How to make progress on your game faster

This is a simple and well known idea, but it’s really easy to forget. Our work usually tends to pull us in deep into the details. But remind yourself to step back. Don’t try to do everything perfectly right away. If you project has lots of moving parts—and most games and projects do—you’ll need to work on a little bit of everything. Just shape the thing you’re working on and then move on to the next thing. Quality is not the first goal. You want to get as complete of a picture of your project elements as fast as possible.

So why would you want to waste your time making something that looks and performs terribly and is probably full of issues and bugs? Why not just make things ‘right’ the first time?

Doing things ‘right’ the first time assumes you know everything ahead of time— which in some cases is possible, but generally it’s not true. Most of us can’t create everything the perfect thing the first try. So we work on our projects iteratively and learn along the way. Here’s what you get in return:

You’ll learn new things

Everything you think you know about how your project works can change as you begin building on it. You want to be able to adapt to these changes without having to question whether it’s worth throwing out work you’ve already ‘completed’. Make it easier on yourself when you need to move on because something doesn’t work out as planned.

You’ll learn from what you’ve done

Your project likely includes art, story, music, interactions, mechanics, user interface, and many other things that define the gameplay. You expect your players or viewers to experience all of these things working together, so wouldn’t it be beneficial to have all these things in your project as you work on it. You’ll start to identify all the issues with the content and systems you created as placeholders, and more importantly, you’ll begin to identify what things really need to be.

You’ll be able to share it with people sooner

This is perhaps the best part. You can start getting real input and feedback from people about what you’re working on. All this information will help guide your decision making process and provide you with perspective and insight into how others experience your project.

You’ll learn what to spend time on to make it better

At some point you’ll come back around to all those things that were placeholder elements, or hacked together and just never quite worked right. Instead of going through the process of refining too soon, you’ve learned a lot more about what you actually need and what you don’t. You can use this new knowledge to inform your approach as you inevitably refine and refactor

So work fast, learn fast, and don’t fret too much if things aren’t working perfectly right away. Assemble everything you can, share, and start learning from your work.