Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dangers of iterative production techniques, part 1 of n

As I mentioned in a previous post there are, from my personal perspective, several ways to cut an iterative process. This post is about general risks with any of these, and likely other, cuts.

Risk 1: Feedback conditioning

This is a risk which occurs whenever you keep getting similar feedback through a series of iterations. The shape it takes is much like what happens to us humans when we get accustomed to living close to a paper manufacturing plant which stinks of sulfurous chemicals. Our brains get used to the initially nasty experience and we get used to it. A game development team which gets familiar with some feedback and determine that it is part of reality will make a worse product than they could.

Risk 2: Reliance on implicit feedback loops

When the measurement is implicit as with the case for how the subjective components of the product are experienced it is quite likely that the team will fail to understand when they reach the top of the value s-curve and keep on investing in things which are done. For us who spend our time with the modern art form of game design this is horribly difficult to communicate. I also believe it is more difficult for the other art forms in game development as well than what it is for the older more established media. How do you know when you should make a new animation rather than keep on iterating the current one?

Risk 3: Lack of direction

This is the most often mentioned risk which comes from a combination of lacking vision or the communication of a vision which is hard for the team and business to understand. As a consequence of a poorly communicated vision the team lacks a foundation for understanding even explicit feedback loops and will progress erratically.

Risk 4: Going in circles

When the team has too little room to maneuver they rick failure to understand how to change the next experiment in the iterative process to improve the feedback state of a production. This comes appear to often come as a consequence to another failure which cascades down as an unmanageable cost of an effective cycle time. If changes to the product reach a certain volume the next change will be driven by risk aversion, risk elimination is likely to continuously surface with the same solution over and over.

Do you think this list should be extended, feel welcome to add your own risks and I’ll try bake them into part 2. ^^

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