Unscientific survey

I almost posted about this a few weeks ago, but then didn’t really like the way the post came out, so killed it. But Chris’ post over here made me realize I’m still curious, if anyone feels like answering:

What is the biggest thing getting in the way of finishing and releasing your favorite WIP?

(In my case: I need to finish and release Alabaster before I go back to working on the older, bigger piece that relies on the same conversation extension. Which I guess could loosely be translated “lack of focus” or “bad habit of thinking that I can whip out small projects in between working on big ones”.)

27 thoughts on “Unscientific survey

  1. A month to dedicate to finishing it.

    I don’t *think* it’s a sprawl problem, but I won’t be certain until I’m two weeks in (and maybe realizing that I have another six weeks of work left).

  2. My Master’s Portfolio. And (this weekend) the latest issue of SPAG. :)

    But it’s getting close. Just need to go through the last handful of tester transcripts, figure out why certain interpreters are crashing when they try to play my sounds, add the final dibs and dabs for polish, and get my long-suffering wife to play through the whole thing ONE MORE TIME to make sure everything is okay.

    Okay, maybe not close close. But closer.

    I’ve been around IF for a number of years, but never realized how MUCH FREAKING WORK a big game — heck, even a small game — actually is to finish. Every deadline I’ve ever given myself has whooshed past with gale force.

  3. Overambitious design, certainly. But also the lack of ability to talk to people who are *really good* at this to figure out if I’m on to something or not with any given premise/idea. I guess you could call this a lack of alpha testers.

    But yes, being unsure of my design.

  4. I’m coming back to IF authoring after some 25 years break. In the intervening period I grew up got a proper job, and found that the time just wasn’t there anymore.
    Now having discovered I7 and the fact that there is still a community out there, I’m tinkering with a new game. Will I finish it? Not sure. Will it be any good? Even less sure. Will it be aesthetically innovative? As much as I’d like to think so, I doubt it :-)
    The thing that is most likely to stop me completing it now (apart from lack of time) is much the same as the things that used to trip me up 25 years ago – I tend to want to make the flipping thing too big and complicated. The other obstacle will most likely be that I get halfway through and realise the whole thing reminds me to much of something I wronte 25 years ago or worse that someone else wrote 25 years ago, leading to a serious attack of “If it’s not breaking new ground what’s the point?”

      • I’m joking, sort of … when you earn your living by writing games then you have to be ruthless about killing projects that can’t get funding. For every ten games started, maybe one makes it to market, so most works-in-progress have to be abandoned, however much you might like them.

  5. Every time I settle into a major writing session with my WIP, I always end up stumbling across some crazy feature I want to implement, and I find it just can’t be done. This always leads me in the end to thoughts of writing my own IF system. I’ve read all the advice against doing so, and I keep trying to tell myself to leave out the over-ambitious parts of my WIP and just concentrate on getting something finished, but somehow I can’t seem to take the sensible option.

      • Well, of course few things are literally impossible, most things that I could code in C++ I could code in I7 (speed notwithstanding). But on several occasions I’ve found myself fighting against the system to such a degree that it seemed I’d be better starting out with an entirely blank page.

        One example of this was my attempt to implement body parts, and allow the player to refer to them as “my [whatever]” or “john’s [whatever]”. I hacked together a system that nearly worked, then I asked on the newsgroup and got some very helpful advice (some from yourself if I remember rightly, thank you!) Subsequently I expanded my original design using regular expression matching in the parsing, but the whole thing became so unwieldy that I kept finding exceptions where it nearly worked, but not quite. In addition, it became so slow in the interpreter that it was almost unplayable. At that point I took a step back and realised I could code the whole thing in half an hour if I was looking at parser code in C++ or Python… but then, of course, I’d have to spend years reinventing the parts of I7 that already worked perfectly and did exactly what I wanted.

        Other examples include projects where I’ve found I needed floating point calculations, or complex data structures. I don’t mean to imply that I think these things should be priorities in I7 development. I’m sure they’re rarely required in IF, and development is quite rightly focusing on more pressing issues.

