Time: The Indie Developer’s Most Valuable Resource
November 19th, 2014
By Peter Robinson
Most large corporations say that their most valuable resource is the human resource. If you’re an indie game developer, this corporate mumbo-jumbo probably doesn’t apply to you. And that’s not because people aren’t valuable, but because you don’t have any. You’re going it alone or perhaps with a friend. Maybe you’ve banded together with a ragtag team of creative types bent on changing the world. I salute you. But regardless of your team or lack thereof, your greatest resource is time. You don’t have enough of it. So the time you do have needs to be used in the best way possible. To do that you’ll need to spend a little time to manage your time. The following is my advice on how I’ve learned to manage my time to maximize game development. I’ll talk fast. There isn’t much time.
Track Your Time
If you don’t track the amount of time that you spend building your game, I can almost guarantee that you will fail. You must track every moment you spend on game development or anything related. As I type this I’m tracking my time spent working on my blog. Once you’ve recorded your time you can then watch how your times change over the weeks and months. For instance, you might feel like you’re putting in a lot of time right now on your project, but tracking your time might show you that you’re consistently putting in less time each month. If that continues you’ll probably stop working on the project in a few months. Give yourself a goal to hit by week or month. Take a little time at the beginning of each week or month to see how you’re doing. Guard yourself from burnout by setting a limit as well. Tracking your time can give you motivation and warn you if your project is in danger of dying.
There are a million and one services out there that can track your time for you. I use toggl.com. They have some nice tools, a free version, and a simple payment structure if you want more. I then take my times and put them into a spread sheet on a monthly basis so that I can graph them and look at trends. The important thing is that you find something that works for you.
Quality, Not Quantity
Time tracking has a dark side. Once you start measuring the quantity of your work, it’s possible to let the quality of your work start to slip. I have found that some other goal is necessary to keep this at bay. For me, having to do a release of Pirate Code every month forces me to make sure I’m producing – not just eating up the clock. Regardless of how much time I get on the clock, I still have to do the release at the end of the month. You can use some other metric, like number of tickets completed, but it is necessary to have a goal that doesn’t relate to time for all this to work. Your goals should involve a deadline and you’ll need something or someone to keep you accountable to that deadline. How you spend your most valuable resource is just as important as how much of it you spend.
A Final Word of Advice
As an indie game developer, you’re up against the most creative, hard-working people in the world! If you want to have a ghost of a chance to entertain the masses then you must spend your time wisely. Carefully consider what to add to your game each time you sit down at your computer – knowing that you won’t have time to add everything you’d like to. Track your time and make every minute count!
Did I miss something? How do you keep the ball rolling? Share it with us in the comments!