Last week we went through the planning phase for Project Spaghetti, though it’s worth going into a little more depth on a particular issue with planning for those of you who got something out of the talk.
Ideally, the person making the to-do list and setting the priorities on that to-do list is different from the person carrying out the tasks on it, but that ideal falls apart when you have a small team (or a team of one). The reason, as touched on in the first episode, is that it’s extremely difficult to separate the two roles and apply them when they’re appropriate. Why? It’ll be easier to explain if we use another writing metaphor. A lot of first-time writers get into trouble because they start to edit what they write, while they write. The writer can’t go forward because the editor keeps stopping them, and the editor can’t get anything done because the writer isn’t comfortable writing. The key to getting things done is to keep those multiple personalities away from each other, as if they’re two different people. You write, you put it aside, then you edit. The writer and the editor never have to talk to each other, they don’t have to argue, they don’t have to get in each other’s way.
Another analogy would be the importance of separating a manager and a worker. Managers who come from being a worker have a lot of trouble giving up the worker role they were supposed to leave behind. They were probably chosen because they were a good worker, maybe the best. So, what do they do when they’re suddenly responsible for a group of people who can’t do the job they think should be done? They end up trying to do everything themselves; they don’t delegate or train others; they end up seeing themselves as the hero who juggles all of the balls – except that those balls start to fall. They’re not the hero; in fact, they’re the villain, because while they’re being the worker, no one is being the manager. Nobody is standing back from the work and double-checking the goal; nobody is considering better ways to do things, and worse, none of the workers are free to do their job because the manager keeps jumping in the way and micromanaging. On the other side, if a worker is able to be their own manager, the things they do become the goals rather than the other way around. The piece of work in front of them or the idea they have becomes the most important thing, and if this keeps up, they may do something completely worthless to the company they’re with (or themselves, if they’re self-employed).
It’s an issue Eric is going to have to confront as he goes through the project. Unlike writing, there is no way to divide the writer and the editor into two neat parts. Games are too complicated, too difficult to plan completely in advance, and it’s too dangerous to just plunge ahead based on plans that were formed before anything came to life. After all, the whole point of getting a working game going fast is to test it out and change things for the better. Eric can’t avoid the need for change, and Eric can’t load it on the end of the project, so what will he do?
If any of you out there have confronted a similar issue on your projects, whether it’s a game project, a work project, a DIY project, or anything else, let us know how you’ve overcome the problem! Eric would love to hear it!