Is there a solution to my programming motivation problem?

Community Forums/Technical Discourse/Is there a solution to my programming motivation problem?

Matty(Posted April) [#1]
Hi folks,

I enjoy writing code. I write it for a living.

I keep coming up with ideas for games (either browser based or mobile) - and I put a few things down on paper, get mildly excited by the prospect of making something, sometimes quite elaborate concepts and then it hits me.....->

No one will play it. It will reach an audience of probably 5. It will just go on the trash heap of all the other small time developer games that the app stores and web is full of.


That always demotivates me. Sends my motivation straight through the floor.

I write a few curse words on my page and then move on from that idea of inspiration I had and do something else.


How do I solve this problem?

How do you solve this problem? Do you have this problem?

In terms of coding challenge - game programming doesn't really challenge or extend my knowledge much.

In terms of fun - I enjoy playing my own games (still play Star Dancer most days, still play Gorgoth from time to time and a few others) but I don't particularly get much out of games I can get on either mobile or PC either commercial or indie.

But I always get to the point of having a nice idea I'd like to create and then the sound of the thought that 'it will never be played by anyone' pops into my head and I instantly bin the idea.

This was never a problem 10 years ago, before the advent of the mobile markets, when I was still making demos and games purely for myself on PC.

So what has changed?

Why do I now care whether it is worth building something in terms of other people's reception of the idea?

Why is it no longer enough to create purely for myself?

Have I outgrown the games I like to create?

Have I been 'infected' by the facebook bug that means nothing is real unless it is shared with a million people?

What has happened?

RemiD(Posted April) [#2]
My opinion : there is not only one way to spend your time/energy/money in this world, and while i appreciate to make video games during the winter period, i now think that this is a waste of life to be obsessed by that and to spend most of my time/energy doing that, especially nowadays when the rewards are so low compared to the time/efforts you put in it (and i am not talking only about money)
But as always, you do what you want !
(maybe improve your drawing skills with beautiful naked women ? :P)

Matty(Posted April) [#3]
Thanks RemiD....yeah....i can see that.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#4]
You need to examine WHY you program, out of these 3 reasons

1. Making it for fun
2. Making it for money
3. Making it for recognition

Sadly, if you're making it for either 2 or 3, of course you are probably going to get demotivated.

Like you describe, if you're aiming for 3, you may as well give up on programming because it's almost impossible to do that now, harder than ever.

Aiming for 2 means getting a job full time on someone elses game. In my opinion you need to aim for 1 or 2 only, having a balance of 1 and 2 would work wonders.

My current status is half and half 1 and 2. I gave up trying on 3 long ago.

If there's no passion though in doing for fun, and money being a bonus.
Focus all your time on making what you want, worry about what happens when you finish it afterwards. Also I've told you this many times, stop procrasting on the Internet and here, it will only sap your motiviation.

AdamStrange(Posted April) [#5]
Grow a thicker skin, learn and move on.

It's not great when something you think is great, and it gets canned by everyone else.

Do it for love, don't expect anyone else to like it or thank you for doing it - they won't.

Go back to the start and do a few game jams with something simple. you will get better feedback

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#6]
I don't think it's even about thicker skin in this day and age, because a lot of shit sells and good stuff gets swallowed due to saturation, even if you make something great, it's likely someone might steal it / rip you off.
Being successful is particular random. I believe Matty should make stuff he enjoys and not expect any success, but revel it in should it happen.
Thick skin is a decent quality to have, but facing the harshness of reality is probably the better option.

It's not the year 2000 anymore where some of us could make at least some money working in our bedrooms on Blitz. The whole world is now making games easier than before and in practically hundreds of languages. Standing out from the crowd is tougher than ever, maybe impossible.

But yeah, game jams is probably a good idea. If you work on a big game then it doesn't do well, then make lots of small projects, might be an idea.

coffeedotbean(Posted April) [#7]
[double post]

coffeedotbean(Posted April) [#8]
I'd say you'll get more attention for making a bad game than good game today.

I'd say get in on some Jams. Lots of successful games come out of Jams, might even make some good contacts its a good way to know if an idea has any legs without investing a lot of time.

