How Do You Motivate Yourself To Update a Game?

Hey All–

I have a loooong list of bug fixes, hint improvements, in-game cluing additions, and general cleanup for every single game I wrote. I didn’t do any of them, and now it’s a mountain of work. I just can’t seem to make myself go back and do any of them. I know I should. Every week I tell myself I’ll pick one and do it. But then I don’t. I generally have trouble going backwards in anything in my life, and this is getting to be an issue as the list gets longer. People graciously take the time to point out problems to me. I owe it to them, and to future players, to take the time to attend to these problems. But I just can’t motivate myself, and because everything is so atrociously organized, I have trouble finding anything in my code after so long, or remembering how it is hooked into other things. So I worry terribly that I’ll create new problems by fixing the old ones, and I know this is a reasonable worry.

How does everyone else do this? Is there anyone who just lets it go and feels fine about that?


Well, commercial products are generally done at some point and no longer maintained—the Infocom games still have piles of bugs in them, and Hadean Lands has a no-updates policy to avoid breaking save files. At some point it’s done and shipped.

Scroll Thief still has a handful of bugs in it, and also a bunch of awful dialogue that I wrote as a teenager that I’m sure I could do better now. But it’s also something I wrote a decade ago and I’ve moved on to other projects. I might get the inspiration to go make the last couple fixes at some point, but I also might not—and even if I did, getting it to build with a modern version of I7 would be a gargantuan task.


The only time it worked for me was when I got a few people sent me report to the same bug (which meant it was not possible to complete the game fully) and as I opened my file, I found the writing so embarrassing, my brain would not let me think about other projects until all was fixed and updated.

Otherwise, I run into the same trouble as you have, Amanda. It really feels like a chore that I don’t want to do, especially when there is a shiny new project that is just so much fun to work on instead…


I’m pretty much the opposite to you in the updating-things department, which is mostly just down to my DNA. So I don’t think I can impart any lessons from my DNA :slight_smile:

I’m trying to think of strategies from your position. You are prolific, forward-moving, and some of your code may be a bit higgledy-piggledy (cue Amanda saying ‘It’s ALL higgledy-piggledy!’). The higgledyness is a genuine factor, as the chances of fixes breaking things elsewhere increase when the code isn’t consistent.

To me, it sounds like understanding the code is the important context for you. If revisiting and re-understanding old code is going to be rare with you, the time to strike is when you do understand it – which is while making the game, having it tested, and in the honeymoon period of some comp afterwards.

I’m assuming most of the bug identification and feedback is happening during all this time, especially the comp period.

So if you can wield the discipline, I’d advise you to attend to those bugs and fixes in that comp to post-comp period. The game will be fresh in your mind, hopefully still exciting (due to people’s responses) and you’ll still understand the code.

If you let yourself slide out of this period, and especially into the starting of the next thing, without doing some fixing, sounds like your chances of doing so in the future are low to zero.

I’d take advantage of this window. If you can tick off a list of improvements on the game here, you’ll be able to say ‘I’ve made this a hell of a lot better.’ If you never revisit it after that and there are still some bugs, no biggie. That will be your now-improved version of moving on. You making this topic shows that you don’t want your version of moving on each time to be… the game was never improved and never will be.

But you may need to file your previous games in the moved on box for now. I would try improving either your most recent one now, if you still have it in mind, or wait 'til after the next one.

Having written this post, I realise a couple of things.

  1. That ‘right after I made it’ period is indeed where I fix most of the bugs and make most of the improvements, so I actually haven’t suggested anything too radical there
  2. Even though I’m a great improver, I’m aware that when a list of improvements required is building, I drag my feet a bit (like, I write something new instead of attend to it, for a day or three). But my experience in most cases is that the fixing goes super quick. I’m always amazed afterwards how quickly or easily the whole fix list went, and it does give me a little upper. You’d think my brain would have grokked this by now, but it hasn’t, quite.



I look at the list of 2 people who really like what I make, and remind myself that everything I do would make a marketing team go pale with fear and disgust, so those 2 people really took a leap to give my work a chance, and then had the generosity to provide a glowing review.

And then my ADHD returns and I feel like I’m failing those 2 people by not updating, so I hide away in shame for an undetermined amount of time, and—once everyone is certain I died—I finally post an update and a 3-page apology letter. And somehow those 2 people still give me a glowing review.

But this is for music and stories, specifically. Have yet to go through this with IF, but I suspect that will change after SpringThing.


I can identify with this. I think it boils down to time management. We all love writing games, but it is only a hobby. We have work, health and other things in life to worry about, so there is never enough time to devote to our hobby. And then there’s the lure of working on something new, rather than something old.

I think the best you can do is to keep a TO DO list for each game. Whenever you’re made aware of a bug or enhancement, add it to the TO DO list so that it’s not forgotten. It sounds like you might be doing this anyway.

I quite often find a better way of doing something in one game that could be applied to earlier games. In this case, either add that to the TO DO list or (preferably) make the changes to all the games at the same time.

When time permits and you feel motivated, work through your TO DO lists and do those updates. You can do this when you’ve run out of ideas for new games or the competition schedule eases off. (That’s pretty rare nowadays.)

If someone reports a game-breaking bug, then you should probably fix that straight away. That’s also a good time to attack that TO DO list.

I know I have at least one bug or outstanding issue in most of my games and there’s lots of things that I want to improve. I feel guilty not having done those earlier.

