May 27, 2016

Having One Purpose

Why Many Projects Do Not Reach Completion

There are many reasons a creator may abandon a project. The most common reasons I notice are that creators beginning from awkward starting points (see my article about Game Design Flow), lack of proper planning, and not staying true to the purpose of the project.

For this entry I would like to focus on the last point. When I begin any project I know that my chances of success and following through with it will be heavily determined by knowing exactly why I am pursuing it. Whether it is to make money, change career, learn a new skill or simply for the joy of it, the reason itself is not important. The vital part is knowing clearly in your mind what your reason is and staying true to it.

If I begin a project with the intention of making money, and after a few months I try to have fun with it and make something I would enjoy consuming, then I am likely not succeed at either and burn out from trying to pursue too many objectives with the end result. I would end up trying to please a target consumer audience and myself at the same time and my attentions would be too diversified.

If I start a project with the intention of learning some new skills, and after several months I attempt to turn the project into something profitable, then I am likely to lose motivation as I am constantly bumping up against my skill limits as I try to make a product somebody might be willing to spend money on. I will likely abandon the project due to my levels of expectation constantly fluctuating.

I do not mean to say that you cannot have a lot on your plate, by all means diversify your efforts. You might have to raise a little money to keep a passion project going, or learn a new skill to complete a long complicated project. My point is to keep in the front of your mind the fundamental reason why you are making your project. Because in my experience, when you begin to spread too thin the why, things get messy.

Go ahead and look in the mirror and ask yourself why you are making something. In my experience, the shorter the answer, the better you will be able to stay motivated and on track. Try to remember the real reason you started putting pencil to paper, or whatever your first step is.

Stay true to the spark that lit the fire that started the engine. (A steam engine... a fire in any other kind of engine is no good). A huge part of following through with a large project is managing your expectations, and that can be almost impossible if you are not honest with yourself about the purpose. 


  1. As a game dev, I do find it hard to stop our game from morphing into something too large and I wonder if I lost a little bit of my original plan along the way. I even once had to fire someone because he was shifting the game away from how it needed to me and wouldn't compromise. It was a hard choice but it shows your right about the importance of not veering off track. That said, I think sometimes it is okay to gain new reasons to make something or to reevaluate the original reason for making a game. I also can't help but question if that is truly the main thing that prevents game devs from finishing there game; I often think short easy answers can be dangerous when trying to understand complex issues like this.

    1. Thank you for your points. I think my position would be that if the central reason for pursuing a project chances, it might be best to consider it an entirely new project (at least mentally) to make the new position very clear and decisive.

      I did not claim that the topic of this article was the "main reason" that prevents devs from finishing a projects, it just struck me as something I had not read much about and might be valuable to write about myself.