Game Development Reference
to see if they're improvements, and moves into them if so. The game be-
comes steadily better over time.
The problem with hill climbing is that since the mountaineer is blind,
he can't tell if he's climbing a mountain or a hill. If we start on the slope
of a low hill, we will get to the top of it, but remain unaware of the moun-
tain not far away. We want to jump to that mountain, but if we can only
take small steps, we have no way of getting there from the top of this hill.
Iteration optimizes a design, but does not revolutionize it.
To make great bounds across the landscape, we have to disconnect
from Earth for a while. This means making large design changes without
testing. This is risky—there is no way to know where you'll land until you
get there—but it's the only way to discover radically new ideas and escape
design ruts. Making a deep plan lets you try to see the mountains in the
distance—though you might arrive to find they're only foothills. That's
the risk of deep planning.
Why We Overplan
Both overplanning and underplanning are dangerous. But in game
design, overplanning tends to be the more dominant destructive force.
More developers overplan than underplan, and more damage is wrought
by overplanning than underplanning.
Why do people overplan in game design? There are a number of con-
sistent biases that push us to overplan again and again. To counter these
biases, we must first be aware of them.
From a young age, we're indoctrinated with the planning habit. Teachers
and parents instruct us over and over to plan ahead and think of the future.
And usually, this is a good idea. Careful planning built the modern
world. When engineers and laborers constructed the Hoover Dam, they
decided exactly what they would do before they started. They knew exactly
how much concrete they needed, and exactly where it would go. They could
precisely schedule their workers and materials deliveries for maximum ef-
ficiency. And the final product looked almost exactly like what was decided
on during the design phase.
But game design is different from these other tasks because it is more
uncertain. The Hoover Dam's architects could never discover halfway
through construction that the dam had to become a skyscraper. But Halo 's
developers discovered that their top-down strategy game had to become a
Search Nedrilad ::