Can You Ever Get Ahead of Work in Game Development?
Last week I talked about preparing conditions of satisfaction for stories to help clearly outline what needs to be done for a feature to be marked as complete. This brought up the question that I am asking you today--can you ever get ahead of work in game development? At what point in a project are you ahead? Are you ever ahead? At any point in the time continuum of your game development have you completed all of your tasks, removed any dependencies, and appropriately prepared work for the future? What does it even mean to be ahead of work?
For the past five years I have been developing games. They started as mods to existing games, then physical prototypes, then real projects that non-developers are starting to play. As the experiences I continue to deliver begin to spiral from my hands to the hands of real people, I start to push myself further and harder every day. I’m sure you’ve thought to yourself, “just another hour and this feature will be better”, “I can work more, my efforts will be reflected later”, “what’s one less hour of sleep when I’m doing something I love”, and so much more. When we experience passion for developing content, we become our own hype team. When we develop on a team of passionate creators, we push each other to make the greatest games conceivable in our beautiful minds. Right now, I am the lead designer and product owner on Eira: Echoes of Adventure. Every single day of my week I am actively on call for my team because I want to see this game published. Many of my team members have also dedicated their attention to making this project into a reality. When it comes to planning hours and tasks for the project, you try to plan for what you can do in a sprint (assuming you’re using Agile Scrum). Every week I have found that people have dependencies that come up, tasks you can’t plan for, and tasks that don’t get completed to a standard of quality we need.
Every week I ask myself, “is scrum working?”, “do people have too much work?”, “is the project out of scope?”. I’ll be honest, I don’t always know the answer to these questions. I feel good about where the game is, but I feel like we are behind where we should be. I feel like hardcore agile developers will tell me that you can be ahead of work if you’re ahead of what’s on the task board. My mindset is different--I think. To me, things are either done, or not done. However, from my understanding, scrum offers that exact mentality applied to specific tasks. When closing a sprint, you check to see if a story meets the definition of done and decide to work on it more or not. Maybe I see a brighter future for things, or maybe I’m a pessimist? I mark stories as done for my team, but I know they need continued development. Are benchmarks in development all it takes to be up to speed or ahead of work? Are we basing criteria on goals we simply set for ourselves? Do we truly define what’s done? What about the gaze of the consumer?
I don’t know how to continue writing as I don’t know the answers to these questions. To answer my question from last week, the conditions of satisfaction helped but maybe not as much as I thought. There are always going to be individuals that cannot complete work to the quality they need to be completed, there are going to be individuals that don’t need assistance as they go above and beyond. Maybe defining what needed to be done helped the team understand what the scope of a feature was, but I don’t think it helped the team complete work any differently. The project will continue to move at a pace that passionate developers feel comfortable with.
I don’t think I’ve answered the question I started with, but I gave more questions to think about. Next blog I will share any progress I’ve made with understanding my answer.