Game Development Reference
A studio's culture is a team's shared set of expectations, assumptions,
and habits. Decisions made now have long-term effects on culture, and
thus on future work. Some decisions can enrich and improve culture;
others can degrade and destroy it.
For example, changing story details and core design ideas too often for
little reason creates an expectation of further changes. Developers don't
think they can count on anything staying the same, so they start avoiding
investing themselves too much into ideas. They've had to suffer the emo-
tional pain of watching their well-loved work die due to story changes too
many times. The team's personal investment and creative vibrancy slowly
degrades. The studio has lost something valuable in both the social and
monetary senses, but it doesn't show up on a balance sheet. They've lost
Over the long term, culture is what determines the fate of a studio. It
drives every action taken by every person, all the time. It's worth sacrific-
ing short-term gains to keep it healthy.
DECISION COST is the cost of making a good decision.
Brain time, research gathering, and written analysis aren't free. It
costs something to make a good decision—and sometimes the best deci-
sion is to not spend too much effort deciding.
Unimportant decisions should be made off the cuff, by a single de-
signer, because the decision isn't worth the effort it takes to make. It would
be foolish to spend a half hour analyzing a tiny decision that will have no
significant effect. In this case, what looks like laziness is actually rational
indifference. You saw this in my combat design iteration process, when I
avoided analysis during the early iteration phases.
Important decisions, on the other hand, need to be carefully consid-
ered. Stakeholders must be assembled, multiple rounds of discussion may
be called, written reports, studies, and analyses may be completed. The
benefit of getting the right decision here is worth the cost of making the
highest-quality decision possible.
Decision Effects Case Study
Imagine you're a designer working on a shooter with fantasy RPG ele-
ments. Your studio, Dragon Brain Games, was founded two years earlier
by a businessman and a well-known fantasy author, Allan McRae, who
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