Is it really ok to shelf one of your projects? Even when you're attached to it?

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Lately I've wondered if it would do me some good to try and reduce my workload where it would make sense to else I'll drive myself mad with toxic thoughts about wasting what little of my life I may actually have. Work smarter not harder, and all that. And in doing that, I've hit a sort of creative snag. Not quite a creator's block, but...I genuinely feel stuck when trying to decide it by myself.

For a variety of reasons, I'm thinking of significantly downsizing one such story idea to where it'd no longer be a separate project I'd have to think about doing [the idea in question being, um, this], reusing any concepts worth saving in other works. But the idea in question is something I've already put considerable time into; mainly in gathering resources for it, such as music and plugins. I feel like I should and I shouldn't let it go...has anyone ever gone though this with their creative projects? Or am I overthinking it?

TL,DR; slowly beginning to realize that it may not be possible to do everything that I've expressed an interest in doing, so I may as well just pick a niche and commit to it
 

TheTitan99

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Yes, it is more than fine to abandon or heavily rework projects.

I've worked on more than a dozen RPG Maker games, but I've only released two. The two were also, not coincidentally, small in scale.

Not wanting to abandon things you've invested time into is a very well known problem. So much so, it even has a name! "The Sunk Cost Fallacy." Basically, you feel you've invested so much into a project that you simply can't give it up. After all, if you give it up, all that time and effort is a waste!

But, it's not a waste if you stop a project. You've almost certainly learned a great deal when working, and you can take that knowledge into newer, better planned projects.

So, go for it. It is 100%, perfectly A-OK to stop working on a project. There's no shame in doing so. In fact, it's often times a very smart move to do with projects that have gotten out of hand. You'll free up so much time and energy, which you can reinvest into other things.
 

TheAM-Dol

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So I recently sent an anecdote related to this kind of thing recently to someone, so I hope you don't mind a little copy-paste, but I think this story is pretty relevant:



In my opinion, I think duct-taping solutions is really the better way to go. Speaking from my experience as a musician, I use to spend 100+ hours on writing a song. My album that I released last year, though only a 5 track album, took over a year to produce because I would spend too much time finessing the small details for...really no pay-off. I hate to call it "being a perfectionist" because I can assure you there were lots of corners still being cut. But, for the parts of my music that I knew I could make better, I would waste an ungodly amount of time refining it...and the pay off?
None. Frustration. Lost time. A dwindling passion for what I was doing. Details so fine that listeners don't hear. Details that don't drive new sales, and that realization that after spending $2k and a year and a half of my life amounted to enough sales to buy a couple bags of groceries. The following year was spent feeling bitter and jaded, which, honestly was kind of strange because I knew my music is weird and would never reach a wide audience. But somehow I propped my ego up so much based on how much time I wasted "perfecting" things that I suddenly went into denial about the number of sales I would get.
It was sort of during that lost year (editor's note: the year following the release of the album), I guess I reflected on where things went wrong. It occurred to me that a few years prior, I had spoken to a pompous British music composer, where - at the time - his criticisms of my technique seemed out of touch. Now reflecting on those criticisms years later after the failure of my album, suddenly I realized for all his pomp: he was right. I spent too much time working on single projects when I should have been spending the time pumping out more projects.
That's been my change in philosophy about how I approach many things now - my music most obviously, but game development too. There is a value in "perfection" but it is rarely appreciated, and likely will cause the creator to burn out. Instead, approaching creation from a "As good as I can get it...for now" seems to be my approach. Duct tape and taking a moment to ask myself, "Is it good enough?" If the answer is yes, it's time to stop fiddling with it and move on, otherwise I'll be stuck in development hell for eternity making a game that just simply started as "A short tech demo to prototype some major concepts for my Magnum Opus game", which is not a hell I want to dwindle in, not when I see my Magnum Opus on the horizon.



