[MUD-Dev] R&D

Koster Koster
Thu Jun 6 16:48:10 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: Brian Bilek

> Earlier on this list, one of our more well known producers

We're all friends here, using names is OK. :)

> presented an example of the process he goes through when designing
> a game.  I instantly recognized a great many parallels to
> 'standard' software project management theory.  I have a number of
> books that could have been used as guides to developing that
> design process, adapted of course to the nature of the project (as
> it would be for any project).

Sure, and it's not like I haven't been reading some of that stuff
myself. :)

There is one hugely critical difference, though. Game development
tends to be much more iterative, because "fun" isn't really
quantifiable. So in that post, I went through the initial stage of
design. But after that comes much throwing away of documents,
starting over, rework, etc, that isn't nearly as prevalent in other
areas of software development. In most large-scale software
development, the initial requirements set forth will, if done
correctly, highly approximate the desired end result. The same is
not true in game design.

> My question is - what makes the gaming industry different?  If
> other niche industries draw on talent and knowledge considered
> standard in software development, marketing, and/or business
> management, why not computer game companies?  What is it about
> making a game that suddenly turns someone with project management
> skills into a 'game-company compliant' project manager?

I don't know that there is anything except an understanding of the
above point I just made.

There is a general disdain among many game developers for
academically trained programmers usually because games are

  - technically not held to the same standard as other types of software

  - on much stricter schedules than code done for academic applications

...but I have not generally seen a similar disdain for programmers
from the business world.

There is a general disdain for managers, marketers, execs from other
businesses because they tend not to be knowledgeable about
game-specific management issues (particularly the need for
iteration, but also market issues, etc), but these are simply areas
where a good manager will learn the ropes. So I view this as a
shortsighted position. There definitely have been many mistakes made
by executives new to the industry who try to treat it like the
movies or like baked goods. But they can get better at it.

> I would enjoy exploring if there are parallels between the effort
> that Game Developer magazine is undertaking and the management
> techniques developed in some of the knowledge houses like PMI,
> SEI, and SEL.

I've never attended any of the PMI or SEI sessions. But what I have
heard back from those in the game industry who have is that they
tend to miss the iteration factor above all, and to a lesser degree,
tend to miss the fact that "good engineering" often has to take a
backseat to business realities or fun.

This latter, of course, is pretty different as soon as you get into
the online world, where good engineering, maintainability,
expandability, etc, matter MUCH more than they did in single-player
games.

-Raph
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