3 min read

Design Blog #1: I'm still here!

I thought up a few reasons why I've been able sustain my energy and interest through such a huge project.

I have always had difficulty committing to my creative projects – rarely does my enthusiasm for any undertaking big or small last long enough to bear fruit. Which isn't to say that the obsessive few days or weeks I might spend are ever a waste, as they often become the seeds of some future exploration, but I often have to remind myself so, as we rarely hear about the false starts and works-in-progress of creators. In any case, I generally struggle to stick with any idea from inception to its realization, which is why I'm pleasantly surprised by my sustained attention to this hack!

I thought I would try to identify a few reasons why I've made as much progress as I have – which doesn't look like much if you're browsing this already-minimalist blog, but bear with me – and hopefully provide friends (and my future self) some hints about what we can do or what we might need to focus.

  1. I have time! I thought I'd start with the obvious: after leaving my job(s) and deciding to take the next few months off before my big move home, I have found myself with boatloads of time. Obviously, not all of that is going towards the game, nor do I necessarily work on it (or want to work on it) every day. But I finally have energy to spare and the hours in the day to hack away without feeling like it's getting in the way of something else. Is it sustainable? Seeing that Joe Biden has yet to cancel student debt, I would say no. But it is nice to confirm that in the absence of pesky responsibilities I can actually focus on something I enjoy, which brings me to my second point...
  2. I'm having fun! Another no brainer: there are plenty of reasons why a fun idea doesn't amount to fun in practice. Based on my past projects, I would say I stop having fun when I can't implement or try out new ideas right away, as is often the case when building a game from scratch. It helps that FEBuilder comes with plenty of patches to play with, and that the FE hacking community has been producing art assets for at least a decade, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel each time I change my mind or try something new. That said, I have to remind myself not to get carried away because...
  3. I'm keeping things small! One of my most frequent mistakes is thinking that I can reproduce the world inside my head in words (or in pixels). Ideas are intractable, which is why they're so fun, but it's easy to get overwhelmed when our ability to bring them into reality doesn't match up with our imagination. I was very intentional about making my hack just five chapters and a handful of player units, but even that is going to take a while! Nevertheless, with roughly three chapters finished as of writing, there is an end in sight. And giving myself these limitations, however arbitrary, also provides me an unexpected gift...
  4. I have ideas for my next game! As I jot down beats I know I won't be able to fit in this five chapter hack, I can't help but imagine how I'll include them in the next – but the only way I'll get to the next game is by finishing this one first! What will Ramona be like after a time skip? How does Ali feel about "the ending"? Answers to these questions will only make sense in context of the worldbuilding I'm preparing now, so I better keep at it!

I expect that I will add to this list as I discover, over time, other reasons why I'm still here working on this project. I don't expect anyone else to feel exactly the same – in fact, if you had asked myself a year ago if I'd be okay spending my unemployed days making FE hacks, I would have told you that it's impossible, and maybe at the time, I really thought it was. But maybe next time I feel like kicking myself for not sticking with this or that amazing plan, I can look beyond my own perceived shortcomings and recognize that there might be other reasons why I can't commit, and not all of them under my control.