Not exactly in a "Workplace", but this is a side project and the reality is extremely close to the one of a startup so I assume that this is the correct place to ask.

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.

  • This is about friendship not business I would think, big difference if you're making money, to volunteering and even spending money.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 5 '18 at 2:03
  • 3
    I read the whole thing, I'd like to help you, it's a difficult problem which I've faced in different ways, but it's not workplace.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 5 '18 at 2:05
  • 4
    I thought there was a site just for startups, but can't see it on the list, there is interpersonal.stackexchange.com but I'm not a member and have no idea if they will help
    – Kilisi
    Nov 5 '18 at 2:15
  • 3
    Speaking from a similar situation from your friends side: Point 2 (his motivation) can be helped much if you clearly communicate that you can't /won't contribute in the short/medium term because university doesn't leave you the time and energy. Even better would've been to do this 2 months ago. ... Relying on a team which always fails expectations and slows me down (by waiting, and again and again asking for the current status just to be disappointed), and doesn't do other useful things either, is a much bigger motivation killer than working alone. For me at least.
    – deviantfan
    Nov 5 '18 at 2:39
  • 4
    This question is not about the workplace. Nov 5 '18 at 2:57

You just have to be honest with him. Every person knows and experiences burnout and if he's really your friend, he'll understand that.

Don't feel like you can't make yourself available for him. Let him know that you could (if you want to) make yourself available for a pizza and beer while he bounces some ideas off you. Just don't do any actual work.

You also shouldn't feel guilty about taking a break from the project. It sounds like you've gone above and beyond for a long time and now it's time for you to focus on your education and career. Again, if he's your friend, he'll accept that and agree.

With regards the project itself, that's up to him. He started on his own and if he really wants to succeed, he'll have to continue on his own. I know that's harsh but it's true.

The question for him would be what he wants to get out of the project. If it's to make a living making this and other games, he really needs to look at setting himself up properly, with at least one other member of staff who he pays to do the job you've been doing for free.


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.

You have the basics right there.

You say something like "Sorry, but I have to be honest and tell you that I am no longer interested in actively contributing to the project. I'd still like to be friends and I don't want you to stop working or slow down just because I'm not part of it."

And if you like, you can talk a bit about why you have reluctantly come to this conclusion.


How to tell? The answer is

"As quickly as possible."

Phone him now (right now!), and the language you want is,

"Hi Steve, regarding UltraBots, I won't be able to work on it anymore. I might have some time after July 2019 but nothing until then."

"Don't"s. DON'T say sorry in any way. DON'T in any way at all mention the upcoming holidays, or anything else. If he asks, repetitively repeat the phrase "I'm too busy now."

That's it.

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