How to achieve your goals as an indie game developer

Becoming a great planer is as good as becoming a great game developer. At least, that's what we believe in Unforgiven, plan like an adult but dream like child. In this article we wanted to share with you our approach on planing and how we go about on setting goals for the future of the company.

Below dear readers, our tips to become a great planer and achieve your goals!

Establish your vision

Nothing is more important than having a clear vision of where you want to go. Before you make any plans, you need a goal to go for. Let's learn how to find it by asking yourself these questions:

What do I really want?

This is your vision and dreams, this is what will keep you on track when things go sideways (and they will). This will be the foundation of your long term goals. Don't be afraid to dream, it doesn't cost you anything!

What is important about it?

Here you must define the reasons you find this vision so important to you. This may change along the way and evolve but they must be crystal clear.

How will I get it?

Start to figure out which methods you are going to use and what are the action steps required in order to accomplish your main goal. If your goal is to make a game that has a beautiful 3D environment, begin by figuring out what you need to do in order to accomplish that goal. Start small and go for bigger and more difficult tasks when you get more experience.

What is preventing me from having it?

This is where you start to analyze all your obstacles. You will notice that many of the obstacles you have are found within you. Being disciplined and developing good habits are great tools to overcome these obstacles.

How will I know I am successful?

Make a list of tangible goals that are measurable. Perhaps you want to reach a goal regarding a certain amount of people has played your game or you may want to get featured in a popular site showing your game or your artwork. Also, a good idea is to make a list of all the projects you have accomplished and see in retrospective how better you have become because of the practice obtained (and don't worry, you will get better). 

Your list of goals

After you answered all these questions, you will be amazed at how much information you have. It is always better to put your thoughts into words and by the time you answered all these questions you should have a better understanding of where you want to go. Reviewing those answers from time to time is something we do at Unforgiven and it's highly recommended. It keeps us on track and reminds us what our mission is and purpose as a company. If I can tell you a little secret is that the vision defined will also help you make better decisions.

As a small game studio or any small business it is frequent to lose track and stray from your goals, opportunities may rise that involve work that is not aligned with what you want to do. Just stay focused on your goals and stick to them. Make the choice according to what your vision is and remember there isn't a safe choice in life, so why not take a risk to make your dreams a reality? Better live 5 years of adventure than 50 years of boredom.

It's amazing how we spend many years in our education without receiving a single class in how to become a great planer. As game developers, we are focused on learning one or many disciplines: 3D, concept art, programming, music, animation, technical art, production, business, and the list can go on. We want to become the best in what we do but to achieve it you need to become a great planer if you want to get to the top.

Long term vs short term goals

Now that you have a clear vision of where you want to go, it will be easy to make a list of long term goals. For instance, you may want to have 2 games selling on the market that really make you proud by the end of 2020, build a great relationship between the community, your company and the games you make, or you can even be working in your dream company by that time.

After you have your list of goals, start to make the goals smaller. If your long term goals are 2 years from now, start making the list for the first year and then make the list for the next six months, 3 months and so on. How many lists should you have? Eventually you will have a daily list of tasks you need to do now. And with this method you can be certain that every small task you complete is taking you a step closer to your bigger goals.

The daily list

This is the most powerful list you can have. This list is also filled with your vision, values and mission. This is not a list filled with random tasks. Not only does it has all the things you need in order to achieve your end goal, it is also aligned with your "1 month list", "3 month list" "6 month list" and "1 year list"! It means that if you start doing what that list says today and continue to do so over the course of 1, 2 or 3 years. Guess what? You will be living your dream!

This is the difference between success and failure. Failure is the result of making small bad decisions every single day for a long period of time. Success is only an small adjustment from the failure formula: the result of making small good decisions every single day for an extended period of time.

I'm not going to lie here, working on the list is hard work. The list is filled with hard decisions where you will often chose to do the easier ones. That's why I'll share how we go about finishing the list.

How to finish the list

It's better to do the list the day before. Think about the tasks you need to do the next day and order them by priority. How do you know which tasks are the most important ones? Try to answer this question: If I were to leave for a trip tomorrow and won't get back to work in a long time, what would be the most important task I can complete to save my team from headaches while I'm absent? This will usually solve the problem of your most important tasks.

Change the list if you think it's needed. It is normal for the list to change, your monthly goals will change and adapt to your circumstances. Changing the list is part of the process, it means you are working on it, at first you can have a plan but after working on it everyday you will notice that there are a lot of factors you didn't considered the first time. Don't be discouraged by the changes, as time passes you will become a better planner.

Celebrate when you achieve a goal when you think is worth celebrating. It will keep you motivated to pursue your goals. Congratulating yourself is a sign of maturity! Never underestimate yourself.

My last tip on the list: check the list everyday. Part of the fun making the list is checking it out! Otherwise it doesn't work. You will notice that the list has a positive effect on who you are becoming as a human being and a professional. If the future gets clear, the price is easy!

Discipline

This is a topic that deserves it's own article but discipline is what will make you finish your list. To be disciplined in difficult tasks, you need to start being disciplined with the easier tasks. Think about it, to start changing the world you may first start by making your bed first, it's easier.

The good thing about discipline is that you can improve in that area. We are filled with decisions every single day to do the right (also hard) thing and the wrong thing (also easier). Choosing the easiest option will level up your level of laziness and you may start to become a procrastinator without even noticing it. On the other hand, if you start choosing the difficult task, you start to becoming better at it and as you become better you will be able to do harder tasks. That game or project that you waited for so long to start it, now you are prepared to go for it and finish it easily.

That's it for this article, I hope you find it useful and apply it to your work. As game developers, we often forget to learn about this areas. This is what will make you achieve your goals and set a clear vision for your company or what you want in life!