The most success "eye ballz" wise I've had was when I go Pangemic on Steam, for a while a nice little community popped up it's died off now ofc but was a good few weeks. Even got some let plays on youtube.. I am in the big time now. IT's had almost 5000 download, though only around 3000 have played it.

Blitzplotter(Posted April) [#9]
Programming for fun - the gratification from creating what you think may be impossible is what has done it for moi in the past. Although, my coding has been on the slide of late - I seem to enjoy walking the dog, riding the bike.

Networking thru game jams might help.

Mainsworthy(Posted April) [#10]
you have the option to collab on projects too, you may be good at part of a game that you are on a whole game.

here is one were doing now, please come and join in

markcw(Posted April) [#11]
Maybe you expected more people to play your games and now that they didn't, your motivation is gone. After all if you're the only one who's going to play it, then what's the point?

You can try to make something you know other people will like or just make something you know you will like and don't expect anyone else to like it. If you do the latter you'll loose that motivation, so I think you need to find an idea that you like and you know others will too.

Unlike you, I've never been a good enough programmer to actually finish a game, but after a long break from programming I still want to write a simple networked 2d retro remake for mobile. I always liked the game and that keeps motivating me to try again and I know there are a few people that should like it.

Trinosis(Posted April) [#12]
Matty, if it makes you feel any better, i pretty much feel the same way.

I've been coding since the 8bit days and remembering back to the 80's, i recall it still being a saturated market and difficult to make successful games.

I remember reading comments from famous C64 coders back in the day, who i thought were making lots of money and being really successful, only to find out years later that it was far from the case.
The coders of Armalyte for instance have stated they could have earned more money staying on the dole than they did writing the best C64 shooter of all time and the Rowland brothers, famous for their Creatures games just making ends meet with the sales of their games.

So from my perspective, it looks as though things haven't changed much in that regard at all.

In the end, if you enjoy writing games, then that's it's own reward.

RemiD(Posted April) [#13]
Personally i think that making video games is an interesting pursuit but you have to be careful to not develop an obsession for it, because unlike some jobs/hobbies where you can stop and go live "real life" without thinking about it (what i do now), with programming, you usually think about how to solve this and that all day/night long and the list of problems to solve, improvements to add, is endless...

EdzUp MkII(Posted April) [#14]
Coding these days doesn't have the cutting edge that the 8bit days had now even some languages even hide the main loop from the coder. I still prefer coding in C++ than Unity, heck even BlitzMax allowed for the total experience but for me later versions like monkey which hid the main loop with OnCreate etc didn't work for me in a big way.

Yes I miss those old days of cutting edge coding where we had total access to hardware without the OS getting in the way.

Matty(Posted April) [#15]
I think Enay is right.. There are 3 motivating factors or possibilities:

1. Own fun
2. Income
3. Social recognition.

Options 2 and 3 are out. That leaves option 1.

The difficulty with 1 is whether I think it is worth my time and effort to make something...the kind of thing I will find fun will take a lot of effort to make...but can I be bothered making it? Only I can answer that question.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#16]
I can tell you Matty from experience that it was originally only 1, then became 1 and 2. I had a great time in Blitz until about 2007, 7 years of fun times. Living with my parents was great, even if I didn't make too much cash, I had no rent or bills to pay.

Sadly though as I approached 25 (or maybe earlier) I started getting cabin fever and other worries such as never meeting new people, never going to get a girlfriend and other stuff, such as the games I first made probably never even going to be played by anyone, even myself and then eventually due to old hardware, perhaps impossible to even play.

Long term, games are great but unless you have 3, nobody will even remember what you did.

Now I have fun making stuff at work, but I couldn't care less about the end product, in 1-2 years the servers will shut off and it will die anyway. So Matty you need to have the fun of making and not of the end product, it's the way of the world. The coders of Armalyte for instance, I remember that game, loved it, but here is the thing, I never gave those coders money, I never will and I don't even know who the guys are. In other words, even if you get social recognition, it's not going to help pay your bills.

In the end, as humans, being social and having a secure future sadly takes priority over everything. If you can find a balance between programing and life then that is great. I wasn't able too.

Now I'm happily married, good income and living in Japan, my dream one could say. But I literally had to venture out my "living and working at home" with my dream to do so.

