What I was least prepared for was that things like light, water, atmosphere, and gravity, are not necessarily standard when you are building a world from scratch. If you are licensing a game engine, these things are likely fairly standard, but when you are creating a proprietary game engine there is every likelihood that these niceties won’t necessarily exist and might need to be fought for. Lastly, just because you have them doesn’t mean they won’t brake at some point, involving another fight to just get them back to working like they were before.
Two ExamplesSometimes it can be hard to revisit your own work. Once completed and open to the public, and despite numerous accolades, your experience as a designer can be tainted by what DIDN’T make it into the final product. In the case of a new land we were poised to open to the public, elaborate cartoon hinges were designed and manufactured for all the doors of it’s highly themed buildings. Despite their being designed, paid for, manufactured, and sitting in a box in the construction trailer, we were too close to opening for them to be installed. As far as I know, they all ended up in a dumpster somewhere… and visiting the land, even 20 years later, it a reminder of what never got done, as I am faced with a land with no themed door hardware.
On the digital front, I worked for years on creating a virtual tropical island whose beaches stretched to meet a nonexistent ocean. Including water around the island was deemed “hard” and so the island sat on a globe surrounded by an endless expanse of blue carpet. Water eventually arrived, but not until after having been open to the public for several years.
The truth is, you never can tell what the challenges will be, no matter the project you are working on. It is true, the designer is seldom satisfied with every aspect of how their work ultimately came out. Still, we strive, and continue to fight for the little details even when there are forces out there that assure us they aren’t all that important.