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GDC2011 Scoping Success

Scoping Success
Rod Fergusson

How am I defining success?
More than just quality
More than just commercial
it's both, and
the team is happy

Iron triangle
Scope vs schedule vs resources

Really need a predictable schedule tone a success and to get there
Normally change, cut scope

Scoping
Goal: Shipping the right product at the right time

Right product is quality
Consider team - size, tech, and process
Consider player industry expectations

Right time is timeliness
Consider window of opportunity
Consider marketing



Lack of maturity will cost you time
Team, tech, or process
Need knowledgeable people, established process to ship on time
Scope should reflect design process
-Epic is highly iterative, 33% buffer for gears 3
You will find work that needs to be done for quality

Scope should match quality expectations
-Epic prefers smaller and polished

Consider player/industry expectations
You can't scope in a vacuum
What is the state of the art for your type of game, what is the best of the best that you are competing against
What would be considered the minimum bar for entry
How can you easily exceed expectations


Managing expectations with scope
Look beyond version 1 to allow for focus on the core
Start with a very tight core that you can build on
Versioning allows you to react to
-player feedback
-industry trends
-competitive landscape
There comes a point of diminishing returns
Franchises are grown
Gears 3 > gears 1 + 5 more years of development

Consider window of opportunity
When's the best time to be on shelves
What is the competitive landscape
What else could be taking the players money (entertainment competition)
Are there other initiatives you could piggy back on

Consider marketing
Or why "it'll ship when it's done" doesn't work anymore
Marketing is a global, synchronized initiative
Publisher sales regions allocate their budgets and forecasts months in advance
Major store buyers are looking 180 days out for what's next
It can take 14 weeks to get into a store flyer

------------

Have a fixed ship date mindset
The belief that the ship fate is both realistic and unchangeable
-date can change but must be justified
-date not actually fixed until very confident
Provides a clear goal for the team
Forces prioritization and creativity
Provides a decision making constraint 

Establish your pillars
Key areas of focus, what is the core of the game
May be an aggregate set of features
May be their own overall design goal
Empowers scoping decisions
Usually serves as great talking points for press
Candidates for back of box features

Cut early, cut often
Due to unknowns, teams tend to underestimate effort
Every feature takes polish time away from the other features
forget sunk cost, look at opportunity cost
Always keep test and support burden in mind
Test decisions against your pillars

It's all about the buffer
Realistic scope does not equal the collection of known tasks
Recognition that the future is uncertain
The longer the duration, the greater the uncertainty
The more uncertainty and risk, the more buffer
Polish time is not buffer time

Estimating
Top down scheduling provides constraint
Bottom up estimating enables ownership
Group estimating creates accountability
Always track your actuals
Evidence based scheduling provides history
-http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/10/26.html
Find the right granularity

NiMBLe process
New, better, more, less
Prioritize things to add, do more of, or do less of


In conclusion
It takes more than just quality to be a successful game, it takes a window of opportunity and strong marketing support
Scope based on your team, on player/industry expectations and your ideal schedule
Realistic and constant scoping, along with buffer, allows you to keep a more predictable schedule
A predictable schedule allows you to hit your window of opportunity and receive the full benefit of marketing

Ship the right product at the right time

--Tom Ogburn

posted on Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:36 AM by TOgburn

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