        I chose to work with I7 because it seemed such a wonderful concept (and I still believe it is) but perhaps I’m too much of a programmer at heart to feel entirely comfortable with it. What I really want to do is to push the boundaries of what IF can do technically, to give players new types of textual experiences which have not been available to them before. I’m still grasping around for the best way to do this, and I7 has been the closest thing I’ve found yet, but I suspect it’s not the tool I’m looking for.

  6. Laziness.

    I’m sure there’s an element of perfectionism – every sentence I put to paper seems to get progressively worse – but in my case, it all boils down to my first doing a thousand other things that require less work.

  7. My problem is that I don’t even have a favourite WIP at the moment. I’m in a bit of a paralysis in that regard because I don’t think I’m mature or talented enough as of yet to create the One Big Project™ that I’ll someday become well known for. Hence, I find myself spreading out and tinkering with a bunch of little projects, many of which I don’t wind up finishing (or even starting, for that matter) either because I can’t do them justice or they’re too similar to things I’ve done before.

  8. A fear of writing drivel. Though I’d also give a nod to momentum, which the economy has been interrupting.

    I tell myself that the new blog is for working on my writing, but honestly… yeeeaaah.

  9. You didn’t specify IF :), so my answer is: the siren song of creating and refining tools to create things, instead of actually creating things. Stephen Levy has a nice passage about this in _Hackers_, where he talks about how folks at MIT who were designing compilers began to lose sight of the fact that these compilers were meant to produce programs that did things, and became fixated simply on the idea of creating better and better compilers. (Which is certainly useful work, but…)

  10. Just shortages of time and energy. Energy meaning that sometimes even when I have free time, the things that take up my non-free time (work, interacting with kids) leave me too tired to take advantage of it.

    But: apart from that, I’m actually doing good. My WIP has a strong outline and is filled with interesting challenges, and I am still very motivated. If I could afford to take a month off of work, it would probably be in beta before I went back.

  11. Lack of time. Working leaves little time remaining, so I’ve basically not touched my WIP since Christmas. (But I expect to be able to get things done next week, during Easter break.) Such is life as a teacher, I guess.

    • Coming back to this thread after thinking a bit, although I do need to learn to program within my means, there’s something else on the creative end:

      There are times when I don’t understand what the bit I’m writing is about. I have a clear understanding of what I need to get to; and I have a sense of where the piece I’m working on fits in overall; but I haven’t really understood what’s at issue in the bit I’m doing.

      It happened just recently that a particular scene, which wasn’t all that important, completely stymied me. And finally I realized that because it wasn’t important, I hadn’t given it due consideration. So there was nothing going on: and with nothing going on, I had no means to write the damn thing.

      The result was a kind of writer’s block. I needed to back up and unravel the beginning of the scene, to make it about something and not just a connector, and (to make matters worse) I really didn’t want to do that because I was pretty happy with the beginning I had written. So I had trouble understanding that the thing I’d written, which I liked so much, was itself the problem.

      I was recently reading an incomplete work by Robert Louis Stevenson — somewhere online. And it was an excellent humanitarian rant of the kind Stevenson did so well, but at what should have been about a third of the way through it, it petered out. You could watch the prose wind down, like someone who goes on a passionate diatribe, grumbles a bit, and finally shrugs and says, “So that’s what I think.”

      This bit of writer’s block set me back about a week; which is especially frustrating because it’s supposed to be a simple, fun little project. But if I hadn’t successfully figured out what was going on, it could have taken much longer, or killed the project.

      And I probably should have skipped over it and worked on some part I wasn’t stuck on, to keep the momentum going, but in practice that’s very difficult for me to do.

      So, my conclusion: if there is no conflict or if you can’t think of a meaningful choice to offer the reader, it may be because you haven’t really understood what the scene is about. Not a major revelation, but a useful one for me.

      Conrad.

  12. Remembering. In most of my ideas, I have fragments here and there that I could use in a game, but they never seem to come together perfectly. Sometimes I just have to sit back and try to remember everything about what the game really means. Then, its a bit easier to figure out what to do and where to go.

    Then again…I’m not always that efficient with my time…

  13. Pingback: Management: Helping people work « Game of Design

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