Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lesson in Big Bang Development

Warning: the below content is astonishingly obvious stuff that could change the video game industry but just won't unless they gain a truly amazing perception of the obvious.

Here's a software development lesson for you that I thought up while stuck in traffic on the way home today: There are two ways to develop software. Big Bang, and Pay As You Go.

Big Bang involves coding a bunch of stuff and then testing i to see if it works. If it doesn't work, you try and figure out what went wrong, someplace back on line 546 or perhaps line 1234 of your code. Shoot, now I need to change the combination on my luggage... This can apply to coding but it also applies to politics, (making bills for healthcare that are too large for anybody to understand), music (Beethoven wrote and rewrote his works line by line I'm sure) and anything else created that's worthwhile.

Pay As You Go involves lots more testing, testing every step of the way. Seasoned good developers do this all the time. I am sure that, in the code sense, developers in every company do this because its the only way to get done in a reasonable amount of time because if something goes wrong, you know exactly where it is because you JUST wrote it.

Where am I going with this thought? Why is this significant if everyone already does it? Well the thing is, NOBODY does this with testing with consumers (except for perhaps Minecraft which has let everyone buy its alpha product) Now there have been (ahem.. lame. ahem...) reasons for this over the years. But most of it boils down to being steeped in tradition and coddled in safety. Video game companies sell things in huge installments because they want good reviews from the content locusts. If they sold them in small, incremental chunks and adapted to customer feedback, kind of like a service, it would make a lot more sense. (Here comes my tinfoil hat) You would see a lot more success and better funner games in the MMO sphere and a lot less plunking out of what people don't want. Untested, stale, grindy content. I call for a revolution in making games, a common sense revolution. Unless we want most of our MMO's to be like fireworks. Bright for an instant then burn out.


Anton said...

This is how MMO's are built already isn't it?

I just don't see how other types of games would work this way. Shadow of the Colossus is my all-time favorite, I would not have been too pleased if I had bought this game and it wasn't finished. Or do you speak of episodic storytelling?

Thallian said...

Perhaps I needed to be more clear yeah. I'm talking about PDD (Player Driven Development) instead of DDD(Developer Driven Development). In other words, doing what players want instead of what Developers or Marketing wants to do. And episodic testing of it is certainly a big part of that. Reach a milestone and find out form the players if you are on the right track through whatever metrics you can. Turbine does this now with Lotro for example BUT they didn't do it in its initial development. They probably only tested it with a few testing employees or at best ~100 teenagers in high school. WoW and many other ones likewise. Some never listen to their playerbase at all. Leaving out the worst offenders, I am pointing out that it is an innately flawed concept to spend a long long time doing things your way on a product before letting it out into the wild. Sometimes you have people with great vision behind it (and good gaming intuition) and you get a Half-Life 2 anyways but there would be more consistent high quality goodness available if games were made differently is what I am saying.

Tesh said...

MMOs are perhaps the *best* places for PDD like this, as it taps neatly into the "virtual world" ethos of a world that is molded by those who live in it. If you handled it right, it could be a huge feature, not just a workflow thing.

Anton said...

I'm developing my own indie game, but I feel like it should be complete before putting it up for's a story/action-fantasy game but not really long enough for episodes, and not really playable until it's done. I'd say it's not always the case that player driven development is right for every game. Certainly enormous MMO's should do this, though, and games that are intended to have a lot of replay value and pvp elements especially should have lots of player driven development.

Tesh said...

Yeah, this is really only something that will benefit a "live" game that depends on player feedback. That's still a minority of games, I think.

Thallian said...

I think that's true yeah. Features come from work flows, so it needs to happen there first but yeah. This has been in my mind frequently when I play these games.