Time invested in your games?

Does anyone ever track, or at least have a good estimate of, how much time you spend in authoring a game? I haven’t actually tracked mine but I’m thinking it’s way past 1000 hrs and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s approaching 2000…
Granted, I learned programming from scratch and the whole TADS library in the process…



If nobody has told you this yet, I am so proud of you, not only for authoring, but for learning how to code as a step in the process.

As a self-taught programmer that is a colossal obstacle by itself!

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I do.

I started working on my first Inform 7 game for ParserComp 2021 in August 2020. While I didn’t start tracking my time from the very beginning, I did start in April 2021.

So far I’ve spent 458 hours and 35 minutes working on the game (I’m currently updating v1.0 based on feedback and my goal is to have v2.0 ready by the end of the year).


Out of the 91,576 words I’ve written so far, 37,450 (40.89%) remain in the game.

  • 59,755 words - August 2020 to June 2021 (v1.0)
  • 31,821 words - July 2021 to August 2022 (v1.1 to v1.8)

I guess I can be a little obsessive compulsive about things like this at times.


I couldn’t even begin to track time. For one thing, I spend a LOT of time in my head with the story and mechanism before I write anything down. No way to quantify that. For another, I’m still learning Inform, so I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading old help threads here and searching in/reading the docs for things that are often quite basic concepts. Once I start going, though, I spend months writing every day. If I got a paycheck for all this it would be huge.


Same. No matter if it’s mechanics, arcs, sentences, or code, I sort through and plan a lot of it my head before I write anything into the actual project. I got a notebook app on my phone and I will write down brief, key phrases that will help me recall larger plans and ideas again later, when it’s time to start actually writing.

So I’m not really sure how I’d clock that either. I’m technically still working on a project, even when I’m putting dishes away or cleaning the bathroom.


Agreed… when I estimated my time invested so far I wasn’t even including the myriads of hours (driving, sitting through something uninteresting…) muddling through things in my head…


I honestly have no idea. At any given time I might have as many as five works-in-progress on the go at the same time, and I switch between them as the mood takes me. There are periods where I work intensively on one game every day for weeks and weeks, and then suddenly I’ll hit a wall and stop for a few months. Maybe I’ll work on one of the others in the meantime, but sometimes real life is so hectic that I do nothing with my games besides research and thinking. Occasionally work on a game will stall for a year or more because of a problem (usually with structure) that I can’t resolve. Solutions to problems like this often come to me in dreams, or in a sudden flash of inspiration when I’m doing something quite unrelated to writing. The time between starting work on a game and releasing it can be anything between two and fifteen years.


tracking dev time for me is basically impossible: often dev sleeps for months if not years, then have an intense burst of some days/weeks, and so on…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I think the most I’ve spent is about 400 hours for big parser games. My smallest game Swigian was written in one day and then beta tested for a couple of months, maybe 20 hours altogether of my time.

My choice of games project was probably around 500+ hours, it took two years and most nights I’d work on it for a bit.


Congrats on the recent win! I fear I did not have time to play any of the parsercomp games…


I’ll echo that. The more you plan ahead, outline, keep to scope, and know exactly what you want to do and where you’re going, the less time you’ll spend coding. Especially if you’re not doing anything tricky that you need to figure out and code experimentally.

It also depends what kind of game - parser will include TONS of play testing and troubleshooting. A choice game requires a lot less - which is why I have been working in choice. I also tend to make rather complicated choice games.

When I wrote Fair in Inform 7, I purposely kept it very small. I thought about it for a year and completed it in about 2 months in my spare time. I was almost waylaid by a mechanic that broke the game and had to spend one sleepless night picking it apart and removing it right before the deadline.

Conversely, Cannery Vale which is an extremely complicated choice narrative in done AXMA (basically Twine) was code-executed in three months between my small-but-complicated Cragne Manor room that took a month and the IFComp deadline. Again - it was a game that had been thought about for a long time, and assembled from several existing concepts and games. An Inform 7 version of that would have taken me at least a year.


I got the demo of Budacanta done in around 250 hours. Amusingly, I’ve spent close to that long juggling translations for said demo. I’m not sure I want to know how long I’ve spent on the second part because I feel like feature creep may have set in.


The more I plan ahead, outline, keep to scope, and know exactly what I want to do and where I’m going, the less inclined I am to actually write the game. Too much planning, for me, kills a project stone dead because the planning scratches the creative itch that prompted me to write it in the first place. To stay excited about a game I have to not know where it’s going at the outset. It’s an incredibly inefficient way of doing things, so what actually happens is that I start a project with absolutely no planning whatsoever, carry on until it becomes a complete mess, and then backtrack, doing all the planning I ought to have done in the first place and throwing out a tonne of work as soon as I’ve figured out what it’s actually about. At school I got good marks for my painting compositions but would lose marks when my art teacher discovered that I hadn’t made any studies. At film school I was regularly berated for drawing the storyboard after I’d finished editing the film. And that’s probably why I take so long to finish things, because I make them up as I go along. But it seems to work for me.


With regard to creative projects, I really only have two speeds: obsessed and bored. If I am obsessed, I am working on it daily, and thinking about it often. Sometimes I space out in the middle of conversations. When I am bored, I’m not working.

It’s hard to account for the time while obsessed, because daydreaming and thinking about the project are all productive work time. I don’t take notes or draw maps—that seems to ruin it for me—I’m just working things out in my head. The old project manager in me would say that the efforts of playtesters are project time, too—not just my time responding to testing.

Putting it all together, I think it’s a lot of time. More than 40 hours a week, certainly.


I can understand that, although I do actually plan writing these days - but in my head, rather than on paper. It’s the committing of the plan to paper that deadens it for me. I need to plan, though, as I’m very easily distracted and if I just made it up as I went along, I’m pretty sure I’d never finish anything!

I admire people who are actually able to keep track of the hours they’ve spent over these things. I must have poured an inordinate number of hours into my games for hardly anyone’s benefit but my own, but that’s OK by me because, you know, I really am a fabulously appreciative audience for myself. But in terms of crude time taken from instigation to publication, I reckon Dawn of the Soviet Ladybirds (quite a long game) took around two and half months to do (a lot of that learning stuff in Adventuron, but this was during the first UK lockdown, when there wasn’t really much else to do), The Faeries of Haelstowne (a massive game) took about 10 months to get finished, and Custard & Mustard’s Big Adventure (somewhere in between the others, length-wise) was done in about 6 months.


Maybe double, or triple that. When I’m properly into it, I could probably spend 400 hours a week over a game and not even notice, if it wasn’t for the subtle indicators my nearest and dearest betray when I’ve been neglecting them and staring at my laptop for too long (no one else in my family having any comprehension of text games. Not even the dog, although he does try harder than the others to understand.)


Yes! Sooner or later I am “invited” to take a break.


Oh, me too! And I make notes. But I try to let the story remain a nebulous cloud for as long as possible, so that if I have a great new idea for it there’s still room to include it. If I were to count up the hours I’d have to include all the hours of research, which in the case of some games would be nearly as many as the hours of writing.


Me too. I will sometimes (usually when I’ve have too much wine and know I won’t remember this incredible idea tomorrow) write something in the margin of a book or on a receipt. But 99% of the time, when I come back to these, they don’t make any sense anyway and I’m left wondering what the hell “Like it’s invisible. In a tree” means. That is an actual note I left myself.


Aha! Now we know who to bug when we want to borrow a time machine… :wink: