Game Development Reference
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did that, then you should almost certainly have gotten eight, nine, or 10
answers within your ranges.
But if you're like most people, you probably got between two and four
of the answers. A small number of people get five or six answers in their
confidence range. Very few go over that, even when they understand the
test and have taken it before.
When I took a similar test in the topic Software Estimation: Demystifying
the Black Art by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press), I got four correct.
McConnell has given similar tests to hundreds of professional estima-
tors. These people had years of experience estimating completion times
and costs on software projects. Even among this elite group, McConnell
found that less than 1% of test-takers actually get the nine answers that we
should expect from an unbiased estimator. More than 90% of them got
five or fewer answers correct. Why?
Humans have a natural bias toward overconfidence.
Psychologists call this the optimism bias . Something in human
psychology makes a 90% confident estimate closer to a 30% confident
estimate. This overconfidence isn't limited to estimating numbers on a
quiz. People have been shown to be consistently overconfident on software
development budgets, economic forecasts, business plans, and military
This bias has tremendous implications in game design planning. It
suggests that without correction, a designer will have 90% confidence in
a design that only has a 30% chance of actually working. This is a mas-
sive gap between expectation and reality. Such overconfidence leads us to
think that we can plan things that we actually cannot. It makes us read a
design document and guess that it will probably work when it really has
only the slightest chance of working as expected. This biases us toward
tHeRaPeutiC Planning
Consider the expression feeling unsure . Technically, being unsure only
means not having a certain piece of information. But the phrase feeling
unsure is laden with negative emotional overtones. We judge an unsure
person as incapable and ineffective. When we are unsure, we imagine
ourselves feeling nervous and overwhelmed. Uncertainty is emotionally
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