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Game Development In a Post-Agile World

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the slowly-but-surly dept.

Programming 149

An anonymous reader writes "Many games developers have been pursuing agile development, and we are now beginning to witness the debris and chaos it has caused. While there have been some successes, there have also been many casualties. As the industry at large is moving away from the phantasmagoria of Agile, Gwaredd Mountain, Technical Director at Climax Studios, looks at Post-Agile and what this might mean for the games industry."

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Frosty Fucking Piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069298)

Insert Repetitive Slashdot Meme Here. When It Gets Modded Up To +5 Funny, Pretend Like It Really Was Funny. Thank You.

Blame it on the waterfall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069326)

The key to successful development is the "Sally Jesse" method: Lose the zeroes, hire some heroes.

Re:Blame it on the waterfall (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070342)

Lose the zeroes, hire some heroes.

I think the kind of people you hire (or want to hire) has a big impact on what kind of development methodology works for you. And vice versa. TFA mentions as one of the advantages of more process-oriented (less agile) methodologies that you can hire cheaper programmers. Compare McDonalds to a quality restaurant: McDonalds cooks by process rather than people, and it works very well for them. But no real chef will want to work in their kitchen.

If you want to hire heroes, you need to treat them as such, and that means a more agile methodology. If you want a tightly controlled process that doesn't depend on individual heroics, you'd better hire some zeroes.

(I didn't finish the entire FA. There's some interesting stuff in the middle. It would surprise me if it comes to this very same conclusion in the end.)

Conclusions (2, Interesting)

triorph (992939) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069338)

Is the current conclusion these days that agile doesn't work? Its been what I've always thought but I am wondering whether this article is stating it for a fact when most of the software engineering discipline still believes in it.

Re:Conclusions (4, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069378)

My company started as a dinky little post-dotcom-startup, doing certain agile practices (extreme programming with a little bit of scrum), and it's since been bought out and now sells quality software to big enterprise customers tens of thousands to millions of dollars. As with any development methodology, it's got its ups and its downs, and depending on how you're trying to actually operate as a business, you'll need to make adaptations; moreover, it helps a lot if you actually employ intelligent people who know what they're doing.

Yes, maybe the Agile hype is a bit much, but so is the anti-Agile-hype hype. It's actually a good idea to start with simple things that work and are easy to code (so you can start making money today) instead of waiting forever building the Perfect System. The key is to manage the transition to more complicated things in an effective manner (so you can keep making money tomorrow). You start by thinking in the back of your mind about how you can make things easier to transition to the Perfect System in the future. That's probably the main tricky part.

Re:Conclusions (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069396)

moreover, it helps a lot if you actually employ intelligent people who know what they're doing.

That should be pretty much method-independent.

Re:Conclusions (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069720)

That should be pretty much method-independent

More intelligent and skilled people would always help, but I'm quite sure I'd run a project differently if I had an elite team vs a few skilled and many mediocre developers. The greater imbalance in the team, the less you can rely on "the team" working it out and the more you have to introduce structure like XP or test-driven development or waterfallish specs and designs made by the skilled people.

Re:Conclusions (3, Insightful)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069726)

Well, no: a completely toxic process-driven scheme will drive away creative and intelligent engineers. So will a completely batty and air-headed and uncontrolled 'agile' scheme. Balance and common sense is vital.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Conclusions (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069852)

If you've got balance and common sense, and intelligent engineers, then the methodology doesn't matter and may even be optional.

Re:Conclusions (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070060)

Agreed, or at least it may be informal.

The most successful teams I've worked in have all been populated with individuals independently mentally committed to DoingTheRightThing(TM), and formal rules beyond versioned delivery of the end products were rarely needed.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Conclusions (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069900)

Well, no: a completely toxic process-driven scheme will drive away creative and intelligent engineers. So will a completely batty and air-headed and uncontrolled 'agile' scheme. Balance and common sense is vital.

Even then they help you: They help you recognize that you have done something wrong.

Re:Conclusions (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070068)

Your meta-swerve is cunning but not cunning enough to fool me oh molecule gating menace! B^>

Rgds

Damon

Re:Conclusions (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070818)

moreover, it helps a lot if you actually employ intelligent people who know what they're doing.

That should be pretty much method-independent.

It's not. Companies who have everything determined in rigid processes can get more useful out out of idiots than companies that still need to invent lots of things. Companies that have lots of stuff to figure out have a bigger need of smart people instead, and those are also more attractive to smart people, because they get the freedom to use their smarts.

Some companies prefer cheap programmers over expensive ones.

Re:Conclusions (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069762)

it helps a lot if you actually employ intelligent people who know what they're doing.

But if you hire such people, you have to pay them. If you fire and replace them with the cheapest ones you can find, you can get a big fat bonus, cash in your options, and then blame any lack of quality on incompetent employees.

I should had been a CEO :).

Re:Conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069444)

I've seen agile cause colossal messes; I've seen agile make miracles happen. The only conclusion I have is that "a fool with a tool is still a fool".

Think of agile as advanced martial arts; if you've mastered the basics, it'll take you to the next level. If you haven't, you just wind up hurting yourself.

Re:Conclusions (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069548)

Another conclusion might be: Sometimes it's the right tool, sometimes it's the wrong tool. Failing to get a nail in using a screwdriver doesn't mean you're a fool (OK, you are a fool for choosing the screwdriver, but let's say you are ordered to use it), it means that a screwdriver just isn't good for putting nails in. Yet it can do miracles for screws.

Re:Conclusions (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070844)

Failing to get a nail in using a screwdriver doesn't mean you're a fool (OK, you are a fool for choosing the screwdriver, but let's say you are ordered to use it),

It means somebody somewhere is a fool.

When he knows what he's doing, it's often better to let the guy doing the job choose the appropriate tool.

Re:Conclusions (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069676)

Well, most of the games industry is in love with Scrum. I have met Gwaredd though. He's one of the few people I've met who actually knows about design methdologies.

