In the past, I have been asked the infamous question, "what advice would you give someone who is making their first adventure game?" The usual answer is "start small." It's true, overambitious design is the #1 killer of indie games. Most people start out wanting to make the next Monkey Island or King's Quest, but once they get a fair way into it and realize how much work it actually is, especially if working solo, enthusiasm usually dwindles and the project goes into stasis or just plain dies.
Starting small is good, because it means you're more likely to get your project done. Even if it's terrible, you'll have that feeling of accomplishment that comes with putting out a game. Plus, you can always use it as a learning experience for your next game, which is the most valuable result of all.
All this is well and good for beginners, but what happens when you've designed and finished several games? How do you know when you're being overambitious? There are always personal limits and boundaries to be pushed and experimented with, but does there come a point where you have to step back and realize you've bitten off more than you can chew?
I thought about this today as I finished writing A Golden Wake. So far I've programmed the prologue and first chapter, and most of the assets are in the game. I began seriously putting the game together around October of last year, which as of this writing was 7 months ago. Granted, I haven't been working on the game full time every single day, but that's still a rather lengthy development cycle, especially for 1/4 of a game.
Chapters 2 and 3 are pretty standard stuff well within my comfort zone as far as programming and art goes, but I really went crazy with chapter 4 and am questioning how I'm going to make it work. There will be a way, I'm sure, but there is still that nagging feeling of maybe having gone a bit too far. Then again, if I wanted to play it safe and not do anything unknown, the development process would get stale, and the end product could just be mediocre. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone might result in something amazing, or it could result in a disaster and I might have to find an alternate solution.
Either way, I guess it's worth a shot.