now this is a another way of saying "My work can be seen by thousands". This is where Project Spark offers something that not many editors can, and this is exposure. You get to make a game which will be then played by thousands. How cool is that? Just consider that a level with 5000 D/Ls means that 5000 times a player choosed your level over the rest. So basically, you gave a reason 5000 times for someone to play your level. If you haven't realised it yet, then think better the next time you want to skip shooting a cool screenshot or adding a detailed description.
The Dark Side of the MoonEdit
However, not everything can be positive for a creator. Actually, there are more things that can go wrong. The balance in between will keep you creating, not the opposite. Because if you say that you only have positive or negative feelings when creating, it is wrong and you are hiding your true feelings. So let's explore the negative side as well. Let's try to find something that can make the negative feelings go away, so we can focus where the real magic is.
Starting a project and realising you are missing something is the greatest anticlimax for a creator. Let's say you want a prop that you don't have, doesn't exist in game or you want to make a mechanism that you don't know how to kode it. What now? Well fortunately, there are many solutions to your problem. First of all, you need to understand that you will never have everything you want. No matter how complex and rich Project Spark will get, you will never make a perfect replica of your dream. BUT, what if you realise that you can actually make it by distorting the limitations in your head? Let's say you want to make a replica of the Mass Effect N7 spacecraft, but you are missing most of the steel and sci-fi props you need? There are two ways to go: first is to postpone the project unless you feel the editor and you are ready to accomodate such a project, or you can find "tricks" that will resemble the result you want. Start making rough designs, play with props, figure out new ways to use them, find your favorite ones, spot the generic ones that will be used nearly everywhere (like the rope piece for example) and generally, experiment as much as you can.
But interruptions don't stop there. There are other forms of interruptions, like crashes, tool inefficiencies, external environment interruptions and time confinement. The point is not to say "I can't do it because of them", but instead "I will do it along with them". Can you work in a noisy environent? Can you continue your project if you lose an hour's worth of work? Can you continue when your free time is running out? All these are difficult questions, but there are is an easy answer for them: "And what did you do to fix it?"
Yes, that it. Everything, difficult or easy is in your head. You have a noisy environment and you can't create, find a solution to it. You have very little free time, cut from something less important than your hobby (cause this is a hobby). Make time. You lost work? You can remake it, cause the full plan of work is in your head, you created it, you can do it again and even better this time. The only thing you should never learn, is to give up.
"The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking."
Peer Pressure Edit
We all have been in a spot that someone ranted on our work or gave a really strong negative feedback. That is very hard for a creator and can mean a lot to people that have put pride in their work. Don't let this turn your motivation down, because even if this pressure creates the most negative sentiment of all, it is the one that can completely change if you see it in another way. Personally, I remember the first time someone told me that my work was really bad, I got so angry that I pushed him away. But then I realised one thing: he didn't even look at it closely. He didn't appreciate it from the beginning. He wanted something else than what I provided him. He didn't think how I would feel if he said that. And that's how it works.
There is the constructive feedback, which means people will tell you that you have something that needs to be fixed, and there is the negative feedback, in which people will tell you that your work is bad, but not really why it is bad. You then, have to realise which is which. Is the person trying to help, or is it simply a subjective opinion based on a quick impression?
Now let's make this a bit more black and white. Let's say I make a level which has nothing in it but the default character and a zombie. That's it. So basically, a person that provides constructive feedback will tell me that I need a scenery, probably some background story, a few more enemies and more customization on my characters to make a horror game. A person that provides negative feedback will simply state a comment like: "why do you even try?" or "this is entirely boring and there is nothing to do" and even sometimes you may see some swear words associated with feedback. But check how the second person didn't provide any real reason or suggestion followed by his opinion. Of course, you may see a combination of the two but at least you will know what to work on.
So learn to tell the difference of constructive and negative feedback and your feelings will never be hurt again.
Another reason to stop working on a project is because you are getting sick of it. Too much work. Too much debugging. Too much something that you don't want but you have to do because you need to make your game playable. Too much twitch channel chat. Too much facebook browsing. No. This is not the way.
Save your project and close Project Spark. Take a walk or listen to your favorite music. Something you enjoy. Something else that is simple and can take your mind off things. Clear your mind.
What you don't need to do is roam all the time in a chatbox and stay there for no reason, or lurk in a forum trying to see what is new. No. That is the facebook virus and it is entirely the opposite of creativity. It is the major interruption we talked about before. If you feel you can't get away from it or its too late, then make an arrangement with your self. Alienate yourself from it for a certain time you choose. Then, you will observe that ideas will start coming slowly and steadily as your mind will be free of all these other distractions. Clear those and make room for something you enjoy. Creativity requires a clear mind, and its healthy to have one in general.
What can you handle as a creator? Do you want to create the next skyrim? Do you want to create the next Mass Effect? Do you want to create a full-AAA game by yourself? If you do, that is great but putting yourself in the dark waters straight away will make you eventually give up. How about you start simple? Try making for once something you think is so simple that you wouldn't even consider doing. Well, I found that this is exactly what you should do. Focus on easy stuff.
I am going to prove to you now how game progression works. You start a game, simple and easy, and as you progress, things tend to get more difficult. But they don't get difficult just for the player, they get difficult for the creator too. So in order to progress a game, do one of the following. Either:
a) Start basic and build a nice base for your game, that will accommodate harder things later on. Use the progression motive to create the complex things you initially thought, but don't start with them. By the time the "progression" motive will kick, you will have a decent amount of gameplay that is basic and it works. Motivation, as well experience on that level architecture will do the rest.
b) Start complex and then make a gallery of props/mechanisms/ settings. Don't use the complex ones though, only the basics. Then, after a decent amount of progression, use the rest you initially made.