Re:Conclusions (1)

alberion (1086629) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069714)

Not necessarily,

I have been working with Agile software development for 3 years now. Delivering working software every 2 or 3 weeks and never had a single day of delay or extra cost. Got extremely satisfied clients.

Now, it is not a religion, it is not the only and best way to view software development. It is just one tool every project manager must have in his toolbox.

Always think, does this software that I am building looks more like a building a bridge or like writing a book?

If you are building a bridge, please use a process oriented methodology that will get you the correct specs. If you already know exactly what you want, why go for a methodology that is made to coupe with change?

If you are venturing into the unknown, and nobody has a clear idea of the final software, but has a vague initial definition. Go Agile

Re:Conclusions (0)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069802)

That's pretty much exactly what I thought. In my particular sphere (web development) agile seems the most suitable methodology as there is a lot of ongoing development work which can be packaged into small deliverables and often a great deal of flexibility is required in managing multiple releases over various sites.

Agile is great for this, it's incredibly flexibile and means we don't have to make the critical decisions months in advance (something we just couldn't do in this environment even if we wanted to), and it also allows us to easily drop in contractors to help when extra resource is needed (scrum combined with small, frequent deployments gives them a much better chance to hit the ground running as they'll rarely have to pick up a task halfway through or without support) but my first thought was how exactly would this work on a project with a defined end-point where most of the critical decisions have to be made up front anyway? Somehow I just can't see agile working in game design, many of the benefits would just be wasted and it just doesn't seem suited to a longer project life cycle - sure it would be great for something like managing WoW, and there may be other exceptions but otherwise it just seems like entirely the wrong tool for the job.

Re:Conclusions (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070052)

I am wondering whether this article is stating it for a fact

A question that will be answered if you ... read the article. Strangely enough the article sets out fairly clearly what the article sets out.

Madness, I know.

Re:Conclusions (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071706)

You almost had me going there... then I realized what you were really up to. Nobody reads the articles. Ever. You sir deserve to take home some gold at the Trollympics.

Re:Conclusions (2, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070358)

TFA starts out sounding like idiot drivel with strong anti-agile prejudices caused by bad experiences with bas, expensive consultants. Later on it gets very informative, however. It's not the Agile doesn't work. It's that, depending on your situation, it might not work for you.

Agile gives programmers freedom. If you've got good programmers, that's a good idea. If your programmers are crap, you're better off restricting their creativity. At least, that's the gist I'm getting from the first half of the article.

Not sure how Agile helps game development (3, Insightful)

dhall (1252) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069340)

When I think of game development, I think of milestones. I think of (relatively) set targets. This is more true for console games than PC game, but lately when I think of games I think console first.

Iterative style development? Maybe that might work for an MMO where the customers don't mind being permanent beta testers. The gap in QA between professional and game software development already feels pretty vast, but add to that yet another style that promotes a more aggressive, less strict regimen of development just sounds like a recipe of disaster.

I'm not sure when Agile became the silver bullet buzzword for programming. I have participated in it, attended Ken Schwaber's talks on managing scrums. I can see its positives and negatives, and it's difficult for me to see how game software development could benefit from being agile unless you're coming up with the next big project with a bunch of friends in your 'garage'. Designing your own game engine and concepts from the ground up where nearly every member of your team is a software architect level and the lightweight methods help. Otherwise if you're a code jockey working on a pre-existing engine then project management and deadlines are likely more effective.

And try pairing up agile software development with offshoring. It reminds me of the old "don't do drugs" commercials with the eggs.

*holds up an egg* this is your software development
*cracks egg* this is going agile
*opens egg over stove* this is agile offshoring
*ignores the fact that there is no pan to catch the egg* any questions?

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (1)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069384)

I agree. While I've never actually done (professional) game development, it seems like the waterfall model would make more sense for a game.

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (3, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069414)

Nope. Waterfall is literally impossible on any real game project.
They are waayyy too huge.

What you would want, is the spiral model. Not exactly as in the book, but with the basic ideas.
At least it does good here. Jesse Schell also recommends it, for obvious reasons. And according to him, it’s what is used for all projects that big, that actually finish. ;)

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069470)

The thing about games is that what looks good in the design doesn't always work in an actual game. You can't determine whether something is fun without creating a sample and playing it. Then you work out how to tweak it to make it work or make it better. You need an iterative approach.

The "customers" in this case are the designers (and possibly the testers).

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069638)

it seems like the waterfall model would make more sense for a game.

Come on people, stop quoting waterfall as a valid model for software development. Even in it's original introduction it was used as an example of a *flawed* model! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069710)

That's because claiming the waterfall is flawed is easier than backing up the model the author is trying to sell.

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069650)

The Waterfall model sucks. Do not use it for anything, ever.

The spiral model is what is usually done in the real world and is much better for it (You will want to invoke the "pin down initial requirements as much as possible" rule since major shifts in direction during work will screw you over, no matter what development model is used). Think of the "Code-[Compile]-Test" loop; in Waterfall, you write all the code, don't test anything as long as it compiles then do all the testing later — not exactly a strategy for success in any reasonable sized project.

For games, they tend to be 2 parts art, 2 parts science and 1 part code. How it feels is usually more important than its technical merits. You need to figure out what is fun, it is hard to know in advance what will or won't be much fun until you build a demo. As such, a blended prototype/spiral is more useful (pin down the genre and initial concept, start building it, fork off branches to experiment with features that may be rejected or merged back into the main line, iteratively QA as more and more parts are added or merged).

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (3, Interesting)

hackerjoe (159094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069496)

It's easy to lose track of the fact that good software is written by good teams.

I've worked on a couple of game teams that used scrum, and I'm kind of with you in that I don't think it made a whole lot of sense. However, nobody on our teams believed scrum precluded longer-term waterfall-style planning -- so we did that too, we just used scrum for the week-to-week divvying up the work. My impression is that a functional, experienced team can make something workable out of pretty much any process, we certainly did.

