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.”
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.
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.”
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
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?
GDC17 Feedback and Responses
GDC 2017 was my first GDC ever. So, I figured “Why not be an asshole about it?” and signed up to give two presentations. 6’ish months later I found myself at GDC, sweating bullets and shitting bricks. I should also mention that the longest presentation I’d ever given was about 10 minutes, and had signed up for a total of 90 minutes of speaking time. Anyhoo, both presentations went well and nobody died. And then, a month and half’ish later, my compiled speaker feedback arrived. It was largely positive. But, of course, there were a few people (4 in each session, based on the reviews) who took umbrage with ol’ Justy. And some of the negative comments bothered me. Not because people disagreed with me (that’s to be expected, after all) but because I couldn’t respond. But then I realized that not only could I respond (having a blog and[…]
New Guest Post: If You Want To Lead, Know Your Values
This week’s post…is hosted elsewhere. I wrote a guest post for my new friends at Black Shell Media. The post, “If You Want to Lead, Know Your Values”, is about a topic near and dear to my heart. Values matter to any organization, no matter the size. They matter from a company culture standpoint, certainly. But they also matter operationally and strategically. The most successful companies in the world have well-defined corporate values. But what are their values and, more importantly, how should you pick your own? Click this link to read on!
Game Advertisement Review: How To Effectively Critique Your Ads
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.
Video Game Advertising Strategy: Ladders, Bridges, And Sniper Rifles
Everyone knows what advertisements are and why they are necessary to drive awareness. But making an effective ad is not as simple as just slapping some captured video into a YouTube upload and calling it a day. Your target audience is bombarded by ads all day, every-day. Your conscious mind spends much of its life practically bathing in them. So crafting a successful ad means assembling something that can cut through all of the noise and provide information that will stick. And the first step is determining a strategy for your ads.
The Law of One Price – A Business School Mini-Lesson
Finance is hardly the most riveting topic, especially compared to video games. But, if you want to run an effective studio, you need to understand it. The implication of financial theory don’t just apply to your bank account. It should impact the calculus behind any strategic decisions. In this post, I talk about the “Law of One Price” and why it should give you pause before trying to imitate a successful game’s design.