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I have already posted the question on the Workplace, but someone commented that it is more of an interpersonal skill question.

My friend started a project exactly two years ago, the project is an ambitious multiplayer indie video game. I saw the project grow in the first year from nothing to a terrible-looking but fun to play prototype.

One year ago, I decided to join the project as the second programmer. This gave my friend a lot of motivation and we managed to improve the game by a lot. We had the first release and a few players joined and hanged out on Discord. It was cool.

At the time, I was going to a school between High School and University that is exclusive to my region, my school's workload was very lightweight. I could pour a lot of time into this project. During the summer, I had a job as a software developer and worked over 50 hours every week. I still managed to put in 20-25 hours a week into the project. This of course, took a lot of sacrifice like the cute girl I was dating, but whatever.

At the end of the summer, we made a second release. It was more popular then the first one, but kind of disappointing considering the new art that made the game look good. I spent around $800 on art, but time is by far the biggest investment for both of us.

University started two months ago and I have a very big workload. I am very focused for this first term and I have very high grades. I intend to keep them like that. I am first and foremost focusing on school.

Even though I worked a lot more than a normal person this summer, University is exhausting me. I spend entire days studying and when I am not, I just want to relax now. My passion for the project has completely died. My friend on the other hand, is at a different University and things seem to go pretty smoothly for him. He has a lot of time to work on the project.

In the past two months, I had basically little to no activity on this project.

I am no longer interested in working on this project but this creates many issues.

Our code review methodology requires all code to be reviewed and tested, we take this seriously.

Since my friend is working on the project, I must approve his code before he can merge it. He has admin rights to the code repository, but since we stick to this methodology (which has truly proven to be effective many times when we were both actively working on the project), a lot of code ends up being queued for review.

Reviewing code is pretty boring, but we think it is worth it. This ends up to be my only task when I do work on the project. As I said, I am exhausted from University and when I see time to relax I end up doing a tedious chore.

It is affecting his motivation to work on the project

My inactivity on the project is clearly affecting my friend's own behaviour. I'm assuming this is caused by him seeing that the code is queued up, design discussions are not moving and having the motivation boost from a partner in a project removed.

Our friendship is being affected

We used to talk on Discord everyday in the summer while working on the project. Since I started University, I have not talked to him a lot because I have rarely booted up Discord. He is a friend to me, but both of us are not very social individuals. We don't really know each other deeply, but we hanged out together at school for around 2 years.

My finals are coming next month, but once they are finished I will be in a three week break (Christmas/Winter break). This would seem like an opportunity to get work done on the project. However, I do not want to work on the project in those three weeks. I am very burnt out right now. I actually think I need a few weeks off because I didn't take any days off in the entire summer. I even worked on the holidays.

In all honesty, in the short to medium term (1 year). I do not want to be involved in this project anymore. I have invested a lot of time and many sacrifices took place. I am diligent and can work a lot, but for me to work in such way I need to be very passionate which I am not at all right now. On the other hand, I am very passionate about University. My current plan right now is to focus on school and when I get to relax, actually relax like a normal person does.

I am not saying that I want to quit this project forever, but I am no longer interested in actively contributing to the project and maintaining the code's quality until maybe one day I will decide to come back to it (Unlikely but plausible).

I'll add that my friend is more diligent and hardworking than me. This guy doesn't relax either, so it's like foreign language or a waste of potential if I tell him that I want to relax.

How do I tell this to my friend?

  • I don't want to lie to him.
  • I'd still like to be friends with him
  • I don't want him to stop working or slow down because I left.

The feeling I have right now is similar to the one who starts a business with a friend. He wants to quit and move on, but too afraid to do so because his friend is more invested in the business and he knows that by quitting he is likely to destroy everything.

  • 2
    You have the difficult-people tag, but I don't see anything in the question that shows your friend being dificult. Is there some reason you think they won't take a simple "I have less free time now and I'm not so interested in this project any more"? An example of how they've reacted in similar situation in the past would be ideal. – Chris H Nov 5 '18 at 10:21
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I was in a rather similar situation where I was involved in a project. The difference was: - I was the one who started the project but while others didn't lose their motivation and energy, I did - There were multiple people involved

So, from personal experience I would suggest the following:

  • be honest considering the reasons
    • try to make your friend understand that you have different thresholds in regards to amount of work you can invest without a burnout
    • mention that if you force it, your productivity will continue to drop, as you progress in education the classes will become harder, and all this could in the end mean that you will drop out of the project anyway but also be burned out, maybe even be negatively affected in other areas of life
    • leave an open door, suggest (and actually consider) that after a couple of months break from the project, you may feel refreshed and re-motivated to re-join the project with new and more productive attitude (I did)
    • if you care about the friendship, then also would be good to mention that if he has an emergency on the project, or a problem he truly cannot solve alone, that you will be available to help out (just mind that he doesn't abuse this)
    • give him an advance notice, I understand being overwhelmed and wanting to end it all now, however this will enable him to both figure out a replacement as well as modify current procedures in place that include you, maybe consider still applying yourself during those 3 weeks so you can tie any loose ends and help him figure out the best course forward without you

It's unavoidable that he will be slowed down for some time, but you can help him find a way around that, and if you force yourself he will be slowed down anyway since you will burnout.

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