Those were traditional fire-and-forget commercial titles, though. Scrum makes a lot more sense for a long-life-cycle online game where you're adding features on a regular basis for 5 years post-launch. This is actually very similar to the context where (I understand) scrum is usually employed: internal information systems that see regular revisions for years after they're put in service.

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070056)

That's how we use it.

We have milestones up until release. Each milestone has some requirement of where the game will be at.
We have half a dozen two-week "sprints" each milestone. Each sprint tends to include related work, but it's mainly just a handy way to divide up the time.
Each sprint has big tasks ("stories" in the speak) in it (estimated in days), divided up between sprints at the start of each milestone and reorganised at each sprint if needed and agreed to.
Each "story" is broken up into individual tasks (estimated in hours) at the start of each sprint.
Each day, people take tasks to work on and update people on what they have done. If a "story" is done, it's fired off to QA.

Most of that is irrelevant though. The important things are that the people doing the work are the ones saying how long it will take to do, being able to get people to realise that they can't demand three weeks of work in a week, leaving time to fix bugs throughout the project and not just at the end, and still giving a rough idea of when features are ready for use by the level / mission designers.

So far it's working a lot better than the usual system where "production" manage a big work sheet, continuously rearranging things between people to try to get it all to fit and generally ignoring people who bring up things that need doing that aren't in the plan (which is always the case), leaving no time for fixing bugs, resulting in people bypassing the whole system and asking people to do things directly. Everyone always ended up behind on work because if they got ahead production would replan to take it into account, but when you were behind they'd start asking why. It's because the estimate was done by someone a year or two ago, with no idea how long it would really take!

I still expect to work overtime at the end of the project, but so far we've had to do remarkably little to hit our milestones.

Re:Not sure how Agile helps game development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069946)

When I *do* game development, I know it is an iterative process. You don't just sit down and churn content to deadlines.

There is a fine interplay between character control, physics, animation and content which can only be perfected iteratively. There is also iteration towards completion. You will never completely perfect the former, and you can and will drop levels that aren't working, or that you don't have time for.

Agile methodology is a very good fit for this, and I debate the article's context. Game development methodology has come on in leaps and bounds since we all started picking from the Agile tree. But game development is fundamentally hard, and getting harder. Game project management will always be an uphill struggle. The issue is not that you can't write a given piece of functionality in a given time, but that when you do so, there are aesthetic concerns which may not be completely addressed. No-one has ever come up with a methodology which includes the management of aesthetics. Historically, major works of art are usually late.

As for the "gap in QA between professional and game software development" - there's no such thing. Game software development is by and large done professionally, and by and large has very good QA. The gap in complexity between a server app and a game is the main thing that's widening, yet I still see fewer bugs in V1.0 of a console game than I do in V1.0 of released "professional" software. Ironically, the main factor worsening this is the industry's widespread adoption of "internet patches", a hack used for a decade by your professional software developers to cover up the known & accepted fact that no software is perfect. For 10 years before that, our software was bug-free from day one, with a *very* few notable exceptions.

Still, you may know better than me, despite your having a low opinion of the industry in general, and no particular insight into how it works. I look forward to the success of your games company where everyone is just a "code jockey" whose time is micro-managed on a daily basis to churn out content in predictable timescales, which somehow also has sufficient aesthetic appeal to be a commercial success. The publishers will love you.

Great article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069354)

Funny name. Smart guy.

"Agile" was just a PHB buzzword. (4, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069404)

[For fun: Read it, as if Ricky Gervais were saying it.* ;]

You know when your boss caught on to a new buzzsomething, storms into your room, and wants to play thought-experiments with him on what to change? Restructure the whole company? Because, oh god, it’s so great. He just loves it. With glowing eyes..., like a child. And you hate to tell him, that everything he just told you, and everything you have “planned” in the last 3 hours (of “water-cooler talk”, mind you) ...is a steaming pile of bollocks. ;)

“Agile” is such a thing.
You know he loves it. But he’s got no fuckin’ clue what he’s talking about.
“Yeah boss. Mmm-hmm. Great idea. Love it.... Say, you did hear that at the golf court, didn’t you?”

The thing is... everybody... and I mean every real software developer and project manager... knew that it could. not. work.
We were just sitting there, thinking to ourselves: “You have finally found something that’s even more unrealistic than the “plan everything, then GO!” waterfall model, haven’t you, ...you little fucker?”

Did you know that the spiral model... was invented over twenty years ago? Yeah. That’s how long you and I were sitting there, in our stinky cubicles... printing out everything remotely resembling fliers, and... casually placing them near your boss’s room, so he miight pick one up, and you would not have to beat him with that fuckin cluestick in your most beautiful algorithmic fashion, until he looks like a real flame-grilled burger king burger!

(Thankfully, not all of the industry is that bad. Most game development studios, from what I have heard, are actually implementing the spiral model in a very successful way. As am I. But it didn’t help you much when you were working at EA now did it? ;)
___
* Please, if you want to rip me apart for not getting British English right, write me a e-mail in my native language and regional dialect... south-western Luxemburgish. You know, the one with the “fro”, not the “fra”. ;)

Re:"Agile" was just a PHB buzzword. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069856)

* Please, if you want to rip me apart for not getting British English right, write me a e-mail in my native language and regional dialect... south-western Luxemburgish. You know, the one with the “fro”, not the “fra”. ;)

Nice try, but you realise this is an English speaking forum, right? Not that there's anything particularly wrong or horribly bad about your English (the European influence is visible in the placement of the commas but I've seen plenty of native English speakers do worse). My point is merely that you can't use being a non-native English speaker as a blanket excuse for getting things wrong when there are plenty of non-English forums online, since you are obviously coming here to participate in the language of the forum. Anyway, your English is great so don't apologise for it.

