Game Development Reference
Busy idiocy is hard to avoid because it's not naturally self-correcting.
When a developer fails at solving a problem, the result is obvious. Everyone
can tell if code doesn't run to spec, or art is ugly, or a design is unclear.
Failure of this kind produces immediate emotional feedback, so it's natu-
ral for us to improve our problem-solving skills when it happens. But busy
idiocy isn't like this. In the short term, busy idiocy feels like raging genius.
We feel good when we solve a problem, but our emotional unconscious
doesn't signal us when the problem we solved was irrelevant. So we solve
problem after problem, happily, busily, idiotically not realizing that the
problems we chose were the wrong ones. The consequences of this kind
of mistake only appear much later, far away from the original error, and
often the connection is never noticed. This lack of feedback is why we can
make the same busy idiot mistakes over and over for years or decades, and
feel good about them the whole time.
Some imagine game development as a path that we follow toward our
destination. I disagree with this image. I think it's more like a dark forest
full of stinging monsters, waiting to inject you with anesthetic poison.
Each time you bump into one, it stings you and the poison makes you
feel warm and content. But under the surface, the stings are stealing your
vigor, dissolving you from the inside. It's only later, as your strength runs
low and the moon clouds over, that you might realize that the pleasant
feeling you've enjoyed all this time wasn't progress. It was death.
This section is about finding your way through the darkness.
The Problem of Assumptions
I wish I could just lay out how things are done for you. I'd list the order of
steps that every studio goes through to make a game. It would be straight-
forward to write, it would be well referenced, and everyone would agree
But I can't do that because nobody has solved game development pro-
cess yet. There is no one way things are done. Rather, there is a prolifera-
tion of methods.
Most of these methods fail regularly. Sometimes it seems like almost
every game misses its deadlines and exceeds its budget. Work is trashed
due to politics or misunderstanding, or retained out of fear. Money is
thrown desperately at problems, only to cause more problems. The gaming
industry is awash with stories of panic-driven “crunch time”—death
marches of 10- or 12-hour days every day of the week lasting months or
even years. People gain weight, miss watching their kids grow up, or burn
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