Friday, January 25, 2008

Perfection is the enemy of "good enough"

This story reinforces the point that time-boxed and iterated in-game art produces the best results (cost and quality).

A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced. All those on the right would be graded solely on their works’ quality.

His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group; 50 pound of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an A.

At grading time, the works with the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of clay.


Arto Ruotsalainen said...

Thanks for sharing ! :)

Joel said...

What costs more money - the clay it took to learn or the time spent thinking without tangible results?

Business often fears spending money. Even armed with this great anecdote, the tangible costs of experimentation will continue to stifle ventures down the path of improvement via implementation.

Clinton Keith said...

The time it took to produce inferior results costs more. By far.

You can only take the analogy so far, but I'll press it. Did the iterated clay pots (or whatever they were making)still work? Did the knowledge gained from making better clay pots have any value?

The analogy for game asset creation is clear. By focusing on quantity that can be produced now and demonstrated now we will learn more about our game than we would with a plan for what the game might be months off with some open ended quality bar.

Unless you are willing to ship a poor quality game, the experimentation will occur. The only difference with this example is that experimenting with numerous "clay pots" in the short term is probably less expensive than one at a time in the long term.

Anonymous said...

This is very telling and quite exciting. I think it applies to overall game development as well, not just art. This seems to be Valve and Blizzard's approach to game development, as well as the approach the most successful modders take. Robert Rodriguez implied the same thing in his "10 minute film school" (inspirational!).



Clinton Keith said...


Great points! I was very impressed with those "10 minute film school" videos as well.