Re:"Agile" was just a PHB buzzword. (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070316)

Golf Court?

(Maybe he heard it at the squash course?)

When to use "agile" methods. (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069448)

"Agile" methodologies are most appropriate when the project consists of a large number of loosely coupled user-oriented features with no major architectural or technical innovations. Like PHP-based web sites. Or, in fact, much programming which involves using an existing "framework". Someone else has already figured out what the different parts of the system need to say to each other and roughly how they will say it. Development is mostly filling in the blanks.

Trying to use "agile" on a hard, tightly-coupled problem with no predefined structural framework, like an optimizing compiler or a database engine, is likely to result in a disaster.

A game can fall into either category. If the game requires new technology, especially something hard, (advanced AI, a new physics engine, a very large seamless world, etc.) a very front-end design-driven approach may be necessary. On the other hand, if most of the game consists of developing content for different areas of the game world, an "agile" methodology could work fine. Second Life is probably the most extreme example of this.

It's interesting to note that movie-making has become very much a waterfall model business. A few decades ago, moviemaking was much more "agile", and most directors came from a theatrical background. For a theatrical director, there's a debugging phase involving actors on a bare stage, and the content may change considerably during development. Big-budget moviemaking today involves going from script to storyboard to previsualization (making a low-end animated version as a planning tool) to production. That's very much a waterfall process.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (2, Interesting)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069680)

"A game can fall into either category. If the game requires new technology, especially something hard, (advanced AI, a new physics engine, a very large seamless world, etc.) a very front-end design-driven approach may be necessary. On the other hand, if most of the game consists of developing content for different areas of the game world, an "agile" methodology could work fine. Second Life is probably the most extreme example of this."

In my experience as a game developer (now 10 years ago), the situation would be exactly reversed. New technology requires rapid iteration from a lot of stakeholders, in a search to find something that is workable, balanced, fun, expandable, etc., which sounds "agile" to me. Established technology seems more like something you can give marching orders to the art department and have a fixed production schedule.

Examples: Two projects with new game engines being designed or evolved, programmer/designers were continually advancing or identifying features as unworkable, while some poor guy was trying to update a 100-page "design document", trying to record our feature set, being always hopelessly out-of-date, and to which none of the programmers paid any attention. Meanwhile, an intermediate add-on project adding no new programming (just new levels and art) became celebrated for having a well-established schedule up front, the tightest timeline, least expense, and best-looking art of any project at the company.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

hackerjoe (159094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069860)

New technology requires rapid iteration from a lot of stakeholders, in a search to find something that is workable, balanced, fun, expandable, etc., which sounds "agile" to me. Established technology seems more like something you can give marching orders to the art department and have a fixed production schedule.

This agrees with my (more recent) experience, but the fact is unless you have your own supply of cash to burn, your money source is going to want milestone deliveries, and probably will not tolerate much deviation from a fixed schedule. That means that no matter how bullshit it is when you first draft it, your development is going to be driven by the overall waterfall development arc your milestone commitments lock you to...

Not that it's a bad development model, in fact I think it's what most developers use in practice because it works: make an overall plan that says when you'll deliver, but figure out the details of what you're delivering through agile iteration.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070062)

One of key principles of agile is that you always have deliverable software, which plays right into needing to deliver working software at certain milestones.

A well run agile project will be delivering software every couple of weeks though, which also means that every couple of weeks you can hand something to the money men, and to play testers. They can then actually play the game, and pick up any major flaws much earlier in the process, making it feasible to actually do something about it.

I don't know if they were using agile, but one of the best examples of this sort of adaptation I've heard of in the context of games is Mirror's Edge, which originally was going to be a fairly generic first person shooter. At some point in development they realised that the leaping off buildings bits were much more fun, and refocused the game on them.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069796)

"Trying to use "agile" on a hard, tightly-coupled problem with no predefined structural framework, like an optimizing compiler or a database engine, is likely to result in a disaster."

Last time I did visit the CS department, they weren't busy drawing UML diagrams. I mean, a lot of things can't be expressed well with an UML diagram. (So you'll use pseudocode, some "non-standard" diagram, maybe - oh the horror - natural language.)

In my experience the people who are the most fond of UML diagrams are the people who make software for beancounters.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069982)

PostgreSQL *is* a database engine, and successfully runs with something pretty close to Agile methodology. New features are fairly small-grained, and are released to the test community fairly frequently. Feedback on the design and implementation then affects development on that feature (including possibly dropping it).

The Linux kernel development process is also similar to Agile methodology, and seems to work fairly well, despite regularly having major architectural or technical innovations.

Where these projects differ from games, however, is that there are no deadlines as there are no marketing people waiting for the next release. In addition, each new feature is useful independently while a game may be unplayable unless a set of features are all functioning together. Movies have a similar issue: time-based releases aren't an option; a film without scenes 4, 7, 84 and 103 just isn't watchable.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070004)

I don't know what your experience is that led you to say that moviemaking has become more waterfall, but my sources in the industry, who have been in the industry a little over ten years, describe precisely the opposite of what you're describing. Ten years ago, there was reasonable art direction, a reasonable process, and the hope that a quality shot would at some point be called "done" so they could move on. Today, even though the script->storyboard->previz->production process provides more structure, the actual process of a moviemaker's development is much more like iterative prototyping than it is a waterfall. The increased flexibility of computer graphics has led directors to expect they can make changes at any point in the process and use CG to fix it up - everything from little things like not reshooting bad footage to completely reworking the ending of a movie or changing its plotline - all of things which have happened to my sources, particularly on "I Am Legend," where massive changes had to be made the further and further they went in the moviemaking - and this is with a lot of it plotted out and prevized.

