Knowing when to abandon a project

I like to finish what I start. It feels like a failure to me to not see a project to completion, which is mostly the reason why I persevered with my PhD thesis despite not particularly liking what I was doing every day, having no money and living with my parents at age 30. So it’s with a heavy heart that I decided to stop working on my videogame.

This thing goes back a while. Once upon a time in 1995 I think, I went to a friend’s house to play some games on his Amiga. One of them was Gravity Power, which was so cool that I wanted a version of it for the PC so I could play it at home. Since there wasn’t one, I decided I’d write it. And so I did.

The version I wrote back then was in C and x86 assembly, 320×200 graphics on one screen and crude but playable. It wasn’t particularly good though. At some point I decided I’d write a better version, from scratch, with what were then high definition graphics (640×480). I did but soon enough my lack of experience with a larger software project showed and it was hard to keep adding modifications to the gameplay. So I rewrote it in C++.

This was my 2nd project in C++, and it showed as well. I can’t remember much about this version, I’d have to go look it up, but at some point I decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch again. I’d toyed with enabling networking in the game, and once I realised how much work that would entail, I made an executive decision: no networking. That way I’d implement everything else I’d wanted in the game but at least at last finish it.

And I did, the result of which can be found at sourceforge. It turned out alright, I think. But I’d come back to it yet.

A few years later the C++11 standard came out and I wanted to know it. My background is mainly C++ so I thought it would be inexcusable for me to not know the new standard of the language I know the best. The only way to properly learn programming is to write code, so in that in mind my plan was to write the networking code for Gravastar in C++11 and bolt it on the existing codebase. It was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I’d painted myself into a non-networking corner and decoupling everything was taking an enormous amount of time. C++ itself wasn’t helping, and the new standard had given me oh so much more rope to hang myself. I kept putting off working on it since it was so hard, getting distracted by other projects. Then I learned D, and my desire to write any more C++ dwindled to nothing.

I’d written enough of C++11 to get a good feel for it though, and I just didn’t want to work on networked Gravastar anymore. It just wasn’t fun. And since I was doing this in my leisure time, what was the point? So… I quit. I learned C++11, I learned that I still make a lot of design mistakes in code that’s not that old, and I learned that this time it’s just better to let it go. And once I’d done that, it felt like a weight off my shoulders.

I still want to write a game with a networking component. I just don’t want to do it in C++, or to adapt a codebase that had been designed in such a way to never accomodate networking to do it. It might just be time for a new project.


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