Daily Design: Post-Mortem
It’s over! Finally! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel relieved, but it’s a (little) sad, too. It’s been a long, crazy year, and for many people – certainly myself – it hasn’t been a great one.
I started this year unemployed, and began this blog as a way to keep myself busy – even just a little – every single day. In that sense it worked wonderfully, but I realized pretty quickly that there were some serious issues. I decided to stick with the original idea for the whole year; a game concept built around three randomly generated words.
The following is a list of what I feel went wrong, what went right and what I’ll be doing next year.
What Went Wrong
So, I don’t like to say that “the idea” was wrong, but it was definitely flawed. Design is iteration, and by necessity I could only do a single run through of each post. This meant that it had precious little to do with game design, and everything to do with generating ideas; and there’s no value in being “an ideas guy”.
That said, there is obviously value in ideas, but I don’t think it ultimately taught me much about design. It did help me learn to conceptualise a game at a base level quickly, and I think there are some genuinely cool ideas among the 366 – but it wasn’t great for what I originally set out to do.
The Random Words
I’ll admit it straight-up; I didn’t always use the first three random words I got. Some of them were very much inappropriate (the generators I used were apparently very much random) and others were simply foreign to me, or I just couldn’t understand how they could influence the idea. Similarly, some were just too similar to another word that generated alongside it.
Still, I tried to keep this to a minimum. My problem is largely how different the workload was on a day-to-day basis. Some days I’d smash it out in fifteen minutes, other days it would be two hours for roughly the same word count, and this usually came down to the generated words.
The idea of using randomly generated words was to challenge myself, but I think the restriction ultimately helped me, as they often do. Creativity can often be about sitting down and struggling through boredom while you try to, you know, create – having three words serve as a basis for an idea mostly bypassed this, to mixed results.
I credited people where I could, but the vast, vast majority simply came from Google images. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a “negative”, but I did find it frustrating at times – both because I wasn’t creating my own art (which would have been too time consuming), and because I spent the bulk of some posts just looking for an image that matched, and sometimes never managed to do so.
I got sick of writing posts pretty quickly, which is no surprise. What this meant was that I quickly stopped experimenting with tone and style of writing and just settled into a kind of informal template – “X is a game about Y, etcetera”.
This is a lot less fun to read. I recognise that it was ultimately for my benefit and I wasn’t specifically writing to an audience, but that’s no excuse to write poorly and leads to bad practices. Still, some days I had to write on my phone in car trips (we’ve all had days where we’re busy 24 hours, though rest assured I was a passenger) and having this kind of thing was a godsend.
This is a big factor in 2017’s goal, which I outline at the end.
I’m just the worst with tags. I wrote this blog as an exercise first and as entertainment a distant second, but maybe that was a mistake. Developing a following is a great two-way street for you and followers, and I regret not putting more time into garnering that kind of audience.
There are a few dedicated readers, and I genuinely appreciate them. Seeing certain names come up “X liked your post!” nearly every day is very rewarding (thanks! you all know who you are).
In the future I’ll work towards promoting the blog better, as well as making the reading more entertaining.
I Missed a Day
One day! A single one! That’s incredibly frustrating.
It was hard to keep a running count, basically. I have a life (really), and the blog wasn’t always (or honestly, ever) at the top of my concerns list. This makes it very hard to keep a running tally, and so I had a system – I would occasionally Google whatever the date was and see what day of the year it aligned with.
For example, I’d search “November 22nd”, and Google would tell me that it’s the 326th day of the year. Doing Daily Design: 326 on November 22nd? Great!
What I failed to account for is the fact that we’re in a leap year, which would make it the 327th day. At some point, somewhere, somehow, I missed a single day and didn’t notice for a long time because of this. On the bright side, I did so in a leap year – maybe that lets me break even?
What Went Right
It’s a Great Writing Exercise
This is the big one – writing every day, even a little, is an incredible way to improve. I know that’s true of everything, but writing is coming a lot more quickly and naturally to me now than ever before, and I absolutely attribute that to having written every single day this year.
It wasn’t necessarily a great creative writing exercise, and I still take a while to create characters, scenes and so on, but I absolutely recommend doing something similar to anybody interested in writing.
You’ll hear this, time and again, from every successful writer in the world. Want to write for a living? Then start writing. It’s a skill, like any other – you need to practice it in some form. This blog has been a great way to do that.
It Led to Some Great Ideas
I originally planned to do a kind of “Top 5 favourite ideas” list, but then realised I absolutely could not be fucked to do so. Still, some ideas are stand well-and-truly above the rest. I don’t remember the names of them (there are 366!), but a few were ideas that I believe hold genuine merit and could be developed into something successful and interesting.
This isn’t true of the majority, though. Many are basically reskins of others, intentionally or otherwise. Some are simply terrible ideas, others aren’t commercially viable, others may be commercially viable but just aren’t unique or interesting. Still, the handful that are really great more than make up for this, at least to me.
I struggled whether or not to put this in the “Right” or “Wrong” section, but ultimately I’m pretty happy with them. They mostly rely on alliteration, but some are really great, my far favourite being the early “Conflict of Interest” in a war game about destroying your own structures to generate an income. Others – like “Avoid Molten Chickens” – maybe weren’t so interesting.
It Got Me a Job
That’s right – I’m employed! In my industry! I haven’t properly started yet (soon!), but it’s a great feeling.
I can’t realistically say that this blog got me the job, but it sure didn’t hurt. When somebody asks “What have you been doing this year?” and I truthfully answer with “Stopping the Burning Legion from destroying Azeroth”, I’m a lot less likely to be hired. Being able to prove that I’ve been part of a creative endeavour, however small, was essential.
It Stopped Me Being Depressed
Realistically, not depressed – I don’t actually have depression, and I want to make that clear. However, being unemployed for a long time has been the most challenging point of my life.
To those who haven’t been unemployed for several consecutive months – it’s awful. I know that’s probably what you were expecting, but seriously, it’s the fucking worst. Do not recommend.
Without a work/life balance, I could never relax. Spent 9:00 to 7:00 looking for work and building a portfolio? Good luck enjoying 7:01 – 10:30 or whenever you go to bed, because trying to enjoy yourself will make you feel immensely guilty. It sucks.
Applying for work is also awful. Ever tried to go into a store with your resume post-2010? Every manager I’ve met just gives me a look that mixes apathy with intense pity and tells me that they only accept applications online.
Go online and you’ll spend upwards of 2 hours on filling out individual application forms, then send along your resume and cover letter (and prepare to be re-asked questions that you’ve extensively covered in that paperwork).
That stuff is fine – my problem is that there’s absolutely no payout in any form until you happen to get lucky. And it is luck; with thousands of applicants for some jobs, there’s an extremely high chance your resume simply won’t even be looked at. But spending hours a day to receive nothing but a handful of rejection letters isn’t great for your mental health.
Having something stable to keep me occupied and productive in this time has been invaluable, and I cherish it immensely, even if I didn’t always enjoy actually doing it.
I did it! For the whole year! I had no shortage of doubters (mostly close friends who are unabashedly honest with me), and I don’t blame them, because I’ve dropped out of similar commitments in my formative years.
Having done it, I’m damn proud. It’s not climbing Everest, it’s not winning a grand award and it’s certainly not becoming the president with literally no political experience, but I did it, and I’m happy about that.
What’s Happening Next
Through 2017, I’ll still be updating the blog daily, but I’ll essentially be rambling about an individual facet of games. Health Bars, for example, or ammo counters, skill systems, talent trees, shoes, strange trends, whatever.
It’s way more loose, thematically. I’m basically going to incoherently ramble at my PC for several minutes a day and hope people enjoy the read. They’ll be stream-of-consciousness posts, and I hope to basically dissect an idea and give some (hopefully informative) thoughts on the subject.
It’ll be design focused, so I won’t be rambling on about specific industry terms unless I feel it really helps nail a point home. I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks a lot for reading this and, if you did, for reading my previous posts. It means a lot, and I hope to see you continuining to read them in the future.
Happy new year!