Your mileage may vary - if you have a really good director, this does not apply.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

CrazyIvanovich (1602729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070084)

Exactly! Your life cycle for software is a design choice just like any other! I don't know how many times I puked in my mouth during software engineering classes in college where we were simply beaten with "Waterfall bad; Iterative good!" in the name of 'No Silver Bullet.' It completely misses the point! The title says it all, if you believe it.

The life cycle of your product needs tailored to its requirements.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070400)

It's interesting to note that movie-making has become very much a waterfall model business. A few decades ago, moviemaking was much more "agile", and most directors came from a theatrical background. For a theatrical director, there's a debugging phase involving actors on a bare stage, and the content may change considerably during development. Big-budget moviemaking today involves going from script to storyboard to previsualization (making a low-end animated version as a planning tool) to production. That's very much a waterfall process.

Yes, you are right.
When a sector becomes mature, a process can be defined.
But this is because making a movie is very expensive, and much more than creating a video game.
On the very few games costing more than 10 millions, there is a lot of procedures.

"Agile" methodologies are most appropriate when the project consists of a large number of loosely coupled user-oriented features with no major architectural or technical innovations. Like PHP-based web sites. Or, in fact, much programming which involves using an existing "framework". Someone else has already figured out what the different parts of the system need to say to each other and roughly how they will say it. Development is mostly filling in the blanks.

Hum, as an ex-game programmer and a current agile developer, I have to say that you are wrong.

Writing a game now requires using lots of frameworks (3D engine, controller input, and in some cases AI).

Using frameworks has nothing to do with agile programming. Note also that programming nowadays has become like playing with Legos: you use the pieces that you bought, and you never build your own pieces.

As the article states, using agile will slow down your progress by at least 15%, but you'll have an average of 60% less bugs (quality might not be an important factor in a game).

Although I use agile methodologies, I know that some of them don't work with everybody.
Pair programming is the typical example that won't work in game programming.
Why ? Simply because you cannot afford to write every line of code by two programmers when you write a game.

What works in agile are:

1) TDD (test-driven development): writing tests before or at least covering your code with tests.
2) Tasks splitting: split your project in small tasks, and define what you expect from every task (we use cards for that).
3) Pair committing: every commit must be reviewed by two programmers. This reduces the obvious bugs.
4) Minimal effort: always write the smallest amount of code to write a task. Don't start building a skyscraper when you need a home.
5) Daily standup meeting: all the team stand up and talk about their progress during one minute per person
6) Iterative process: define small 'milestones' named iterations, for example every two weeks. At the beginning of the iteration, you define what tasks you want to be done. At the end, you check what has been done.
7) Continuous integration: when you commit, a build is launched and the tests are executed. If you break the build, you fix it immediately.
8) Retrospective: at the end of every iteration, take some hours (one hour per week is enough) to analyze what went right and what went wrong. It's like a post-mortem (check Gamasutra's post-mortems), and allows you to better react when there are problems.

As agile processes are people-centric, every team should have its own rules.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071082)

Pair programming is the typical example that won't work in game programming.
Why ? Simply because you cannot afford to write every line of code by two programmers when you write a game.

Not every line of code, but for some lines it can make a lot of sense to write them in pairs.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31071152)

Big-budget moviemaking today involves going from script to storyboard to previsualization (making a low-end animated version as a planning tool) to production. That's very much a waterfall process.

It may start as something resembling to a waterfall just like formulation of a request of proposal for a software project might look, but turns quickly into an agile process as the movie gets its final look. The all digital production enables even more liberty by spreading the agile part of the movie making all the way to the storyboarding and concept development levels. This way the production process increasingly supports the act of story telling which the movie making should be all about.

Re:When to use "agile" methods. (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071634)

Since you're going all general on us... A company I worked for used to tell its customers it was an "Agile" company. It announced "Agility Alliance" partners intended to speed time to market, and develop solutions quickly.

Internally, a new development process was rolled out that everyone had to follow. It was classic Waterfall with everything renamed. Then they addressed the shortcomings of Waterfall by adding additional planning, documentation, gate reviews, and I forgot what else.

We're agile, and we just changed our development model to prove it. Yay!

*sigh*

Any process is better then no process (4, Insightful)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069464)

Game development has lagged terribly behind traditional / non game programming industries in terms of its development practices. And the most recent projects I have worked on were using a Scrum / Agile hybrid. I will admit to not knowing exactly which is which. But the great thing that Agile/Scrum did was to put in place a process where every time someone asked for a feature change, it would be reflected on the development schedule. I have worked on projects where there was at best a vague checklist of what still needed to be done with no info on how long it was expected to take. In my experience, most milestone crunch work is due to people realizing too late that something that should be in the milestone was not going to get done in time.

The problem with any development practice is that if taken too far, it will cause more problems then it solves. You should not have to write a formal task card up, and put it on the board for trivial tasks. And if you break things down too much, you end up losing sight of the bigger picture.

I do not care what process you use to get things done. As long as someone on the project (probably the project lead), is keeping track of the following:

    - Break down the project into smaller tasks: This makes it at least possible to assign responsibility for specific things to specific people.

    - Task / Feature prioritization: When it comes time to make cuts, knowing what things are important is highly useful.

    - Task interdependency: You want to schedule your work load to make sure no one gets stuck waiting for something else, and it helps to have a list of alternate tasks you can move onto when you do get road blocked.

    - Making sure things are done mostly on time: It is never a good thing to only realize that a task is not going to be done on time 2 days before it needs to be done. If something is taking too long, you should know before hand

    - Making sure new features are checked against the schedule: No one wants to have a project become late because someone decided to add new features half way through the project but did not add time to it.

If you can track these things intelligently you can avoid the worst bits of milestone specific crunch. No process will prevent a deathmarch, or magically squeeze out an extra 6 months of effective development time. But it will avoid the nastiest surprises, and help create a realistic prediction of what a given development team can produce in a given time frame.

END COMMUNICATION

Many games developers ? (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069468)

Many games developers have been pursuing agile development

Who ?

