Beyond the pitch: getting your team engaged and excited about a game development project
by Eric Byron on 06/10/16 06:50:00 pm
The Game Outcomes Project is an independent industry/academic partnership. It is driven entirely by intellectual curiosity. Our mission is to survey a large number of game developers and statistically analyze the connections between game development team culture and project outcomes. We ran our initial study in late 2014 and published the results in Gamasutra and on Paul Tozour’s blog in early 2015.
“遊戲專案為何成功"是一個獨立的業界學界合作團隊。完全是因為對知識的興趣而驅動。我們的任務是透過問卷訪問夠多的開發者，以統計的方式分析遊戲開發團隊文化及產出的關係。在 2014 年底我們做了第一次的研究，並在 2015 年初於 Gamasutra 及 Paul Tozour 的部落格發表結果。
The articles in 2015 took a very scientific approach to analyzing survey data and attempted to draw correlations between cultural and non-cultural factors that affect team performance. Our recent research is based on interviews (qualitative data) and, while we lose the ability to run traditional statistics, the data has depth and is loaded with lots of real-world examples from experienced leaders. We will attempt within these articles to present practical ideas that you can use when leading game development teams.
A primary objective of the Game Outcomes Project is to engage the broader industry community in a dialog about how to lead successful teams and projects. Over the past several months we have spoken one-on-one with 9 successful leaders in the Games Industry about the validity of our previous findings and asked for input on areas they feel we should explore further.
Every leader we spoke with agreed that establishing the vision early and then protecting and nurturing the level of enthusiasm and engagement on the team are critical to success. We heard many stories and examples of how some leaders have done this successfully across a broad variety of game projects and constraints. Three primary themes emerged in the data around establishing and maintaining the vision, along with several secondary themes. Each will be explored below.
Establishing the vision means finding a way to communicate to members of the team what the game is going to be. There’s a lot of literature and resources about writing a vision statement for a business but not a lot of guidance available for writing a vision statement for a Game project. We offer these suggestions about formulating a vision statement to share with the development team.
A vision statement is for internal use. It is written to inspire your team. It is not the same as a marketing statement that will be used to sell the game. Use language that will be well understood by the members of the team. A game vision statement should almost always describe the genre and express the reason people will want to play the game. You want to infuse passion and emotion into the vision statement. You may use words like: scary, exciting, addictive, social, surprising, immersive, light-hearted, fast-paced, strategic, entertaining, educational…
A vision statement creates a graphic mental picture by including descriptive words like: dark, whimsical, futuristic, floating in air, rocketing through space, medieval, photo realistic, angular, irregular, bright and colorful, cold and dark alien world… A vision statement may also state what the game is not by way of comparison or contrasting it to another well-known game within the same genre or within the franchise, if you are making a sequel.
THE VISION STATEMENT SHOULD BE CLEAR AND CONCISE.
A prominent theme with the leaders we spoke with was that the vision statement needs to be concise and easily understood. Seppo Helava, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Wonderspark, talked about using a one-line expression of the creative vision, an “X” statement, that the team can easily grasp and remember. He compared this to giving the team a hundred-page design document and asking them to read it and then use it to guide their decisions. They might read it once but would never look at it again and would soon forget what is says. This isn’t to say that design documents are useless. They may serve a purpose but they do not replace the need for a vision statement. Seppo went on to say that by posting the “X” statement visibly around the work area and using it regularly, it becomes ingrained and easy for the team to consider an idea and quickly and collectively agree if it is compatible with the vision.
我們跟這些領導者談過之後發現一個特點：願景宣言必須簡單，容易了解。Wonderspark 的共同創辦人及創意總監 Seppo Helava 以一句宣言的描述，來讓團隊容易記住。跟其他團隊用遊戲設計文件傳遞願景及指示作比較，使用文件的團隊看過一次就不會再翻閱，很快就會忘記內容。這邊並非說明設計文件並不重要，設計文件並無法達到願景宣言的需求。Seppo 說：把這句宣言貼在團隊周遭，常常使用它，就會種下深根。團隊就能快速回想，並針對這個願景創造與之一致有共識的內容。
We spoke with Kate Edward, the Executive Director of the IGDA. Kate highlighted “Rise of Nations” as a good example of affectively sharing the vision. “In the day-one meeting, Brian Reynolds, fresh out of Maxis, shared a vision for what he thought the game was going be. This meeting was attended by all departments and disciplines. He did a great job of articulating the vision and you could tell that everyone was onboard from the first day. Specifically, he did a great job of articulating what distinguished this game from Age of Empires and Civilization, while acknowledging that it would be similar, in the same genre. “
我們也與 IGDA 的執行總監 Kate Edward 談過。Kate 特別用"王國的興起"這款遊戲的開發作為心理層面上分享願景的例子。在開發的第一天剛從 Maxis 離開的 Brian Reynolds 分享了他對於這款遊戲會變成怎樣的願景，所有開發部門都參加。他有條理的說明願景，你幾乎可以看到每個人從第一天開始進入狀況。具體地說，他闡述且區分了這款遊戲與世紀帝國，文明帝國的不同，當然他也承認它們有些雷同之處，因為畢竟是同一類型遊戲。
DEFINE CONSTRAINTS EARLY
The concept of constraints came up in multiple conversations about establishing the vision for a game. We spoke with Clinton “Clint” Keith, who described himself as an “organizational therapist” and is the author of “Agile Game Development with Scrum”. Clint commented that the team must understand both the vision and the constraints from the very beginning of a project. If members of the team understand the constraints, they can much more effectively contribute to the creative process. Examples of constraints include: ship date, genre, platform, game engine, etc. Providing the team boundaries early helps keep them from wasting time exploring ideas that don’t align with the vision or fit within the constraints.