Hope that helps.
In other words; stop trying to work on your project and start trying to finish your project.
 

mmKALLL

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I'd like to recommend this video, it helped me to start prioritizing better and realize that grand plans don't necessarily lead to a better end result:


For a more in-depth view in the topic, I can recommend the book "4-Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss. The tools are dated but ideas still relevant.

Best of luck with your projects!
 

Ellenor

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Yeah it is okay, even if you shelf it you can always return to it later and rework it if you want to.
I mean, the game I'm working on kinda started out as a project I did as a solo developer when I was a teenager using rpg maker XP.
At that time, my skills were not nearly good enough to create what I had as a vision. so I putted it on the shelf.

10 years later, I pick it back up, reworked it completely and I stopped being a solo dev.
Now it is becoming the game I had always visioned it to be =3
 

twosnakes

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I have closed up shop on many projects over the years. I have a dedicated folder and backups on usb for old projects.

I never delete, because occasionally I refer back to them to see how I did something. It's also I nice way to see how much I have tangibly improved over time. I see my current project as a culmination of everything I have learned from previous ones.
 
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@mmKALLL I've actually seen this video some time before! Way...way before. Back when I went through a similar problem with a project that I currently feel at least a little confident on publishing one day in comparison to others.

Said project was going to be a webcomic, but uh...publishing that online in that tight a schedule [the thing was gonna be 300 or so pages according to early estimates and I wanted to try and release more than one page per week...] took a toll on me mentally and I made the rough decision of stepping back from that. It's only recently that I ultimately decided that going back to my initial idea for it and publishing it as a light novel instead would allow me to actually be able to work on it in a timely manner, as I can write faster than I can draw...haha.

~

@TheTitan99 Wow...never crossed my mind that I've fallen prey to a fallacy. That makes me rethink alot about my creative process. o.o

~

To everyone else, thank you so much for the responses. It's comforting to know that I'm not at all overreacting about this, heh. ;w;
 

Tai_MT

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If you're a creative, you need to remember one thing. It's very important. I'll bold it so you don't miss it. I hope that you'll remember it for the rest of your life.

No project is ever actually abandoned.

Let me explain.

Most of my creative endeavors are just writing. Writing is what I love to do. I create worlds, characters, scenarios, and immerse myself in them. This is my canvas. The flow of the words upon the page or the screen. The grandiose depictions and descriptions.

And yet, here we are. The stories that have gone untold. The characters that have never been seen. The worlds that have never been experienced.

But, none of them are ever dead. None ever abandoned. Not because I've made it a point to keep them around and "keep them alive". No. It's because they keep coming back. Again and again. The same stories. The same concepts. The same characters. New format. Refined story. Written better. In a new medium. Or the same one. Again and again.

Any major creative you've ever had the pleasure of following for any significant amount of time, you will see this. You see how their projects haunt them. Follow them. Chase them until the end of time.

Why are there so many books related to "The Dark Tower" by Stephen King? Because he was trying to tell that story for so long. It never quite made the cut. So, again and again, he revisited portions of it. Pieces. Concepts. Themes. Until... The last of the books was written. His tale complete, nearly every book afterword did not have a connection to series anymore. They became books unto themselves. He'd told the story he wanted to tell. Look how long it took him.

If you prefer music, look at anything the Red Hot Chili Peppers have done... how often does "Dani" show up in those works? If not outright stated, but described as the same girl in each song you find her? Dani is a story that is still attempting to be told. Still looking for the ideal way for that to be expressed. It's not quite there yet. The project hasn't been dropped yet. Satisfaction of it has not been achieved.

You'll see this across so many bodies of work by creatives. This trend. If you look for it, you spot it. It is hard to "unsee" once you have. Repetition of the singular project that has not yet been realized. Just slowly expanded on and refined. Until it is the thing it was always meant to be.

There's a term for it.

Magnum Opus.

Their greatest work. The one thing that was the reason they had set out on the journey of being a creative to begin with.

I don't want to tell 1000 stories. I want to tell 1 story. But, how to tell it eludes me. It isn't yet what it should be.