Re:Many games developers ? (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069504)

Kuju, EA, Ignition, High Moon, Creative Assembly. Probably a few others but the only games company I know that isn't explicitly is Climax.

Re:Many games developers ? (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070208)

How can I verify that ?

Re:Many games developers ? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070266)

Call them up and ask them?

Re:Many games developers ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070664)

BlackRock (formerly Climax Brighton) are big on Agile - which I think is the not too subtle reference at the end of the article ;)

"No two projects are the same, well - unless you make racing games."

I am a game developer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069488)

What the hell is he talking about?

Agile? Scrum? Waterfall? Sprints?

What do those words even mean? This article seems like it's written in some kind of alien language. And these charts look completely worthless.

Do people in management at large corporations actually talk like this? Do they actually think charts like this somehow help them run the company better? Ugh.

Re:I am a game developer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069524)

so I just lookedup what the spiral and waterfall models are.

Do we really need words for these things?

Does anyone have to be told explicitly that when developing a game you decide you need certain features, you implement them, you test, and then you improve upon that?

Jesus.

Re:I am a game developer. (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069590)

Well, I usually test before I implement. Far fewer failures that way. Just a single "file not found."

Re:I am a game developer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31071382)

You joke, but that's how test driven development works. You write your tests first, and then write code that addresses the "issues" found in the tests. So you'd fix "file not found" and run the tests again (and then work on the compiler error generated by your empty or garbage file).

I've used this approach before and it works well in the right situations. The key though is writing good tests.

Re:I am a game developer. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069630)

You don't need to be told. Waterfall is a description of the design process, not an advocated design process.

Re:I am a game developer. (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069538)

Yes. It's convenient jargon. Scrum is a design methodology. Sprints are short project segments where a defined piece of work is completed. Waterfall is the traditional requirements, design, implementation, verification, maintenance way of developing software.

We use these terms because it's very long winded to spell out what we mean in much the same way that we say wi-fi when talking about a wireless system for transmitting data between general purpose computing devices.

Re:I am a game developer. (4, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070178)

Do people in management at large corporations actually talk like this?

No, the programmers do.

Agile is all about breaking the project down into small, more-or-less self-contained (sets of) features, and getting the users involved in the process. The aim is the same, to go from a set of requirements to a finished product, but it's supposed to be more flexible, more able to cope with changes along the way, etc (hence, "agile").

It differs from the traditional waterfall method in that it allows for coding of one (set of) requirement(s) to start, while the next set is being specced out; it also allows (in fact, requires) that testing of the last set of delivered functionality is performed while the current set is being developed. Thus it runs several separate workstreams in parallel. If that testing reveals any bugs that need to be fixed now, then the fixes can be worked into the next sprint as required (which yes, may well push features out, either to a later date or completely out of the project).

Agile suits some projects better than others, some customers better than others, and some project teams better than others. When it works well, it can work really well; similarly when it's poorly managed or people have unrealistic expectations, it can crash and burn like any other method. (And similarly, of course, other methods of running software projects can work very well too - use the right tool for the right job...)

Agile is dead? (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069530)

That's news to me. I don't know anything about the gaming industry or their development process (though in some cases it seems to be "work your devs to the bone, and then go bankrupt"). But I can assure you that agile methodologies are alive and well in the corner of the industry in which I work (e-commerce).

But Agile is a broad term, encompassing many different ideas. Do you mean specifically XP? Scrum? Agile design? I would say elements of all of these things continue to thrive, while in my experience none of them exist in their pure theoretical form (which is appropriate, because it wouldn't be very "agile" to be dogmatic about process).

While I can't imagine a game being released in an iterative fashion (aside from bug fixes and the occasional add-on content), I can imagine an agile, iterative model being used in-house, at least for some parts. I mean, do you really want to risk having nothing to show for your work for 6 or more months? Surely something could be "released" (in-house) for downstream dependencies to start work, and some basic feedback to feed into your development.

Who knows, as I say, I don't have any experience with game development itself. But the risk one faces with too long of an iteration is arriving at your iteration end-point way behind schedule, behind in technology, and with components that may work great in a design made a year ago, but can no longer fulfill the new requirements that have cropped up.

Re:Agile is dead? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069618)

I can imagine an agile, iterative model being used in-house, at least for some parts.

This is exactly how it works.

Re:Agile is dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069822)

Where in the summary or article does it say dead?

Too long (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069540)

Did TFA have "Mary had a little lamb" in the middle of it? Nobody knows, and nobody ever will. Bonus points for unfalsifiable assertions in the first paragraph.

Re:Too long (1)

sohp (22984) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069572)

TL;DR

Also -- PowerPoint graphics ftl.

Staring blankly (2, Funny)

GaimanBohrs (1591799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069584)

I don't know what anything in this thread means.

...but I like games.

Re:Staring blankly (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069622)

Well, agile programming has done harm to the games industry, and therefore they are now looking for phlegmatic programmers.

Re:Staring blankly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069818)

Yeah! Down with whatever that is!

Re:Staring blankly (1)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069640)

It's a lot of project management nonsense. Basically, there are a few different ways to manage a software project. The idea is that much like building a house, you can assemble the house in many different ways, and some ways will produce a better house in less time.

Personally, I think it's all just a bunch of crap. Any carpenter will tell you that you should assemble the walls before you put the roof on. Any programmer will tell you that you need a filesystem driver before you need a resource management system (although there's really no reason that the two can't be done in parallel, if properly planned out).

In short, this topic reminds me of bickering over how whitespace should be formatted. Completely useless 99% of the time.

Disclaimer: I work in the game industry as a systems programmer. I honestly can't tell you what methodology we use. Spiral maybe? Our publisher wants tangible results, and every programmer is given tasks that are within their area of expertise. We build up our game (which is a constantly shifting target) to the best of our ability.

