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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Long term planning & Agile?

One of the initial questions raised about Agile development is "how can we plan for a two year project when the plan can change every month?". This is a fair question.

The answer is that you can't plan the exacting details of a project two years out. You can try, which is the major problem facing many game development projects. Typical long-range planning tends to lock down features and adjust the budget, and schedule to match. Agile's approach is the reverse of this. Features are the most flexible "lever" we have in controlling the budget and schedule. Anyone who has been on a team that has had a lot of people added on at the end in an attempt to keep schedule has seen the folly of this. With Agile, we iterate on the features to insure that the feature value we choose to ship with consists of the best features.

Agile projects use "releases" which are version of the game that are potentially "release-able" every three to six months. Think of a release as a version of the game you would publish on a game magazine's disc. It's debugged, optimized and passes some of the more significant TCR/TRC tests.

Releases are superior to milestones because they are true measures of the game's value. They can be focused tested and shown to larger audiences at E3. Everyone that has developed a demo for E3 knows the value of having the team drive towards the goal of getting a real product on the floor for that show. You discover the reality of what you thought was valuable and what was not building that demo.

5 comments:

JM said...

Yes, I fully agree with you, and I'm sure "agile" helps us to filter really valuable features and get a fixed release date, instead of delay more and more our deliver date in order to get all functionality (most useless) developed.
But I'd like to ask you: What does "TRC/TCR tests" mean?

Paul Mendoza said...

It's been kinda dead on this blog. Gonna post any time soon? I enjoy reading what you've got to say on here. Also, it's been a while since any new videos were posted on the highmoon main page.

Anonymous said...

I like the agile approach to planning, but you really still didn't answer the question ;) How do you plan a 2 year project ... or, more specifically, how do you sell the idea to a publisher who is normally looking to structure a contract around milestones, deliverables and want to see a schedule and game design upfront ...

Gwaredd

btw, TCR/TRC's are the set of standardised imposed by the console manufacturers which a game needs to pass before you are allowed to publish it.

TCR - Technical Certification Requirements (Microsoft/XBox)

TRC - Technical Requirements Checklist (Sony)

Lot Check (Nintendo)

dengyu_li said...

all kinds of popular games

Clinton Keith said...

Gwaredd,

Thanks for pointing out what I left out. You can't plan the details in full. The question then becomes what you ask (sort of): How do you sign a contract with a publisher to make the game?

I'll post about the contract options soon. One thing to note is that in my experience as an independent developer, never once has the publisher read the design docs (game and tech) in detail. I think they approved the doc milestone based on page count or weight of the printed doc!