Friday, July 1, 2011

Reclaimate Prototype 2

I still maintain that human beings are abyssmal at estimating things. At least to the point we think "we are ok". This is especially true when estimating time. Ever estimated something would take 10 minutes and 2 hours later you wonder why you are working on the same problem?

If you want to break it down to the scientific, it's because there are simply far too many variables in life for even our complex brains to compute. So we constantly make mistakes with estimating, especially when it comes to time.

I did so this last week. And it won't be the last time I underestimate how long or involved things will take. But now at the end of this this week I still haven't perfected the AI nor attacking, and haven't really touched collision. All this and I wanted a basic working prototype for the end of week one!

So what will I do? The same best practices that anyone who manages a project or manages time does:

  1. Take inventory - At this moment in time I have to quantify all the tasks that lay before me, and how long they will take. Because your understanding of a tasks length changes the farther in you are, I find I consistently have to do this now and then.
  2. Remove Tasks / Reduce Scope - This is the dreaded "cut stuff". But this is in part why it happens. We just don't estimate time well enough, despite the best of intentions. In fact I've never seen a game project that tried to do something or promise a feature knowing they'd never be able to do it. So you have to suck it up, nearly all projects need to have things cut from them.
  3. Form a plan going forward - For me, I'll work out the list and make that plan. After cutting stuff out, I'll see how long it will (in estimation) take me to do the tasks remaining and cut those between the weeks left. At the end of the month the project still has to be done.
  4. Analyze and repeat at regular intervals - When timelines are tight, you have to go back and check back frequently. The problem is you are also rushed, and time spent on project management feels wasted. It's usually not. The old phrase stands, a little bit of planning goes a long way. If you are really tight, 30 mins in the morning and 1-2 hrs on the weekend won't kill you. It will actually get things done.

Why don't you just push the deadlines?

Thats actually the WORST thing to do on many levels. First it's never a real world option. If you are working with anyone else, pushing timelines doesn't often engender trust. Fans will even get frustrated at Nintendo and Blizzard if they push long enough. And if you look at the tens of thousands of game companies they are the exception. And as part of how humans work we actually "need" deadlines to get things done. Otherwise we will often default to a more comfortable state. There is no more unifying commitment to getting things done, than an iron clad deadline.

So I have a lot to do this weekend. Including planning. I likely won't have a flash thing to play for a while. But I should deliver screenshots this weekend if nothing else.

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