Matty(Posted April) [#17]
Thanks Enay..I think I'm similar...

I started with 1. programming games for fun, then I found a job in 2008 which I'm still at coding for a living (4GL ERP software - think a more advanced version of Cobol but quite nice) - this satisifies a large part of my 'need to code'.

But as time developed I spent less time playing games and felt they were worth less to me as a pursuit in terms of entertainment.

So I have 2. as my livelihood - I code for a living.

3. (social recognition) became more important to me as I grew to become part of the facebook culture...I think something about being part of online communities lead me to value the social recognition that game making provides - which admittedly 10-15 years ago it was rather unique to make games and my friends were an audience who would play them....although as they too grew older and grew out of game playing and into responsibilities such as parenting - we had less time for social game playing (I play board games these days).

I think personally my interest in games has declined as I've aged but I've still hung on to the desire to create games...I think somewhere along the line though I've become less excited about many games including my own and so the motivation factor is disappearing....

....however I have other creative pursuits - writing (I wrote a book recently), drawing (I still update my website with pictures almost daily), and for a brief time I started learning piano.

But for some reason game making holds a place in my heart that I cannot quite let go of.

I actually enjoy programming my own personal and private web applications that I use on my phone or elsewhere and this too gives me a sense of satisfaction....

So I think my programming needs for creativity are gradually being met by other creative endeavours that are more private and kept to myself.

That was a bit of a ramble...but it says a few things I think.

Matty(Posted April) [#18]

I've just created something on a webpage that will occupy my need for creativity quite nicely...I don't need to share it at all and it satisfies that creative urge/need that I have.

Basically I have written a web page that provides a prompt of 5 random dictionary words that I give it over time until the dictionary is quite large.

I then take those 5 words each day and craft a short paragraph or few paragraphs of a connected story to the previous day's paragraph.

At the end of a week or two I should have a very unusual but flowing logically consistent fictional story to satisfy my need for creativity.

RemiD(Posted April) [#19]
@Matty>>i have thought of another way to use our programming/modeling/texturing/animating skills : not sure what kind of music you like, but if you search for some music on youtube, sometimes (this is the case for ambient trance, progressive trance, melodic trance) there are some nice backgrounds, sometimes static, sometimes dynamic/animated, which can be (probably have been) made tools like blitz3d. And you only need to make one or several scenes, not a whole game !

Matty(Posted April) [#20]
Yeah....that sounds good RemiD....I do like that sort of thing too.

Matty(Posted April) [#21]

what the webpage looks like for now....

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#22]
A slightly off topic random question Matty, but how old are you again? Are you in your 30s or your 40s? I seem to have a recollection that you are about the same age as me.

Matty(Posted April) [#23]
Just turned 40.....

Yeah it probably looks quite childish but it is fun...

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#24]
I'm 38, not long before I'm 40.

Well the reason I ask your age Matty is that, reading your posts not just in this thread, but

It seems lately that you're having trouble with your programming mojo and staying motivated.
I'm wondering if you're perhaps suffering from a mild midlife crisis or just quite simply loneliness.

Now of course, this isn't an attack against you, or anything. It's just that sometimes reading your posts, you remind me of myself.

I don't think motivation is your problem, you have a whole ton of content, gallery, code archives, blogs, you've completed several projects.
You're certainly one of our more active members.

And you mention you're also writing a book, drawing, doing websites, piano. You're busier than I am, and I thought being in Japan, I had no time.
However what it comes down too is that you appear to have no trouble

All the creative activities you mentioned are all activities that require full input from you, else nothing gets done.

As I mentioned before, I knew even in my mid 20s that something was wrong, I didn't have a shitty job, I had the best job, listening to my own music, games programming.
Working on what I wanted to work on, protected by my parents, I should have been the happiest person, except I started feeling unhappy.
I was going through a mid life crisis and yet not only did I not realise it, I didn't really know what the solution was.

It was back then I started learning Japanese, then I wanted a change of scenery, so I became a student in Japan learning Japanese.
After that I became a games programmer, and after 2ish years of that. I even started to learn Korean, then I met someone.

