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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Story Behind Gear Up!


Gear Up launched today!

Wow...seven years almost to the day since my first book.   What took so long?  Well, cranking out 250 pages of text, illustrations and doing most of the proofreading on my own took years.  I'm proud of the result, but it was a "check off the bucket list item" thing at the time.

This book was different.  First, let's visit its origin.

Developers always ask me “we’re having problems doing X with methodology Y, what should we do?”. My first answer is always “What have you tried?”.  I ask this because the best solutions usually come from the people doing the work and experimenting with new practices, not following so-called “best practices”.

“Best practices” implies there are none better. Practices will always change as do our players, technology and markets. This leads to experimental practices, where teams explore ways of adapting to change and improving how they work together.

Thinking about that original question, I think of all the experiments I’ve seen developing games, training and coaching at over 100 studios over the last decade.  I thought that if we could share these as a reference, it might spark that sense of experimentation with many developers.  Experimentation is key not only to creating great games, but creating great teams.

I had a GDC workshop coming up, so I decided to make it about such practices.

The "Shonk" and I sporting our
Rugby jerseys at GDC
The effort hit gold when I started asking for other developers to tell their stories.  One such developer was Grant Shonkwiler, a producer I’ve known for years who has worked on dozens of titles at some of the more renowned studios.  Grant started pumping in practices and ideas for the collection faster than I could keep up.  As a result, the workshop evolved to be a collaborative exercise in discussing and sharing advanced practices, or experiments as we liked to call them.

While collecting these practices, we established some criteria for what makes a practice “advanced”:
  • Experimental - Expressed as something we are doing to solve a specific problem. If it doesn’t solve it, we stop doing it. Implemented with the idea that it will be eliminated or someday replaced with something better.
  • Incremental - Not so large that we don’t see the benefit, at least in an iteration or release cycle of a few months. They can be validated quickly
  • Flexible – Not too specific so as to be adaptable to differing needs
  • Collaborative - Not imposed. Demonstrates consideration, and respect. 
  • Radiative - Visible. Creates transparency. There is sometimes an electronic solution, but they are only recommended for distributed teams
Following GDC, our little group grew to dozens and our collection grew to book-sized proportions which led us to publishing them.  As with the practices, the book is an experiment.  We expect the collection to continue growing, which is why it’s on LeanPub for now.  First, we’ll inspect what the industry says about our effort and adapt it from there.

This experience was a joy.  It felt like being on a team again, which I have sorely missed.  Maybe the next book won't take seven years!

If you are interested in learning more about the book, please visit
www.AdvancedGamePractices.com



- Clint

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