I had a month off work last January and planned to catch up on the back log, then SeedComp and PunyJam came along and I wanted to support both of those. Now I’m organising the Text Adventure Literacy Jam (along with @pinkunz), so I feel compelled to write a game to support that. After that, I think I might ease off for a bit to catch up on the backlog. Then again, I have a couple of larger games that I could enter in IF Comp. Hmmm…

I didn’t actually answer your question on how to get motivated. I think the motivation is always there, it’s just a case of finding the time to do those updates.


Should you really? I’m indifferent to this. I don’t really think you owe anyone anything here - if someone has an atrocious time playing one of your old games, they can always pick another.

I updated Erstwhile, not because I felt I ‘owed it’ to anyone else to make it better, but because I more or less knew what to do, how to do it, and not doing it had been bothering me for 4 years. I updated it for me and I enjoyed updating it (I like coding in Twine!).

If you would truly have a miserable slog trying to fix your old messy games and, putting aside any ‘obligation’ concerns, you find their implementation adeqate enough for your comfort, just…leave them be.

I don’t think writing games should feel like a chore, and it sounds like this is a dreaded chore to you. Onto bigger and better games where you’ve learned from past mistakes, I say!


I always try to update my games if people tell me about errors, but it’s a real struggle sometimes and I’ll often convince myself that the problems with it aren’t really that bad, even though I know they are, because I just don’t want to do it. Updating games is boring. It’s probably my least favourite part of game writing, even moreso than testing. I’ll often use any excuse I can think of to avoid doing it - I haven’t got time, it’s a really minor error, I’m sure it’s not really a problem, people are just kicking up a fuss over nothing, etc - all the time knowing full well that the real reason is because I. Just. Don’t. Want. To.

Years ago, I decided to update one of my earlier games based on feedback I’d received for it. I figured it would take me a week at most to update it. Six months later, I still hadn’t updated a thing and even though I thought about it every day at some point, I knew it was very unlikely I’d get anywhere with it. At one stage, I did actually start updating it but I just spent most of the time staring at the screen without doing anything. That was eight years ago. And so far how much of it have I updated? Well, I fixed a typo in the introduction.

So while updating games is a very good idea - especially in my case considering how rough some of my earlier games were - I’m just not sure I have the right frame of mind to actually do it.


Once it gets outside the initial development window, there’s got to be a lot wrong; either a major game-breaking bug or multiple niggling little errors; to make me go back in and revisit the code again. Particularly as fixing bugs can create new, even worse bugs.

(I have been known to go back to thirty-year old games, fix bugs and put in a load of QoL tweaks, but by that point it’s an interesting nostalgia trip rather than a chore.)


I don’t know. I have bug fixes already set to go for one game, but I feel like maybe I should do more to improve it, and am a little bit worried that I made new problems when I rewrote code, and now I don’t entirely remember how to put all the pieces together, either.

I wonder if it would be more fun to do it as an event/jam type thing, where everybody works on updates at the same time. Or a swap (like “I’ll fix your game if you fix mine!”).


I like @piearty 's and @8bitAG 's take on this.

Putting aside all obligation concerns, do you feel like it would be time well spent to go back and update your old games?

Apparently there is a measure of fun in it for some people. Can you find that joy in bugfixing?

If not, I’ll echo Aster: “…just…leave them be.”

Or, like Strident, you could revisit them in a nostalgia trip years down the road, an old crony bent above her keyboard (if those things will still exist; could as well be wires directly from your forehead) cackling at her bug-squashing superpowers.


I can’t stop fiddling with my old games. The early ones were all ported over from Adrift and I made heaps of improvements when I did that. I’ve played To Hell in a Hamper dozens of times with my nephew Max and he keeps thinking of new solutions to puzzles which are completely reasonable, so I’ve been adding those. Sometimes I’ll replay them and discover missing synonyms which will irk me until I go back and add them. In the case of Renegade Brainwave, which has a very symmetrical map, one player pointed that there was nothing really to do in the animal cemetery, so I added another puzzle which not only restored the symmetry but gave a use to an object which previously had only been included as a joke. Alias ‘The Magpie’ has had numerous updates to smooth off the rough edges. In Yak Shaving for Kicks and Giggles! I went back in after more than ten years when I thought of a new joke. There’s one game which I’ve published three times in three different formats which is getting yet another rewrite (and a complete restructuring) because I know there’s really good stuff in it, but it’s never quite found its proper form. I don’t really consider any of my games finished, they’re all works in progress still, but some are more finished than others.


I foresee myself doing this once I’ve actually released things…


That is definitely my process for updating works I’ve already published. I’ll reread or replay it, notice an error, and then I’ll have to fix it right away or it will bug me forever.


This is kind of a theme for those of you who are good at this/like to do this. I have never replayed or reread anything of mine once it’s out. I hate them so much by the time I ship them that they are dead to me. Maybe I’ll get a softer perspective on them after some time goes by, but reading through these responses, I think this is the problem. I just can’t stand to look at them.

I’ll fix big bugs, but otherwise I think they are what they are.


Is that all writing or just creative endeavors? If you go through old forum posts, do you have the same reaction?


I only do this to find coding/technical advice. I never go back to reread something I wrote unless I need to edit it. I doubt seeing my old posts would give me hives, as those aren’t things I spent months slaving over and failing to get perfect.

It’s a general thing. Ask me to do new tax stuff tomorrow, and I’m good to go. Ask me to go back a couple of years and I will ignore it and drag it out as long as possible.


Oh, me too! But that’s precisely why I go back and reread them a year or two later. When I put a little space between myself and the games I make I see them in a new light, and that’s usually when I spot the mistakes I couldn’t see when I was too close to them.