About Project Planning – Take 1

The summer is still here but some of us are back and a bit too relaxed maybe… But nonetheless, the things are moving. Of course, not as fast and efficient as usual since not all the team is back. But, we have planned for it.

One of the biggest issues in the game industry right now is bad planning. You don’t have to go that far to find out same stories everywhere – studios that have extremely talented people but who fail to deliver on time, budget or quality. Makes you wonder is there is an issue with people in this industry or with the nature of the industry in itself.

In our experience, failing to deliver on time can be ok if the budget and quality requirements are respected. On the other hand, failing to stay in the allocated budget can generate really big issues since you cannot make sure that you will provide enough Quality to justify going over budget. It is interesting that there is no ideal recipe. Video games are entertainment, but also a form of art. You never know how people will react to something that you create. That is why the Quality of the product cannot be properly guaranteed. As a result, investing in a video game on any platform comes usually with a higher risk than in other industries. On the other hand, high risk comes with great rewards. You never know when you will hit the jackpot… And the reason people are still heavily investing in this industry is related with the high amount of success stories out there. If you come to think about it, at the beginning of this year, Apple announced a record-breaking December with over $1 Billion in mobile app sales – Source.

Since quality cannot be guaranteed, it is probably best to strive for delivering on time and on budget. And here is where the planning is extremely important. You need to set yourself realistic goals and always strive for the perfect functionality of the minimum viable product instead of looking for perfection. But this is a different topic.

Planning is a complicated business even if sometimes it can look just like a list of things that have to be done and that is all. First of all, in this industry in most of the cases companies are made of very passionate and dedicated people. Many of them are not primarily motivated by money, they are motivated by striving for that “quality” that cannot be guaranteed.  This means that planning has to motivate people. And people are not so easily motivated by a list of tasks on a sheet of paper…

As a result, planning needs to be approached from a  slightly diferent angle in the games industry. Because planning in this case is almost exclusively about people. You cannot think anymore that well, we have task X that needs to be done in time T, but we need to do it faster, thus we put two people on the task and it will be done in X/2. Actually, you could get in to the situation where the tasks gets done in X*2, due to the fact that people have opinions about how it should be done, and giving the nature of the job, those opinions will be argued! This means that you lost T*3 time since you allocated two people for it.

As strange as it may sound, best way to do it is make sure that the person doing the task will enjoy doing it. If not, either find someone who will enjoy or at least feel ok with doing that specific tasks (even if you will break that second’s person normal workflow), either make the task look very attractive. Presenting properly a task can change everything about it. It sounds maybe weird, but the games industry is still an entertainment industry, not a factory. So, why not make the work entertaining. So instead of working to play, how about playing to work?!

(end of part 1)