限制的概念在不同的訪談中不斷地由建立願景的主題談到。在與Clinton “Clint” Keith的訪談中，他描述自己是組織的臨床醫學家，他同時撰寫了 Scrum 敏捷遊戲開發（Agile Game Development with Scrum）這本書。Clint 說團隊必須在專案的開始就了解願景及限制。假如團隊了解限制，他們能夠有效地創造創意內容。限制包含：時程，類型，平台，引擎等。從早期就規範這些會幫助團隊不要過分浪費時間在發想超出規範及願景以外的點子上。
A similar theme was also echoed by Keith Fuller. Keith provides leadership training and is the author of “Beyond Critical: Improving Leadership in Game Development”. He talked about constraints as external motivators and stressed how important it is to communicate the constraints and be transparent about why the constraints are in place.
類似的想法也出現在 Keith Fuller 的訪談中。Keith 提供了領袖訓練的方法，同時撰寫了超越極限：強化遊戲開發的領導能力（Beyond Critical: Improving Leadership in Game Development）這本書。他談到限制就有如外部的驅動器，與團隊溝通這些限制，讓它們保持透明很重要。尤其是要解釋為何這些規範會存在。
When we asked Andre Thomas, CEO of Triseum, an educational games company in Texas, about communicating constraints he had this to say.
當我們訪問德州的教育遊戲公司 Triseum 的執行長 Andre Thomas時，關於限制，他談到了以下的看法。
“Honesty! Total and utter honesty and transparency about the constraints. Here’s the constraint (here’s the engine we’re using) and here is why.” He went on for several minutes about the importance of explaining why the constraints exist. If a constraint is a specific ship date, don’t just tell them the date, tell them why it is that specific date and not some other date.
DISCUSSIONS ABOUT VISION AND CONSTRAINT SHOULD BE CONVERSATIONS
Of course, making games is a very creative endeavor and all agreed that someone, an individual, needs to ultimately be responsible for the big decisions about the creative direction for the game. Yet we also heard a common theme that establishing the vision requires participation. Dave Swanson, Director of Engineering for EA Sports, talked about the importance of one-on-one dialog with members of the team. It is good to have a big meeting where the Lead Designer pitches the game concept but Dave recommended also taking the time to talk with each member of the team individually to make sure they understood the vision, and, most importantly, understand their role in the project.
當然，作遊戲是非常需要盡全力在創意上的，我們都同意有個人，必須對遊戲的創意抉擇有承擔。也就是說我們知道建立願景需要先有參與感。EA Sports 的工程主任 Dave Swanson 談到對團隊成員一對一談話的重要性。主企畫針對遊戲概念在會議中說明是好事，但 Dave 建議同時也花些時間跟團隊成員分別談談，確保他們都了解願景，更重要的是了解他們自己在專案中的角色。
We heard a similar theme from Andre Thomas. Andre stressed the importance of including the members of the team in the design discussions from the beginning. These should be conversations, not presentations. Andre also described how these conversations need to continue during development as things change and decisions need to be made. Andre described his best project as one that had many iterations, along with various approaches and dev waste along the way. You can only do this and maintain the team’s buy in if you are talking and including the team in the decision processes.