What I've just described is the same as you, I kept focusing on new things, always trying to do new challenges, changing with what I was working on with something, new, fresh and challenging. Everytime I started to feel that weird feeling, like I had used up my motivation, got bored. I quickly changed to something else to stop those feelings from getting stronger. I kept hobby hopping. Moving on before I got bored, but in hindsight it was a vicious circle

Whether it's psychological, or mental I don't know. These days I can't be bothered to learn new programming concepts unless my job forces me too, it feels like I'm lazier than ever, not creative at all.
Yet I feel happier than I've ever been, and scariest of all, this is how I used to feel before I became 18 and had to become an adult.
I was the same back then, I spent way too much time playing games and enjoying life and not studying or working so hard, and now I'm doing that again.

I think for me it was when my mum was looking after me as a kid growing up, and when I became an adult I needed to venture out and find my own way in the world. And that's perhaps what the solution was for me, it's connecting with people. First it was my family and now it's being with my wife.
Literally nothing has changed in my life except for living with my girlfriend and then getting married. I remember complaining here on these forums about my job years ago, it's still the same job.
Yet I don't hate it at all anymore. If I have a shitty day I know I'm going home later to see my wife, just like when I got bullied at school and knew I'd be going home to see my mum and dad, and play games in safety at home.

For now, I don't seem to suffer like I did, for the past 3 or 4 years. Those feelings might come back. I don't know.
But I had writers block, lack of motivation. I poured my whole being into being creative and when you do that, if you have a down day you have nothing else to fall back on.
Variety is the spice of life, it seems. Maybe it's because when I get home I have no time to mull over things, no time to spend hours on the Internet.
I don't even use the net at home anymore, and I feel much better for it.
Interacting with people. Whether this is what you're lacking in your life I dunno, that's what happened to me anyway. The less time I spend on the Internet the better I feel about pretty much everything. It seems you're pouring your heart and soul into your work, so of course when you put an app on the store and it doesn't seem to get noticed, you feel hurt, because you've put all your love and effort into it. You seem like a great guy, a social one, and you do it here with us, like minded people like yourself, even as far as bumping your own threads which extra posts, you're craving for our attention sometimes, or at least it seems that way, since you seem to after more human interaction.

As an example. Why did you suddenly change conversation from programming motivation towards your word creative website? You were eager to keep the chat going, even if it meant changing the subject.

Maybe, if you spend a bit more time NOT being creative you might find yourself being creative when you come back to it. You might be secretly wanting to get married or have children but don't know how and instead just focus on creating games instead.

It's just a thought anyway, but a lot of people when they start getting older start to feel this way if they've been alone for a fair while. You might be suffering more from lack of human interaction than lack of motivation. I know because it happened to me, it's just that at the time, I didn't know it.

Matty(Posted April) [#25]
You are probably quite right.

There is stuff I write for myself on my private blog/journal which deals with some of what you discuss there - isolation/lonleliness is possibly a big part of it.

Lack of human interaction - definitely. I'm not going to go into the details but I've recognised for a long time that this is something that I need to work on and have written to myself about it often.

Thanks for recognising that...

Isolation is definitely something that is a part of my life. A lot of my creativity is as a means to fill that gap of isolation with something meaningful. I have a relationship with a wonderful woman and we see each other a couple of times a week (midweek/weekend).

But you are quite right and perceptive with your comments.


I don't really know what else to say in response...but I'm glad you said all that.

Yue(Posted April) [#26]
What I have to say is that it is a hobby, always comparing it like filling the crossword, where the idea is to solve something and pass the time. In my case that is the idea, in this way to learn and have fun, and what I have given over time is that after learning then you can think of doing something, since all my projects have been learning and so I think I'll never do a video game. Well, motivation does not exist, it's like going to work every day, the motivation is to get paid at the end of the month, but if that would not happen, why go to work? Over time, motivation becomes an obligation.

Pakz(Posted April) [#27]
Motivation is kind of meaning "waiting to jump the moat of say a castle" You never get to capture the castle if you do not jump the moat.

Just do the programming and do not wait until you want to do it.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#28]
I only recognised it because like I said, I had similiar issues not so long ago.

