IGDA Summit @ Casual Connect Seattle

I’m looking forward to the next couple days in Seattle!

The IGDA Summit is about Developers helping Developers. It is a home for our development community that provides valuable professional development, actionable insight and candid discussion to elevate our craft. For the 2012 IGDA Summit, industry leaders from many disciplines have come together to produce a program with content to serve line developers, entrepreneurial developers, QA developers, freelancers, team leaders, project managers, business development executives, investors, studio directors, and all others seeking to learn from and share techniques for creating successful careers, games and businesses.

In 2012, the IGDA Summit will cover topics including: Writing, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Advocacy, Quality Assurance and Monetization. This is an opportunity for our community to give back to our global community.

IGDA Summit @ Casual Connect Seattle

Should be good time away from the keyboard and digitizer to recharge and get reinspired!!

The kanban board is going up!

One of the things that we came to a decision about during our retrospective after sprint zero is that we’re happier with a highly visible workload management tool. During our between sprint planning, we’ve elected to adopt some of the kanban practices that I picked up during my time at Microsoft.

Having physical cards to move across the board helps to maintain the momentum cycle and makes it very easy to visually keep score. Both of which are very important, as we’ve come to accept that we’re in a marathon, not a sprint. No pun intended.

In the spirit of “pix or it didn’t happen”, I’ll be posting occasional pix of the board as soon as we have it hung, striped and loaded with work.

EDA Sprint 0 is complete!

The number one question we get is, “What game are you working on? When I can play it?” The answer is, “Real soon now!” Heh.

"Talk is cheap. I go to a lot of gaming events, and people come up to me and say ‘I’ve got this great idea for a game’, and I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s great – I want to see your game.’"

Gamasutra – News – Tin Man Games’ Ben Britten: Why ‘Failure is Awesome’

Message received. We’ve driven the requirements spike. We’ve done lots of imaginary playthroughs of the first four “scenarios”. We’ve got the concept art. We have acquired all of the tools and all the toys to launch us into a successful Sprint 1. We’ve done the retrospective and will make some adjustments to our process for future sprints. Perhaps I’ll blog about those more in the future.

We are ready to roll!

How bad do we want it?

At the risk of paraphrasing Tim McGraw, we want it bad. Blood, sweat, tears and lost sleep bad.

Together with our partner, Sychey Games, we had a lunch meeting yesterday with a hugely successful game studio cum publisher who shall remain nameless. It was an education, as every quality endeavor should be, even though the answer was “Maybe not, but it’s an interesting approach and a different idea, so let’s talk about it some more when you know the answers to [insert obvious questions here].”

In fact, I learned a new application for an interview question that I figured out was an absolute must to ask of anybody who wanted to come work for me a decade or more ago. It felt weird, a little déjà vu, to sit on the other side of that question over a business lunch. Lesson learned!

I also had validated what I’ve always believed one of the secrets that every game studio who wants to achieve cosmic levels of success should be engaged in. Great confirmation! (Yes, I’m referring to testing.)

Didier and I chatted some about our next steps and talked about how to improve the pitch before we take it back to the same publisher and to our next prospective publisher or partner. I’m sure we’ll do more such navel-gazing as the next lunch meeting approaches. It’s hard to remember that the lack of a resounding “YES!” at the end of a meeting is not a “No” – even a “No” isn’t a “No” until I decide it’s a “No”. Heh. As one of my idols, Dave Ramsey, is wont to say, "Success is a pile of failure that you are standing on." I’m working on building up my own pile!

Seth reminded me of the same again during my lunchtime blog read today.

A single blog post is an example of poking the box.

Sticking with a blog for seven years is pushing through the Dip.

Seth’s Blog: Failures and the dip

I will also take it to heart as a reminder that I’m not coding, writing, modeling, recording or blogging nearly enough. I do love the new Cintiq 24HD, though, and I definitely need to give it some love every single day.

Where did the first quarter go?!

Last time I looked up, we had an ambitious plan for the first quarter of 2011…

Hrm. I’ve learned some important lessons as 1Q11 flew by. The most important of those lessons is that we need a new plan. Heh. Also, I’ve [re]learned that it’s important to have flexible goals and flexible priorities. More on that in the coming days/weeks/months/years.

