The Danger of Inspiration

I went to GDC the first time this year and it was a very good experience. However, since returning I have had a very difficult time getting work done. In part I think this is because my process was poisoned by inspiration.

Most mistakes I've ever made spring from the assumption that everything is going to be different. Going to GDC and seeing so many people who have made incredible games left me extremely humbled and motivated. I left GDC with the feeling that I would work on becoming the best designer and programmer I could at all hours of the day for the rest of my life. I was going to get home and everything about how I make games was going to be different.

The only thing that changed when I did get home was that I abandoned the process I have been working on for the last three years. Read: I spent the last two weeks on the couch reading Twitter and panicking that I wasn't working at all.

When I compare my workflow to that of other people, it feels like I don't work very much (and perhaps I don't). This leads to a lot of insecurity about the workflow and its effectiveness. I work in pomodoros of 25 minutes. Every day there is a minimum number of pomodoros I must complete. While working on Dudeski full-time I had to complete a minimum of 8 pomodoros every day. That sums up to 3 hours and 20 minutes of serious work every day.

That doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it works. I shipped Dudeski on a deadline (that was never once pushed back) with three months part-time work, and three months full-time work following that process. I shipped Martian Middle School Dance in about a month with two pomodoros a day.

When you have a process like this in place, you notice some interesting things. While I was crunching on Dudeski the number of pomodoros I was doing didn't change, but the stress of completing the daily minimum went way up. Sure, the amount of time I spent thinking about the game started filling the cracks between the pomodoros. But in terms of focused work completed, there was no real change. I felt like I was working five times harder, though. Work is a slippery thing.

It's all about the process. Inspiration can easily drag you away from that core. Inspiration needs to be input into the machine that is your process. Never interpret inspiration as a call to destroy the machine that has gotten you to where you are in the first place.