Re:Staring blankly (2, Insightful)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069764)

It's called Cowboy Coding [wikipedia.org]

Re:Staring blankly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070050)

Nah nah, it's called Brokeback Coding... that's the one where the developers all get screwed in the end.

Re:Staring blankly (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070854)

I find it funny that many put down cowboy coding as an atrocity--worst of the worst sins, but how come many revenue positive startups are built on top of cowboy code? It's because it works if the developers are good and passionate, but if not the code churned out will be a mess of spaghetti. Corporate profitability is priority #1--not code quality. Code quality is probably #3 or #4 on the list.

Re:Staring blankly (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069656)

I am with this guy. Are you people even speaking english?

Re:Staring blankly (1)

RPoet (20693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069688)

You know, it's about leveraging the curation of your social graph in the hyperpersonal news-stream of the post-2.0 web. I think.

there is no engineering in software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069642)

Software development is still a craft.. more than art, but way less than engineering..

until we have tools to make software in a consistent, reproductible way, we can't apply engineering tecniques to software development

until then, we have to treat it as a craft.

we have to focus on communication of processes between people

the main problem today in software development is communication.
with the client, between developers, with management.

we have to develop tools to help the client communicate better the expectations. tools to help the developers communicate to the management how long it will take to do what. and to help management communicate to the client what will really be done, and how much it will cost, and how long it will take

Re:there is no engineering in software (2, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071034)

Software development is still a craft.. more than art, but way less than engineering..

until we have tools to make software in a consistent, reproductible way, we can't apply engineering tecniques to software development

We've had tools for that since forever. `cp` for example. Reproducing software reliably is trivial in comparison to bridges, because software is only information, and not something physical. Writing software is not like building consistent and reproducible bridges, it's like inventing a new kind of bridge. There's always going to be some art, judgement and testing involved.

Oh ... I did not know ... (3, Insightful)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069712)

that
As the industry at large is moving away from the phantasmagoria of Agile ...

I guess calling Agile a silver bullet and/or calling it a hype or anti hype is just a thing of the media. As a Software Developer you are used to at least know the best tool for your job and the best language for your job (albeit some reasons may prevent you from using them). The same should be true for software project management methods.

Keep in mind that perhaps 50% of all software development houses have no method at all but just do it with more or less success. That often is topped by neither having a version control system nor having an issue tracker. Project management is done with Excel Sheets, which are mailed around and edited/annotated by multiple persons.

Calling Agile "failing" is in my eyes a clear sign that you have no clue about it.

Every single thing that is stated as best practice in TDD, XP or Scrum is a very good thing to do in your process, regardless wether you follow any of those methods strict or prefer a more traditional approach.

Most people calling Agile fail either have (as I stated above) no process at all, never tried it, or already do do a lot of the core practices like nightly builds and continuos integration etc.

This said: no one ever claimed that a good running traditional process which is already yielding high quality result would be even better if run Agile. However everyone who has no process, everyone who has quality problems, everyone who has tracking, budget delivery time problems, those have a much easier term in adopting some agile process and a much easier introduction and adoption of tools instead of one who switches to RUP or similar heavy weight processes.

angel'o'sphere

Re:Oh ... I did not know ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070642)

I agree that much of 'Agile' is very good for software development in general, and I have been embracing the good parts since I learned of them.

But there are other parts that are more murky. The company I work for used to be totally free-form and the only structure was that the owner would ask when you thought an entire project would be done, and he'd get upset if it looked like no progress was being made. (Note that the appearance had very little to do with reality. It was possible to get amazing amounts done and get yelled at for not releasing anything, and it was possible to get almost nothing done and be praised for releasing so much. I've done both.)

The company recently moved to Agile, embracing Scrum strongly. It gets in the way of a lot of things, like bug fixes. Everything is so driven by the '2 weeks!' thing that bugfixes are getting pushed around and avoided. Why? Because we'll get scolded for being late on our 2-week run.

It also gets in my way as a developer since instead of a 1-hour meeting every week, we now have a 1-hour meeting every 2 weeks plus a 10-60 minute meeting every day. This means that I not only lose more time, but I get interrupted from my flow every single day. (It's not possible to catch everyone at the beginning of their shift because we start at different times over the course of about 5 hours.)

On the other hand, I find that the newest programmers are now quite a bit more productive because they have clearly defined tasks and goals. Since we have quite a few more newbies than veterans, it's probably a net gain. And the owner doesn't yell any more because there's always things being released.

Re:Oh ... I did not know ... (1)

vacarul (1624873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070732)

Project management is done with Excel Sheets, which are mailed around and edited/annotated by multiple persons.

so true, I worked for a multinational company that used only Excel... for everything. For every type of report, they would send one Excel file to be filled and sent back every week. The receiver would get one file from every person and then compile some mega Excel file report. After a few weeks the mail came back. The Excel template was replaced with a new version so we had to fill in again the information but in the new file. Of course most of the information they requested was useless.

I had this fantasy in which I would have the power to make Excel disappear and then watch how all the "managers" would run around, hitting their heads because they lost all the reports.

oh... and their slogan was something about building the internet of tomorrow...

Re:Oh ... I did not know ... (1)

wrook (134116) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070924)

The problem is that "Agile" as a methodology means almost nothing. We value people over processes, etc, etc. It could be anything.

I've worked on a couple of very successful XP style projects. One was so successful that it surpassed my wildest expectations. We had good people on the project, but it wasn't much different than other teams I've worked on before. The biggest difference was an interest in the XP practices and a consistent approach to applying them. The more we did it, the more we learned, and the more successful we became. I can't really explain it well, but the more code we wrote, the rate at which we could implement functionality increased (exactly the opposite from other projects I'd been on).