One of my “plans” that I have been keeping up with (unlike blogging) has been reading what other people have to say on the subject of training and hiring. I like what Peter has to say in this post:

I think many skills can be learned outside of school and the quality of a programmer has more to do with determination and time spent practicing their trade every day and spending time constantly learning. Sometimes education is a crutch that people know they can fall on and they become lazy. Whereas those who don’t have that degree are incentivized to spend much more time and effort honing their trade which can make them better in the long run. I see these two situations happen all the time.

Self-Taught Programmers vs CS-Educated Programmers – Adventures in Entrepreneurship

Wish I would’ve read that post in January…

Give your players decisions to make that matter…

One of the unfortunate parts of the current state of game design in our industry is that “decisions that matter” and “shades of moral gray” seem to be reserved exclusively for M-rated titles. (OK, maybe one or two Fables, etc, might be exceptions, but…)

Those players who experienced the game believing that their decisions mattered, who made ethical decisions with the long-term social structure of the game in mind, have unknowingly partaken in a grand experiment. Bioware is teaching ethics and civic education on a spaceship—intentionally or otherwise—and might be making the world a better place in the process.
Civic Education on a Spaceship < PopMatters

There are two benefits to designing great critical decisions for your players:

  1. The game is more fun, more meaning and more memorable.
  2. Playing the game will help make them better people by practicing the act of making good, moral decisions.

This does mean that you must provide them with the opportunity to choose “bad” option or options for any decision point – and the consequences must be more meaningful (but not necessarily immediate) than moving the character a few bars to the left on the evil-good HUD indicator. The key is tying the consequences back to the originating choice when the proverbial chickens come home to roost (without getting preachy).

Every. Single. Day.

This post has been percolating in the back of my head for the past week since my three-week “vacation” ended and went back to the day job fulltime… One of the big lessons that I learned that I [re]learned was that practice is crucial for every single skill from interview skills to skills that make the bread that needs buttering. Practice is even more crucial than talent, IMNSHO.

What prompted me to get off my virtual derriere and type the random thoughts that finally coalesced this afternoon was Steve’s maundering on practicing programming:

I doubt we or any company is likely to set up organized daily practice for their engineers. In fact I personally don’t think it should be necessary. The most important thing you learn in college is how to learn on your own. They teach you how to research, and how to apply the scientific method and question your own findings, and they give you the fundamentals of math/language/social sciences/etc., so that when you want to learn something, you know how to figure it out for yourself.
practicing-programming – steveyegge2

Unsurprisingly, I sort of agree and disagree, at the same time.

  1. I concur that practice is vital. Blogged that opinion a while back. It’s absolutely necessary to sharpen your tools and improve yourself as a professional (whether you are a programmer, modeler, writer, whatever). Practice is not just for professional athletes, SWAT team members and rocket surgeons.
  2. I believe that the successful, creative companies already create an environment where daily practice is the norm. My current day job @ Microsoft is like this already, and I will make certain that Glacier Peak will always be as well.

My premise for #2 there is that your daily work should be precisely this sort of challenging practice. I realize that somebody has to have the really boring jobs doing the same old-same old every day… but I refuse to work there! I’ve always tried to choose positions at each stage of my career that force me to learn new things, to challenge myself and in essence, force myself to practice. Every. Single. Day.

Which is what lead me to my personal learning and my new self-imposed mission: Create. Something. Every. Day. It may not be huge (still have that day job to do!), but whether it’s modeling a prop, painting some textures, sketching some concept art or drafting a level layout or a drawing a map… I need to create something every single day. Sometimes, it may just be contributing to a hobby project, but it needs to be something that stimulates the creativity and it needs to be something new.

The challenge for any professional is to avoid reaching a level of proficiency that allows you to begin phoning it in. Don’t. Fight that natural, human tendency with a vengeance. Make every like of code count. Make every word mean something. Make every polygon matter. To do otherwise is to just treat creating what could be your masterpiece like it’s just a job. Life’s too short to phone it in.