Andre Thomas 也有相同的看法，Andre 強調從專案開始就在設計的討論中把團隊成員納入。而且應該是討論，而非單方面的宣達。Andre 同時描述開發規格修改或是要下決定時，這些討論就應該繼續。Andre 說明他做過最優秀的專案，在不同的專案時期中，都必須嘗試不同的切入方法，丟棄不能用的部分。只有你持續與團隊溝通，把團隊納入決定圈中，才能讓團隊保持對專案有承諾。
As we talked about communications we also talked a bit about organizational structure and how important it is to try to keep the organization as flat as possible. Clint Keith commented that communication is more challenging on big teams. He referred to Dunbar’s number which suggests a cognitive limit to the number of people we can maintain a stable social relationship with. Scrum best practices prescribes smaller teams (9 or less). Clint further explained by talking about how larger teams and organizations will tend to have hierarchical structures that cause communication channels to be more complex. Smaller, flatter organizations facilitate communications.
當我們談到溝通時，我們也談了組織架構及如何盡量扁平化。Clint Keith 說溝通在大團隊是很有挑戰性的。他提到 150定律（鄧巴數，https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number），其中描述了我們只能與一定數量的人維持社交關係，Scrum 的最好做法是小團隊（九人以下）。Clint 還進一步解釋，大型團隊及組織會頃向多層架構，反而導致溝通複雜化。越小，越扁平的組織才能幫助溝通。
Clint shared this with me from the Valve Handbook:
Clint 從 Valve 的手冊中與我們分享這些東西：
Welcome to Flatland
Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily. But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish. That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to steer—toward opportunities and away from risks.
階層對維持預測性及重複性工作是很有幫助的。它有助於簡化計畫，讓由上而下控制一群人變得容易，軍隊仰賴這種架構。但是當我們在娛樂公司打算徵募地球上最聰明，最有創意，才能的人到我們公司，卻告訴他只能乖乖坐在位置上是抹煞了他們百分之九十九的才能。我們要的是創造者，希望他們維護一個有豐富內容的世界。因此 Valve 擁抱扁平化。請記下，我們不用任何管理，每個人都不用對誰報告。我們有創始者跟總經理，但他不是你的主管。公司是你的，請帶領它朝向機會並避開危機。
In summary, here are the three main points:
- The Vision statement should be clear and concise. It needs to be something the team can grasp easily, remember and refer to all the time.（願景的宣言必須清楚準確。讓團隊可以迅速掌握，記憶，隨時引用。）
- Define the constraints early and discuss them openly and honestly to ensure that all understand why the constraints exist.（早點定義規範，公開誠實地討論，確保大家都能了解規範存在的原因。）
- Discussions about the vision and constraints should be conversations. You can present to a whole group but don’t neglect to talk with each individual on the team about the vision and the constraints.（針對願景跟規範的溝通必須使用討論。可以對團隊宣達，但必須另外針對個別成員說明願景與規範。）
Whether you are leading a small team, a large team, a team that has worked together for years, or a brand new startup with lots of uncertainty, you need to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page. This is a well-documented principle in the science of leadership and managing teams, as we discussed in our articles in 2015, and the stories shared by those who we talked to recently reinforce the importance of sharing the vision and then maintaining an infectious enthusiasm for that vision throughout the duration of the project.
There is no magic formula or plan you can follow every time that will guarantee success on your game development projects. You have to be a learn to be a strong leader and visionary. Keith Fuller described the importance of leadership like this:
“I’m very much of the opinion that, if you have crummy leadership for your project, for your company, all the best processes and tools are still going to put you in a serious problem. If you have great leaders and don’t necessarily have all the other answers you’re in better shape than the inverse.”
那種照著做就能保證遊戲開發專案成功的魔法配方並不存在。我們必須學習當一個堅強又前瞻的領導者。Keith Fuller 描述領導的重要性："我非常注重一點，假如你的存在對你的專案，你的公司，流程及工具而言都很重要，那麼反而該警惕了。相反地，假如團隊內擁有很多個優秀的領導者，那麼不用在很多問題親自決定完美答案，這樣的狀況反而對你的團隊比較好。"
We want to thank all of those who have participated in the discussions that were shared in this article. Their willingness to share their experiences and lessons learned is vital to continuing the broader discussions about important topics that help us all grow in our ability to be effective leaders and increase our odds of success in running game development projects.
Leaders who contributors to this article included: Seppo Helava, Joe Hoff, Clinton Keith, Keith Fuller, Dave Swanson, Andre Thomas and Kate Edwards.
此篇文章訪談的領導者：Seppo Helava，Joe Hoff，Clinton Keith，Keith Fuller，Dave Swanson，Andre Thomas，及 Kate Edwards。
Our next Game Outcomes Project article will focus on crunch and take a deeper look at why crunch may not be as helpful as some leaders or studios want to believe. We will discuss some of the studies done regarding effects of working long hours on productivity and offer some advice on how to measure for yourself if you really are getting more done and better results when teams work more hours per week. We will hear more stories from the leaders listed above and we will hear from some additional leaders who spoke passionately with us about the culture of crunch within the games industry.