Game Development Reference
goals to be fulfilled, not precise actions to be taken. They shouldn't be
telling people to make a character's boots a different color. They should be
communicating the intent behind why the boots should look different, and
letting the artist at work decide how to express that intent.
Leaders can't tell subordinates to do every little thing. Instead, they
must communicate the higher-level INTENT of the work.
The intent is the purpose of the work. What goals is the appearance of
this character supposed to serve? What is the purpose of this level? What's
the role of that piece of technology in the overall design? What does the
leader understand about this that the subordinate doesn't?
Intent is a concept I'm borrowing from military leadership. The cap-
tain doesn't tell the sergeant exactly where to send every soldier during
his assault up a hill. He worries only about which hill should be taken and
when. The sergeant doesn't worry about the details of other hills besides
his own. He just worries about how to direct his soldiers to take the one
hill he was told to take. And, in turn, each soldier decides independently
where to point his weapon and how to move his body to get where the
sergeant directs him.
By communicating intent, a leader uses his unique knowledge of the
design's broader structures to equip the subordinate with information he
wouldn't otherwise have. At the same time, by sticking to generalities and
not arrogating low-level decisions, the leader doesn't discard the subordi-
nate's mastery of details. The leader can't be there when inevitable prob-
lems and opportunities appear. He doesn't have the mental bandwidth to
understand what's happening in detail everywhere in the design. But as
long as the subordinate understands the intent, he can handle problems
and seize opportunities in a way that best serves the broader purpose of
his work. The subordinate might do something very different from what
the leader assumes will happen, but as long as the intent is fulfilled, the
game gets better.
For example, while directing a level in a horror game, an arrogant
Taylorist leader might say, “The player wakes up in a bathtub full of bloody
water. There's a message scratched into the mirror that reads, 'You'll never
escape.' The player explores the house and finds his girlfriend's dead body.
Soon after, he meets the machete enemy, and since he has no weapons,
he'll have to flee the house with the enemy in pursuit.” That's a list of
tasks to do. And if all those orders worked as expected, there might not
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