If you live on your own. If you can, I highly recommend you move to a city if you aren't already. When I was sitting in my parents house in a small town, there was literally no opportunity for me to do anything or try and change my life.

At the very least even if you can't do that, you should do stuff in your life which isn't creative, if you throw all your basks into one basket and for whatever reason, you aren't feeling upbeat. That's your whole world on a downer.

Now if I get mad at work I can just chill out at home, go for walks with my wife. Basically just do the exact opposite of what got me down. Having 2 or 3 completely unrelated things going on in your life is a good thing. If one gets you down you can do something else and then go back when you've calmed down / feel better.

If you are suffering from lonleliness, you should definitely cut down on using the Internet and social media. It will help you.

Move too or go a big city, by yourself. Pretend you are a tourist, randomly talk to people. You will be amazed at what random things you can find in life if you make the effort to go out into it. I only know, because that's what I did.

Sitting in my pajamas for days at a time never leaving the house coding all day on Blitz didn't do anything for me. Even if I did make some cool games in the short term.

MadJack(Posted April) [#29]
The games market has saturated much like the mobile market. Doesn't mean you can't make headway but the chances of having that big bedroom coder indie hit have markedly reduced.

So the advice now is target niches and/or get a library of smaller projects behind you. The good news is that games can have a long tail. Also perhaps diversify into other non-game creative options which you can sell.

RemiD(Posted April) [#30]
And keep in mind : you have a limited time/energy/money so use it wisely ;)

Yue(Posted April) [#31]
I think the video game market has not been saturated, what has been saturated is the development and sale of video game engines that make others think that they may be successful in creating a project. I still remember when I started with Blitz, I am an amateur with some dreams, but only that, the point here depends a lot on the age, the preparation and the environment where you move, and most importantly the resources that you can contribute to the project, Time, money, coding partners etc. But there is so much demand for video game engines, which are counted with the fingers of the hands, those who manage to make this a reality, and the most important thing to make money from the community are few who have managed to do so.

Naughty Alien(Posted April) [#32]
..i think games market is not saturated..its overwhelmed by 'i want your game for free' attitude, which makes you wonder, how much effort(read money) you wanna put in to your game..

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#33]

'i want your game for free' attitude

That attitude applies to everything these days though. I think movies and especially music are even worse, what with youtube and everything. The youth today, if they can't get what they want now, they will usually just do or watch something else for free.

I also have to agree, so much good free content, that I could quite easily never pay for any entertainment ever again. It's no wonder subscription style payment methods are becoming so increasingly popular.

Matty(Posted April) [#34]
Re: music for free, my partner's son was explaining the other day how on Itunes you can pad $10 and have access to the full library of songs whereas in the 'old days' you had to pay a dollar for each song.

The creators of content are really being pushed to the margins of profitability.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#35]
Again it's subscription services, which sadly means, you pay some cash to have access to everything, no matter what the content, but as soon as you stop paying you lose all of it.

It's a win win situation for the corporations but sadly difficult for developers. Also there is an issue long term that new content creators see no point in trying so in the future there will be less good new content. I think companies are just making cash on old goods, reselling the same old classics.

As far as movies go, there certainly won't be any ground making movies like Jurassic Park, Terminator, Aliens etc and things like that. And for music, there will be never be another Michael Jackson.

There's just too much entertainment going on all the time, everyday and most of it free.

xlsior(Posted April) [#36]
Re: music for free, my partner's son was explaining the other day how on Itunes you can pad $10 and have access to the full library of songs whereas in the 'old days' you had to pay a dollar for each song.

The creators of content are really being pushed to the margins of profitability.

In the old days, you paid once for that song and owned it forever. These $10/mo subscriptions are subscriptions *forever*, the second you stop paying you lose access to all of it.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#37]
So, no different to a library then. You have access too all the information, until you lose your library card.

xlsior(Posted April) [#38]
As far as movies go, there certainly won't be any ground making movies like Jurassic Park, Terminator, Aliens etc and things like that. And for music, there will be never be another Michael Jackson.

you're more likely to see sequels and such in franchises because they're a more predictable indication of how much money the studio can expect in return of their investment -- but there's still new franchises that make an obscene amount of money, e.g. Avatar which had a 2.5 Billion dollar global box office with no prior franchise to build upon.

