The necessary evil, the monument to all tasks that lie ahead on the path to completion, the documentary evidence of your inability to get stuff done.
The To Do list.
It's become necessary, as I've been working through task after task I've found myself running like a small child around a toy store with all the focus of a bat with cataracts. It's not all bad though, I've been having fun doing the things I've been doing, which is a good thing! However, it means that the bigger things, important things, but ultimately less interesting things, don't get done.
A good example of this is two posts ago here I introduced the 4 main playable characters, our protagonists, our heroes. Since then, they've paired off and had a couple of children (read: 'I got distracted, again'). We now have the Viking and the Gladiator to add to the ranks. Yet, there was still no way of selecting them from any form of menu to play with. In fact, the only threat of a game was the randomly generated levels were restarting each time I completed them with the manually chosen character that launched at the start. In essence, I now had 6 mini-games.
This wasn't gonna cut it. So I knuckled down, focused and decided 'I gotta write a to do list.' Item number one on the to do list? Write a new to do list.
Sadly, I wasn't even joking. As I type this, I have 2 notepads with 2 torn off pieces of paper riddled with the infinite scrawlings and musings of a madman (I'd like to think I stole these pieces of paper from someone, but no, it's all me, baby!). I needed to make it coherent and I needed to make it more condensed.
My own target: I'd like to get some form of playable prototype out into the big wide world be the end of the month. That gives me not a lot of time, especially if I keep on dallying from one jingly set of keys to another (ooo shiny!).
I also acknowledge the irony that I'm writing this article whilst I'm supposed to be doing other things. What? You've never seen a hypocrite before?
Quickly tearing out a new piece of paper, I have now condensed my lists into something a) meaningful and b) small. The key criteria?
What do I need to do.
Sounds stupendously simple, right? But it had escaped me in the first place. Things like "make super cool particle animations" was not needed for a playable prototype, that sort of thing belongs in the refinement stage once the playable piece is out there. At this point, it was necessary to have an inventory system, a save/load system and unique character abilities.
These are the things I'm now working on and trying to be more focused in creating. Some of it is clearly placeholder and though it irritates me knowing it isn't as good as it could or should be, it is not immediately necessary to do. Hopefully I can get time before releasing the prototype/alpha version to pretty them up.
In the meantime, let's throw it to you. What experience have you had in knuckling down on something and having to focus? What did you find helpful to achieve what you set out to achieve? Did you successfully achieve it?