That's why so much follows even my own work. Repeated characters (Selece and Samantha). Repeated themes (death, fate, what it means to have faith). The repetition doesn't even end there. Things that just follow my work from one thing to the next.

My projects have never "died". They've been put to the side while my brain mulls them over in the background of my life. Pieces turning and clicking into place, dump inspiration me, and the story begins anew. It is more complete. Then, it is put aside again. It's not quite refined enough. Maybe next time. My brain will mull it over again. Something else will make the next piece slide into place. To lock into what it is supposed to be.

And, if I get incredibly lucky... I will live to see it finally take the shape it always should have had.

Your projects never die. They just turn and fester in your mind. They build. They grow. They infect the body of your work. Until, they are finished. Or you die. Whichever comes first.

That's one of the joys of being a creative.

We set out to create the one thing. The thing that haunts and plagues our soul. That one little thing that wriggles at the back of our mind. We know what we want it to be, but not how to get it to what it should be. How to turn this lump of rock into the shape we see in our heads. That one thing. You see it. You know you do. But, you can't describe it well enough for it to take the shape it should be. So, it sticks in your mind. You can't let it die. Even if you want to. Your mind won't let it. Once you have seen it, you cannot "unsee" it. It needs to be brought into the world. To the very best of your ability. Again and again until it's finally real. Until it is what it should be. The form it always should have been.

Projects don't die. Even if you try to kill them. Not if you're a true creative, anyway.
 

LisaW

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I'm guilty of coming up with game ideas that become bigger and bigger & I end up being way too attached to characters and certain scenes... So I'm unable to cut the game to a manageable amount of work and refuse to concentrate on a huge project... It's been a neverending circle so far. :kaosigh:

This time around I did things very differently. I made a full outline of a new story (just short notes though) and intended game mechanics. I designed the characters quickly and figured out a general vibe for them, no more than that.

And then I actually got to work, I started doing assets instead of doing what I usually do: plan everything in detail and getting more and more attached to every single character, giving everyone way too much backstory, etc. This time around I'll hopefully get something done instead of dreaming about it. So far I finished a tenth of the assets already. Maybe I'll finish something this time around, maybe I'll get distracted again... We'll see.

Not saying this is the way to go. Just that you're not alone. I'm sure you'll figure out a way to make your project(s) work. Just keep at it and find out what works best for you! Maybe it's cutting down that project of yours to more manageable pieces, or not shortening it at all, or dividing it into several episodes or getting some experience with a shorter project instead. Whatever feels best for you.
You can do it! :kaohi:
 

HB_Games

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Interesting question. I believe a good way to decide is to consider the objectives you had when you began your project, then reevaluate if this objective is still relevant to you and if your project still corresponds to it.

In any case I think it's good to predefine a minimum to be done before you abandon a project. Maybe a version of your project with only basic features(MVP), without side quests, additional areas or multiple endings. And be really sure that you can complete it in a short time, like from 1 to 3 months.

Hope I could help.
Good luck in your project
(or in your next one)
:D
 

HankB

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I started on a huge game that was practically impossible to finish by myself, but I didn't know that at the time. It's still my "dream game", but I came to realize that it was just too big to actually complete.

I started working on a much smaller game, and after a few months, realized that that, too, was too much for a one-man team.

I did this a couple more times, and now have a game that is about 5% the size of the original game I set out to make, but is actually almost complete. It's extremely gratifying. Finishing a small project is infinitely more satisfying than never finishing a large one.
 

kirbwarrior

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Shelving a project doesn't mean losing it. The experiences and information you learned from doing it stick with you. The ideas you came up with are there. All you are really doing is changing it from "project" to "notes". And if in fifteen years you suddenly want to work on the project again, then you can! But the important part is you can take it out of the stack of "I need to focus on this" pile.

mainly in gathering resources for it, such as music and plugins.
And you still have those. Maybe you can only end up using a few tracks in a project, but that's more than none. Maybe you'll need those plugins and possibly for things you didn't think they'd be used for.
 
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