The new Marvel and Star Wars movies also bring obscene amounts of money to their studios.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#39]
Let's face it though. Avatar was showcasing 3D theatre. I doubt it would have been half as popular without it.

xlsior(Posted April) [#40]
Let's face it though. Avatar was showcasing 3D theatre. I doubt it would have been half as popular without it.

Of course, there are currently not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 Avatar sequels in the pipeline, which are being shot concurrently:

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#41]
Pretty sure that since Avatar is nearly 10 years old (and most people will have forgotten about it) and 3D is not a thing anymore, that it won't be as successful.

cps(Posted April) [#42]
A poet friend of mine had/has the same problem, he writes his stuff and the concrete still gets poured.
My reply to him is that it is of no consequence, providing that every time a crack appears the weeds grow (which I think may be a line from 'The Stan Cullis Blues').
Just create as it is what makes us human or to quote some rather famous artist who's name I forget (He painted 'The Conversion Of Constantine), 'Let me die upon the altar of art, paintbrush in hand'.
IE Art for art's sake, programing for programing's sake or in my case at this time of year plant them seeds for planting's sake. Have fun cps

NRJ(Posted April) [#43]
The same problem happened with me also in the past, during the start of any project or work, I was very much excited but as the time passes my excitement and energy level go down, If any small problem or obstacle come in my way, I loose all my excitement and leave the project in the middle.

But now I have changed my habit of leaving the project in the middle before completing it. 

xlsior(Posted April) [#44]
Pretty sure that since Avatar is nearly 10 years old (and most people will have forgotten about it) and 3D is not a thing anymore, that it won't be as successful.

I'd expect that's why the director is choosing to shoot 2,3,4 and 5 simultaneously, so #2 bombing (comparatively) won't immediately cause the studio to pull the plug on the remaining ones since they've already did most of the work/expense on them.

MadJack(Posted April) [#45]
It's become a bit fashionable to hate on Avatar over the years but the verisimilitude of the onscreen world of Pandora was astounding and I think that's too easily forgotten.

(tu) ENAY(Posted April) [#46]

It's become a bit fashionable to hate on Avatar over the years

Why is it? I thought it was a pretty average film. Kind of reminded me of a worse version of the Matrix with all the getting into other bodies and stuff. It was ok, but I wouldn't watch it again. I actually have it on BluRay somewhere along with Spiderman 3 because they were given to me as a gift. But without the 3D (which I admit at the time, I enjoyed) I didn't feel like reliving that experience again.

I'd expect that's why the director is choosing to shoot 2,3,4 and 5 simultaneously, so #2 bombing (comparatively) won't immediately cause the studio to pull the plug on the remaining ones since they've already did most of the work/expense on them.

Sneaky isn't it. That's what happened with Matrix 2 and 3. I guess they knew they could never top the two, so instead elected to make the third at the same time because they knew they wouldn't get their investment back.

MadJack(Posted April) [#47]
I do watch bits of it on occasion on my PC monitor and there's still that feeling I got at the flicks of seeing a fresh new world. Pandora wasn't just a setting, it was a character in the film essentially. I think that'll still pull at the cinemas when the next one comes out.

Also, we're talking James Cameron here, not the Wachowskis who couldn't maintain after the first Matrix (and which wasn't conceived as a trilogy in the first place).

Naughty Alien(Posted April) [#48]
...i have enjoyed Avatar visuals, and that was the only thing kept me watching very boring movie..everything else, i saw ages ago in 'Dances with the wolves'...i guess, it was very impressive (story wise) for people who never seen mentioned Kevin Costner movie, and that, it was majority of folks who actually saw it (younger folks), hence large profit..

MadJack(Posted April) [#49]
Avatar's impact was its visual fidelity in every frame. But that might not be enough to carry the sequels or they might go places no-one's expected. It might be Cameron's finally overreached himself or maybe he'll pull another Titanic. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

JoshK(Posted April) [#50]
Can you make me a 3D-in-2D example game like Super-R Type? I need more example games.

Matty(Posted April) [#51]
Thanks Josh, thats a good idea....ive found myself a project however which I'm's in an untapped area for mobile which is nice.