Updates have been a bit sporadic as of late – I apologise for that. It seems that Mafia Wars is more addictive than I gave it credit for (games and addiction is a good subject for a future post). You might have also noticed that I keep changing the blog’s appearance and title as well — I’m struggling to settle on something I like. Anyway, I’m posting this (more for me as a commitment/reminder) to let you know of my plans for the blog and future updates.
- Overhaul of the portfolio section with links and details to all my game mods and projects.
- (Brief) Post mortems for notable projects
- Start weekly dev diary for The Real World
- Upload decent essays from university
- Finish my article on games and languages, and begin a weekly Morrowind en français progress diary
- Start posting game concept ideas, game & demo reviews, games production, and related articles.
- Update my ‘about me’ page, with a reading list, recommended books, music, and so on.
- Update ‘about me’ page with detailed, interview style FAQ
- Integrate with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Last.fm
- Do something with Hells Kitchen
- Revise categories into a more logical order.
If all goes to plan (HA!) you’re going to see some major updates, quickly and without much regard for order or anything. I’ve got a lot of my mind, and I’m planning to dump it on you, dear reader. You have be forewarned.
While I’m writing, I want to talk briefly about procrastination — something even the best of us have to battle with.
One of the main tenets of Agile Development (broadly interpreted) is that Action > trumps everything else (including planning and documentation). To some extent this is true, certainly when it comes to procrastination — it’s incredibly easy to come up with excuses for not doing something (including excessive preparation). The basic idea, whatever the application, is to get the gears moving forward. In other words, it’s better to act, rather than to react (i.e. pro actively do something, rather than wait until it becomes a problem). This is certainly the case with student syndrome, where students routinely leave essays until the very last moment, before tackling their work (usually pulling an “all-nighter” –my personal record is two 2000 word essays in a 24 hour block) .
But, I think the key is to strike a balance between planning and action. “To Do” lists work (and I swear by them) for two reasons: first it’s quick to jot down even the biggest tasks; and secondly, by writing it down, you’re committing to action — or at least acknowledging that the task has to be done in the not too distant future. You can also make prioritised lists, to cover the immediate, short, medium, and long term. In sum: they’re quick, simple, and flexible — if you use them.
If you want to take it further, it’s not hard to see how a development schedule (like a Gantt chart) is really just a glorified To Do list. Sure it has “powerful resourcing tools”, but essentially, what it comes down to is breaking tasks down into manageable steps, committing to action, and tracking progress. The scope is much bigger, but it serves exactly the same function.
Another useful exercise I read about are Crisis Logs. Basically, the idea is that you log down every instance where you left something to the very last minute and got burned for it (i.e. student syndrome). The benefits are twofold: first, and obviously, the more you do this, the more likely you are to avoid procrastination strategies in the future. Secondly, you might be able to identify patterns or key areas in your life and work, where you tend to avoid or put things off (procrastinate) rather than tackle head on. This is enormously valuable information — merely being aware of this is enough to take steps towards change. In a team project or game development scenario, you might note every instance when the team got pushed into crunch mode. Were the tasks unrealistic? Were the deadlines and milestones too ambitious? It shouldn’t be too hard to see why this is a useful exercise (perhaps more insightful than a high level postmortem).
But it all starts with a “To Do List”, and if you want to manage anything, from an AAA game, to a mod total conversion, to your own life, you need to be familiar with “to do lists”. That’s why I’d say the producer’s most important tools are as follows:
- Working pen
I’ve got an early start tomorrow — should be fun.