Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Curse of Self-Improvement

Yesterday I began working on a new background.  I spent a very long time on it, even going so far as to wake up at 4am because I had the nagging feeling that a tree needed to be tweaked to look right.  After several hours, I finally reached a point where I was happy with it, and imported it into the game as a final version.

This is a relatively new feeling for me.  When I made the Ben Jordan games, my mantra was always, "fuck it, it's freeware."  Looking back, it seems that was a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, if I'd had perfectionist mode on, I probably never would have finished the series.  On the other, there is a lot of art in those games that could have been done a lot better.

However, we're always improving, be it with our art, music, writing, etc, and looking back at old work often makes us want to do it over or change things.  Sometimes, we get the chance and come out better for it.  Other times, it's better to just leave things as-is and move on to new projects.  However, what happens if, for example, midway through making your game, you discover an interesting new technique which makes your backgrounds look way better than before?  Can you afford to go back and make changes to your old work?  Will everything still be artistically consistent?

I've been learning a lot lately, not just from practice, but also from the guidance of Ben Chandler, and looking back at some of my old backgrounds for A Golden Wake, I've realized I could improve upon them quite a bit.  In some cases, I have.  In others, I've decided they're passable, but with a bit stricter attitude than before since it won't be freeware.  In any case, I think this is a fairly common issue, and an unfortunate side effect of learning and self-improvement.

It seems that this is probably one of the biggest hurdles for developers to overcome, especially in the AGS community.  I've often seen people post about how they think their art skills "aren't good enough," and so they get discouraged and never release a game.  Very few people start off as amazing artists, and if you look at backgrounds from older games or even modern ones, it's easy to find flaws and mistakes.  Nobody is perfect, and that shouldn't be a hindrance to expressing your creativity.  It's better to release a game that doesn't look great and serves as a learning experience than to get frustrated and give up.  


  1. Very wise words, and very much why I still continue to try and draw something even though I at the moment lack the skills. I know that over time I will get better and then I can look back and laugh...or burn everything and pretend it never happened.

  2. Where were these wise words about 7 years ago? nicely put Grund

  3. I think a similar, but even more common reason people get quickly frustrated are inconsistencies in the quality of their work. They manage to create a few pieces of art (or code or writing or something) they are absolutely happy about, but they lack the technique and skill to create other piece of the same quality within a relatively sane timeframe.

    One of a time achievement can easily lead to the delusion of a permanent skill/talent.

    I know that was a big problem for me when making games. I keep expecting to always be me at my best regardless of the specific task at hand, but that's impossible.

    1. Excellent point, that is definitely something that happens. Lately I've been doing a bit of art practice and doing a "speed painting" once or more a day, and the results are awful compared to some recent backgrounds. It makes me feel like I'm taking a step back rather than forwards.