The premium game model of development has a general cadence: pre-production, production, alpha, beta, and certification. There are variants of course, but that tends to be the gist of it. Alpha, beta, and cert are, of course, where we divert our attention from making features to the grueling task of fixing bugs. And, dear lord are those weeks painful. One house of cards to the next. But that’s just how it’s done, right? Yes that’s how it’s done. But it’s also incredibly inefficient. This model of delayed quality assurance means we fix bugs when it is maximally expensive to do so: at the end. After they’ve been buried under other bits of code that rely on those bugs being broken in exactly the way they are broken.
How can we wrap our heads around the chaos of game development? By understanding that the famous phrase “find the fun” implies something important: discovery. How do you manage the creative process? By acknowledging the latter word of the phrase: process. If you can understand how those terms related – and where they differ – you can appreciate something vital to effective production. That nothing we do in game development is completely devoid of process. And, if you can learn to separate the process from the discovery, then science becomes a weapon against the dark forces of development hell.
I will continue to tell anyone who will listen that Jim Collins’ Good to Great is the best business book I’ve ever read. Or, at least I will until I read something better. And in that wonderful tome, Collins’ presents a mantra: good is the enemy of great. His meaning: by being content with simply eeking along (being good), you will never take the steps necessary to be great. I totally agree with him, but I think there’s a corollary: perfection is the enemy of productivity.
In the corporate world, as a general rule, marketers and brand managers do not get involved in the creative aspects of advertising. Their job is to determine the strategy behind an ad campaign and then let the professional creatives do their thing. The job of the brand manager is to ensure that the ads are on strategy, but to leave the actual creation to the pros. Of course, as game developers, we are the creative pros. So that guiding principle just doesn’t sit right with me in the context of game development. Besides, I’d guess many or most indie studios probably can’t afford to hire professional creative agencies or trailer makers. So, to make the best use of the post, I’m going to walk through some of the important concepts behind ad creation. I’ll leave the decision as to who will craft the ad to you.
Henry Ford once famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” More recently, Steve Jobs said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” What these quotes are really getting at is the danger of interview-driven design. If you ask people what they want, they’ll just say “faster, better, cheaper.” And creating new products is YOUR job, not your customers’. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to tell you what products to make. Imagining completely new products is not their in their skillset.
Sunk-Costs and Ugly Babies: On The Value of The Scientific Method – Game Planning With Science! Part 8
It struck me one day that “Game Planing With Science” has a glaring omission: the value of scrapping a plan. The goal of “Game Planning With Science” is to forecast, not predict. It’s to estimate and understand, but not to codify. You can’t codify the creative process, or the future for that matter. Just as important is the fact that life doesn’t care about your plans. Reality is going to be what it’s going to be. You can’t change reality to fit your plan, so modifying your plan to fit reality is the only path forward. As Dwight Eisenhower, one of the most immensely quotable people ever, once said, “Plans are useless, but planning is everything.”
I. Love. Aphorisms. Sure some are pure hogwash. But the really good ones convey a lot of truth in a small space. In this post, I gathered 5 of my favorite quotes, and explain how they relate to effective management.
I’ve been busy guest posting over the last few weeks. And rather than quickly pinch off a lackluster post for this site just for the sake of posting, I’m instead going to talk about what I’ve been up to, and where you can find it.
This post about five forces analysis originally appeared on my old blog and Gamasutra. I find that it’s as relevant today as it was then. Mobile is still a hot bed of both independent and publisher-backed development. And for good reason. There is a massive addressable market and mobile devices have high user engagement. Mobile also supports smaller test launches and rapid iteration, meaning that developers and publishers can treat mobile games less like products and more like businesses. Add to that the lack of any marginal production or distribution costs, and you have a super-sexy platform. And that’s exactly the problem. Mobile is so attractive and so accessible that the market place is perhaps the purest example of “perfect competition”, the yin to a monopoly’s yang.
This post is a bit of a capstone. It utilizes all of the tools to make video games scientifically that I covered in the Parts 1-6 of “Game Planning With Science”. Make sure you’ve reviewed those weighty tomes before digging in here. In this post, I’m going to walk you through how to utilize capacity charts, story points, user stories, variance, and the central limit theorem to forecast development time lines.