Making sure you get things done!
Today's blog update is going to talk a little bit about the boring side of gamedev: organisation. However! The things discussed below can apply to anything from writing a book, working on your paint skills, DIY or even travelling, so keep on reading if you are working on a project of your own!
Find what's best for you
One thing I have learned over the years while working on Yes, Your Grace is the importance of a good timeline. I'm not talking here about any timeline, but the one that works for you! I have tried many approaches to organising my tasks from using notebooks, Trello boards to spreadsheets, calendars and sticky notes. There are so many options out there to keep track of what needs to be done and when, that all you have to do is to find one that works best for you. If you find that the Trello board you made a few months ago is not getting updated and the task list is not getting smaller, instead of punishing yourself for it, try a different approach. Everyone is different and if you are working on a big project, organisation is very important so take some time to make sure you have a timeline that works well with your schedule.
Don't be afraid of spreadsheets
I am currently using Google Sheets to keep track of my tasks. It's easy to use, I can mark colours, dates and customise it as much as I like. A simple timeline works best for me. My tasks are usually big and take a few days to complete so a weekly task list is perfect. I also use a notebook, to jot down smaller tasks I need to tackle right away. Because the timeline is online I have access to it from everywhere and I can share it with anyone too (very useful if you are collaborating with others).
Here is a template to this timeline. Feel free to copy and use it for your own projects.
Using The Template
The provided template is meant to just give you an idea of how you could structure your timeline. Feel free to alter it anyway that works for you, but here are a few tips on how to use the template:
Use colours, to help you visualise the tasks. Green could be coding, pink - bug fixing, orange - sound and grey - graphics. This way you can see at a glance what type of work lies ahead of you.
Keep notes (K1) for more specific tasks names. Pink might indicate that you're doing bug fixing this week, but notes can help you determine the exact issues to tackle.
The little, green square (A72) will highlight the current week for you. You can also input the number of weeks until planned end of project (L1), and the template will keep track of how many weeks you have left until your ultimate deadline!
Use M1 to keep any major deadlines along the way and N1 to keep even more notes, for example what you have actually achieved this week. Are you behind? Ahead?
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT
Having a timeline is one thing, but sticking to it is another. Most people working in game development take longer than they anticipated to complete their tasks, and that's normal. This is because it's very difficult to predict how long certain tasks will take, especially if you do them for the first time. Making a timeline for completing the whole game is not an easy task, but doing so will help you tremendously.
Slips happen! Especially in game development and they are unavoidable. One thing you can do to try to avoid them is to let go of the idea that every little bit of your game needs to be flawless. It's better to have a game that's done, rather than perfect, especially in the early stages of development. Having a working demo is way more important than having nicely animated notifications.
Sometimes things take longer, and then what? The way I work with all parts of the game is that if I'm starting to get a feeling that the task will take longer, I will work around it to just barely get it finished and working, rather than getting it perfect - after the planned time I have a cut off point and I just move on to the next task. I am trying to be very strict with that too. Yes, this means unfinished backgrounds and lots of bugs, but at least there is something that is working. I then return to the things that need the most work at the end and polish them as much as I can, in the time I have. Game development is an iterative process, going over and over things is better than trying to get it all impeccable the first time. If my approach was to make things perfect, then I would probably still be working on my first background!
Well... this was a lot of words! I hope this helps any of you with organisation of your work and motivates you to keep going! Let me know in the comments what sort of timeline do you use and how do you stay on track!