Game Development Reference
out and leave the industry altogether. These repeated train wrecks erode
personalities and extinguish creative energy.
And it can be a mystery why it all goes so wrong, because it seems
like we do everything right. We hire smart developers. We motivate them
with well-designed incentives. We get them the right resources, the right
market data, the right technologies. We plan and schedule every part of
the product in meticulous detail, months or years in advance. But it all
falls apart, again and again. Why?
The problem is assumptions.
The failures of the game design process usually spring from deeply
rooted assumptions that we don't know we're making.
Everyone pays lip service to the idea of questioning assumptions. It's
much more difficult to actually do it. The real killer assumptions—the
ones that will have you crunching for six months and miss your kid's first
birthday—are the ones that are embedded so deeply as to be nearly un-
touchable. They're protected by layers of cultural momentum, habit, and
vested interests. They interlock into self-reinforcing systems of thought.
They let you use all your old skills and tools, and don't require you to learn
anything new. If it was easy to question assumptions, everyone would do it.
Assumptions aren't necessarily wrong. Questioning assumptions
doesn't mean overturning all of our beliefs—it just means identifying
them and ensuring that they're based on truth instead of habit.
In games, our assumptions come from two key sources. First, every
time we borrow a concept from another field, hidden assumptions come
along for the ride. Second, the human mind comes biologically hardwired
with assumptions. Let's look at each of these.
Why do we say a game is in preproduction ? Why a beta version ? Why is
development led by a director ? Why do games have producers instead of
logisticians or allocators ? Why do game teams have junior designers and not
research assistants , design apprentices , or privates ? Why director instead of
captain , chief editor , coach , or head chef ? Why don't we say that games have
a first draft ?
Each of these words signifies a process structure that was originally
developed in another field. The question is whether those structures make
sense in game development. Often, the answer is no.
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