If you start complex and rush into building something you can barely handle from the beginning, that won't allow you to progress later on and will give you a feeling of pressure and over-complexity, which eventually will force you to give up.
So what is the fine line between the two?Edit
So after explaining some elements of both being encouraged to create and not, we come to the final point of balancing both. If the positive side is stronger than the negative, you will create. If not, you will not create. Simple.
So the best thing you can do is identify your motives and your anticlimax. Find what moves you and what stops you.
If you feel that your negativity is covering your motives, explore what I suggested above and seek which motives you can apply to yourself. Find the spark in you. Creativity is part of the left brain, which can be trained to be stronger through constant use. That means you can get better and better with time, even if you are good already.
Finding the pros and cons of building will also help you improve concentration and clear out your feelings.
In the end, we are all human beings and we have a limit. But we can break that limit and do wonders if we are properly motivated. So this is your chance to enjoy creating. Do it in a simple and fun way. That is when you will realise that you have something better in your hands than something you can't finish.
this is only for the best, and there is nothing you can ever lose by doing it. Only gain.
The Hardest Part of CreatingEdit
So what is the hardest part of creating a game? Is it getting a good idea, or perhaps it's the coding, or maybe it's the balancing of the game itself.. Well all those thing are challenging for sure, but I think without a doubt the hardest part of game creation, (and I think many of you are starting to understand this is )....... finishing your creation.
Yep we all start off energized and excited about our new game idea. We all jump headlong into starting a new project, we find it fun and exhilarating and this phase is known as the honeymoon phase. All is right with the world.
BUT soon after the honeymoon the gloss starts to fade a little and the game while still fun, become a little more work and unfortunately in the not too distant future the game slowly enters the slog stage. In the slog stage it becomes a lot of work now, much of it not always so fun. Worse yet, added to the yoemans work is the mental issues that start to creep into the process, such as we begin to doubt some of our decisions, and we start to worry about all sorts of things. "Will anyone even play this thing", "will I ever get it done", "can I get it done the way I want"," hey that other idea of mine sounds much more fun, lets go mess with that", "why should I even bother with this anymore" and the typical "oh man what did I get myself into" thoughts. This is the danger area in game development. This is where so so many games and ideas go to die.
Well good news people Im here to to help with some tips to how to get through the slog, and out the other side with your brand new shiny ready to "ship" game. For better or worse, one of my abilities both professionally and personally is the ability to get things done.
So what are these secret tips? well send me $15 bucks and I'll tell you.... ok OK I'm joking, I'll share some of them now , just this once :)
1. Dont bite off more than you can chew... with this I mean dont fail before you start. Dont go into a project like a spark game and think your gonna make Skyrim 2.. ( spolier alert..you arent.. you just arent.) Instead decide to make something reasonable, something actually doable. Even if its simple. When your first starting out, the smaller and simpler the better. Creating and finishing game is almost a habit you learn, so start off small and soon you'll be more able to pull off some larger miracles later in your career via your good habits.
2. Don't date more than a few girls/guys at a time... with this I mean its great that you have a ton of cool ideas, but dont go tackling them all at once. Dont think you can try to create 3 or 4 or 5 games simultaneously, we all try it, we all pretty much fail. I would suggest at MOST working on 2 ideas at once. I sometimes like 2 because it allows me to take a break and work through roadblocks while still being industrious and working toward goals. I often like to have two projects going but I find that it helps to have them in two entirely different areas of completion. As I work toward polishing one or working on manuals, websites etc, it's a good time for me at least to begin the start on another since its nice to get a break from one aspect of development sometimes. With that being said, other times I like to just stick to one project and just see it through to the end without any other distractions. More than a couple though, IMHO and experience, you're asking for trouble.
3. An apple a day.... as in an apple a day will keep the failure away. To me this is by far my most important tip. I have found that following this one bit of advice I have had pretty much finished every project I have ever started. So here it is, Make a point to do something concerning your game project EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now this doesnt mean you have to find hours everyday to sit and work on code, what this means is that everyday if even for just 5 minutes, you think about your current game, you might jot done a note to yourself or just make some mental notes but the point is, everyday you are progressing with your project. It keeps the momentum going. Momentum is the key. For once momentum is lost, it often can never be regained and your idea and game dies.
Everyone thinks once in awhile during indie development, oh well I dont have time to work on it today, or this week, I'll start back to work on next week, etc etc these thoughts are momentum stopping, game killers. Sure often we can over come these bad thoughts and habits a few times, but once they happen too often, its over. Momentum is lost, your time and focus shifts to some other shiny object or eye candy and the current game project dies. SO to avoid this.. an apple a day. You'll be amazed at how well it works. For me I spend probably 4 to 5 days a week doing less than 1 hour worth of work on my game, as I stated many days I may only do 10 minutes ( and you will be surprised how many good ideas you may get in such a short time) the other few nights ( especially friday and sat for me) is when I dive back in with all my new insights and do a good 5-10- 15 hours worth of real coding and development)
Now everyone mileage will vary, but you get the idea. Momentum is everything!
4) The light at the end of the tunnel..... The good news is that the slog doesnt last forever. If you keep your momentum and fight through the dreary days of the slog, you will come out the other end and you will find that the excitement and fun comes back again. Its pretty exciting to see your game finally all start to come together. Once you see that it will work, and you get an idea that you are really making progress toward finishing it, its once again fun to be a game developer. You'll likely sprint toward the finish line at this point. You will have finished your game. You get the nice feeling of accomplishment and you'll be ready for your next gaming creation and adventure.
so anyway, I just thought I'd share a little bit and so Good luck and here's to fighting the slog...