Breaking The Wheel

Operations

A picture of interconnected gears because critical mechanics are interrelated and stuff.

What Makes This Game Tick?: Prioritizing Development Using Critical Mechanics

One of the hardest aspects of managing game development is prioritization. And nowhere is prioritization more difficult than in the earliest days of a project. If you don’t know what your game is, how the hell are you supposed to prioritize the work? I’ve struggled with this problem in the past and eventually ended up stealing a solution from the start-up world in the form of something I like to call “critical mechanics.”

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A picture of Dwight Eisenhower, a man who understood the paradox of planning all too well

The Paradox of Planning

One of my favorite quotes revolves around planning.  It came from Helmuth Von Moltke, a 19th century German Field Marshall: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”1. The implication here is simple enough: the plan that makes total sense on paper quickly falls apart when confronting the entropy of reality. And yet planning is essential for getting a team moving in the right direction. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “I have found that plans are useless but planning is everything.” And thus we arrive at what I like to call the paradox of planning: planning is the act of creating something that is simultaneously infinitely valuable and completely worthless.

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A photo of John Boyd, author of Destruction and Creation

Destruction and Creation: John Boyd’s Analysis and Synthesis Loop

Here’s a question for you: is dog-fighting (the airplane variety, not the literal kind) an art or a science? It’s obviously an art, right? Two pilots, and a wide-open sky – the possibilities for maneuvers and counters are positively endless. Endless, that is, except for this funny thing called “physics”. Far from being limitless, a pilot’s options are severely restricted by his altitude, speed, weapon load, and aerodynamic characteristics. The man the world has to thank for codifying this realization is one of history’s great iconoclasts: United States Air Force pilot John Boyd. But Boyd’s gifts to the universe were not limited to the military, and one of his last major labors before he died was a paper and presentation he called “Analysis and Synthesis” or, alternatively, “Destruction and Creation.”

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A picture of a yin-yang, the embodiment of trade-offs

Guest Post: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

My friends at Black Shell Media were kinda enough to host another of my scribblings, this time on the ever-present and ever-important notion of trade-offs: how to think about them, traps to avoid when dealing with them, and why it’s so important to know yourself when faced with them. Click here to read on: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

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A picture of a factory, which are parts of institutions, which sometimes create conflict of interest. Also, scrum.

Conflict of Interest: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I talked about the functional issues of scrum. In this post, I want to talk about the larger, economic problem with scrum. Namely, what was once an idea designed to support other industries has become an industry unto itself. And with that comes what economists would call a “conflict of interest.”

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Waves crashing because churn is bad. Christ, I hate alt text.

The Higher Order Consequences of Sprints: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 2

In the Part 1 of “The Fancy Mess of Scrum”, I talked about the flawed intuition behind sprints: how they batch work, obfuscate inefficiencies, and are superfluous in terms of extrinsic motivation. In this post I want to delve deeper into higher order negative externalities that sprints spawn – the consequences of the consequences.

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A rocket ship lifting off

A Comprehensive Guide to Indie Game Pre-Launch Campaigns

In a day and age where new titles hit the market on a daily basis, being able to stand out from the crowd is super important. In 2016, 4,207 games launched on Steam. Steam doesn’t let you launch games on weekends, so that’s approximately 16 games per day. How do you differentiate yourself from the 15 other games launching at the same time as yours?

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An image of Bruce Lee who, to my knowledge never used scrum or experienced the flawed logic of sprints

The Flawed Logic of Sprints: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 1

Back in the heady days of 2010, I was a newly minted scrum master, fresh off my training seminar. I was excited by scrum’s potential, but I also took care to maintain some agnosticism. I always told people that scrum was the best production framework I’d seen, but that I would happily kick it to the curb as soon as I found something better. With several more years of experience under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, better ways of managing development. And with that understanding came the further realization that I want to leave scrum behind.

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