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  • Scope: Choose A Target! Focus! Shoot!

    [09.01.20]
    - Levon Demurchyan

  • Another important point to consider while adjusting the nominal scope is the sum of the core features and the content. This (and a lot more) is the cost that you have to subtract from your budget. Having a negative value in this is a huge red light. You should always adhere to this method, as it is one of the easiest and one of the most practical ways to understand if you're in the possible region. I'll go deeper into this in a separate article.

    Core Features are the features that, when removed or changed affect the whole game drastically. Removing one or more core features so much changes the game that it is not the same game anymore. There are also peripheral, "secondary" features and are also defined by the game designer(s), as they need to be balanced with the core mechanics.

    Try thinking about these:

    • Need For Speed - Tuning
    • World of Warcraft - Professions

    Now, these:

    • Superhot - Time advances when moving
    • No Man's Sky - Freedom of exploration

    And these:

    • Mario Bros. - Jumping
    • Diablo 3 - Loot

    So, which of these are the features, that in case they are removed leave the game broken? Maybe a little bit different? There are cases where we can argue days long whether a feature is a core feature, or if it is secondary, but when you have to choose - you have to let go.

    Another way of looking at this is when people are asked what would they do if they knew that they have only 1 day left to live. In most cases, they choose a couple of things that are of utmost importance. This is exactly what we want to achieve here.

    Content is obvious I think, that is how much... content your game has. It's not the mechanics or features, it's how big of a field a particular game provides you with to learn, play with, and master its mechanics.

    There are many approaches to game development and choosing what is the right thing to include in the MVP version of your game is up to you. It all comes down to what do you want to make. Some games are content-heavy, others have minimal content, the same comes down to the core features, or features, generally speaking. There are also games in the marketplace that have many features and a lot of content. Why is it important to make an MVP version first? Because in 99% of cases you don't know what do you want to make, and I mean it from a projected/final perspective. And I don't say it lightly, game development is so complex that we rarely have a realistic projection of what it's going to be in the end, and most importantly is it going to be entertaining?

    It is extremely important to measure capacity before going deeper into the process. This obviously comes with experience, as you can't measure how long it is going to take to implement a weapon, or an AI character in case you have never done it. Yes, you might be able to relatively calculate how long it takes to make Call of Duty and extrapolate that onto your game, but do you actually consider all the factors? This is why every experienced developer in the industry would highly recommend you start small. That's generally because you start blind. You need more empirical data to understand how long it takes to make a game or its element.

    As I've said, you don't want to make a bad game, most probably. But there should be a balance to how much you crank into your schedule. You don't want your team to work more than 8 hours a day, believe me. This is not because nobody's going to work more, probably the contrary happens. If your team shares your vision and is inspired by the sheer fantasy of what they can achieve if they work more hours they will voluntarily stay late. But there are many instances where this is proven to have just the opposite effect. Working longer hours is normal, but it can't be regular. You can't be serious when you think your team can do 3 years' worth of labor in 6 months. That's going to have severe consequences on team morale and is unethical in my opinion, even considering it might be possible to do in 6 months. You can crank up the stress to hit a deadline, but be responsible when doing that, you can always break the meter and reverting the consequences might not be realistic.

    "One morning in June, an overtired artist drove to work with his infant child strapped into the backseat, intending to deliver the baby to day care on the way. Some time later, after he;d been at work for a few hours, his wife (also a Pixar employee) happened to ask him how drop -off had gone - which is when he realized that he'd left their child in the car in the broiling Pixar parking lot. <...> Thankfully, the child was okay, but the trauma of this moment - the what-could-have-been- was imprinted deeply on my brain. Asking this much of our people, even when they wanted to give it, was not acceptable. "  - Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

    Pixar was able to deliver on the deadline, but at what cost? We never read that in the success stories, but behind most of the masterpieces, there are always colossal sacrifices.

    That's all for now, please stay tuned for the next 2 episodes coming very soon.

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