Game Development Reference
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processes begin. Stronger worker castes of ants show up and remove ob-
stacles on the trail. Soldiers start to patrol it, watching for threats. Some
worker ants sacrifice themselves, stretching their bodies across gaps in
the trail to make bridges. Together, the ants create, optimize, and defend
paths to the best food sources in an extremely efficient manner. And all
of this magnificent complexity happens without a central plan, by the
combined behavior of stupid ants following simple, local rules. None of
the ants understands the overall strategy of what is the group is doing,
but all of them still somehow coordinate their actions into an integrated
approach to solving the problem. It's as though the ant colony forms a
collective, distributed mind of far greater power than any of its individual
participants. An ant is stupid; an ant colony is smart.
Game development must work the same way because no one person
can possibly understand everything happening in a development process.
There is just too much happening for one human mind to contain it. So,
like ants, we must instead each only play our role in the larger distributed
mind, and let the greater collective intelligence emerge from our indi-
vidual actions driven by local circumstances.
We can't do this with the Taylorist approach. We cannot take decisions
away from the workers and put them in the hands of a few controlling
brains. For distributed intelligence to work, we must spread authority over
the team.
DistRiButeD autHoRity
Ants don't have bosses who tell them which way to turn on a pheromone
trail. They each make their own decisions based on local conditions. This
has two main advantages.
First, it uses all the brainpower of every ant. In Taylorism, the brain-
power of the workers is left fallow because every decision is taken away
from them. Not using such a valuable resource is a mistake—especially in
game design. The entire point of working with a development team is to
harness their minds, not their bodies.
Second, distributing authority makes full use of the local knowledge
possessed by each ant. Every ant knows its immediate surroundings very
well since it's so close by. If the queen had to tell each worker what to do
all the time, she'd make poor decisions because she can only be in one
place at once. She would never understand what was happening around
worker #1314 the way #1314 herself would. The same applies in game
design. Every developer is close to part of the work in a way that nobody
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