But it's this not being able to explain our success that is the problem. I now know what a lot of people mean when they talk about hyper-productivity in "agile" projects. And after that wildly successful project I would look on in despair at other projects. Management would suggest that this project was successful too and I would have to disagree. I could point to places in the code where cruft was developing. "All code has cruft", they would say. But cruft slows you down. It makes you have to think hard about what you are doing. It makes you make difficult decisions about what you should be doing. Truly agile projects can't afford cruft. Think about how easy it is to write new code compared to writing code in an old system. Well, truly agile code is *easier* to code in than new code. And the more you write, the easier it becomes. You get more functionality, it's better organized, it's easier to read, it gets closer and closer to the real problem domain. And it even tells you (through "tests") when you use it improperly.

This kind of code comes from the dedication of the developers, I think. The "agility" doesn't come from avoiding overhead. It comes from constantly making things easier and easier. It comes from being sensitive and saying, "That bugs me" and improving it -- every single time. It comes from understanding the separation between the business side where the 80/20 rule applies and the technical side where the 80/20 rule means you're going into technical debt everyday.

I have no doubt that there are people who experience the "agility" that I experienced using a variety of different methods. XP isn't what made me "agile". It was more of a bootstrapping process that let me start understanding what was important and what wasn't. I suspect there are people who are more talented than me who can see that without being shown. But from experience they are very rare indeed. And unfortunately the vast majority of people believe that "Agile" means exactly the opposite of the discipline that is required to achieve it.

Perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069744)

...if the programmers started eating less, exercising and losing weight they could be back on the track to being agile?

Re:Perhaps... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069956)

...if the programmers started eating less, exercising and losing weight they could be back on the track to being agile?

Well, the story told how agile programming failed. Therefore the message is: more pizza!

methodology for noobs (1)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069888)

When noobs don't know what to do and can't define the problem they break out the Agile card.

Problem is managers and CEOs lap up the Agile mantra especially when from a slick salesman. Agile sounds sexy. Waterfall methodology is what stale dinosaurs use.

Re:methodology for noobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070016)

Wow, you clearly have never been in a functional agile environment. Are you one of those types that:
a) likes to be handed a project and just deliver exactly what is defined so you can then later say "It wasn't in the spec";
b) believes that you can fully and accurately document a project before any work on it begins?

Agile is the exact opposite of what you claim. Any noob would have huge challenges with an agile approach because it doesn't attempt to spoon-feed all the requirements and definitely does not absolve any programmers from delivering sub-par work so they can claim "it wasn't in the spec".

At least you got one part of your comment right: Waterfall methodology is was stale dinosaurs use.

Re:methodology for noobs (3, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070680)

I question whether you really get Agile, either. Yes, the requirements for the entire project are not given up-front. But the requirements for each sprint are.

Working without requirements is crazy and is guaranteed to destroy your sanity. Without requirements, you cannot estimate anything and you never know when you are done.

Yes, requirements can change in Agile, but never in the middle of a sprint. If the boss wants to send it back because it's the wrong shade of blue (despite that being the shade they picked) they will know exactly what it will cost them to change the color, and they'll get to decide exactly what sprint you'll do it in.

Unit testing in C++ (1)

nanogiga (1228344) | more than 4 years ago | (#31069924)

Maybe not so related to the story, but anyway:

Game developers typically use C or C++ (at least the ones that create processing heavy 3D games), and it doesn't help that the open source frameworks for unit testing in C++ are not too great. The problem is that there are about 40 of them (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unit_testing_frameworks#C.2B.2B [wikipedia.org] ), many developers spreading their talent over their own creation instead of working together on something good. We use UnitTest++ at work, and it hurts to see that the mailinglist is about dead, with interesting proposals getting no answer, and no updates since 2008. GTest seems better, but we can't switch just like that.

Contrast this to Java, where you basically have JUnit and TestNG in healthy competition.

There are commercial options, like UquoniTest (see http://www.q-mentum.com/uquonitest.php [q-mentum.com] ) which has great features, but I'd rather wait until they're compatible with UnitTest++ (as they promise on their blog), and Cantata++ (see http://www.ipl.com/products/tools/pt400.uk.php [ipl.com] ) which has code coverage.

Zer0 Day gets closer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069976)

Microsoft has published empirical data that shows that the process overhead for TDD increases the development effort by 15% - 35%

Re:Zer0 Day gets closer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31071428)

And do you know why?

Because when you do TDD you actually test stuff! You don't just go around promising to "test it next week."

dumber than rocks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31069994)

I have to say I'm amazed at how many idiots there are here. Has anyone on here really implemented or participated in a well-run agile process? Yes I said process because that's what it is.

The article comes across as thoughtful and presenting a well formulated view but completely misses some of the fundamental tenets of the agile manifesto. For example, valuing interactions over process does not mean you create a chaotic, wild-west environment. It simply means you do not rely on process to strictly guide you but expect people to talk through problems and quickly identify solutions rather than apply process for the sake of process.

An agile development environment, whether Scrum, XP, or a customized hybrid approach (truly taking agile concept to heart) creates a repeatable framework for delivering quality results quickly. A good agile environment will have a cadence that let's developers focus on technical solutions. It give managers a consistent window to see how work is progressing, to ensure requirements are met, and to quickly and easily adjust based on review, feedback, testing, etc.

I'd also point out that the writer of the article said the following in his article, very clearly NOT stating that agile was the cause of the problem:
Developing software is hard and developing games is particularly tough. We only have to look at the software development landscape to see the rotting corpses of failed projects as evidence of this fact."

The key responsibility of management is to help prioritize what gets developed when. If you don't capture and prioritize the development of fundamental systems (read: game play mechanics and physics) early on then this sounds to me like piss-poor management. You let high-risk items sit until late in the process. The more tightly coupled various elements are, the more critical the prioritization process.

I've actually heard some state that "it should not be a random walk". No shit? Thanks brainiac. Anyone that thinks that is what an agile process entails has no idea how to manage. Now please step aside so the team can work on incrementally delivering on the long-term product strategy and goals I've prioritized and roughly mapped-out (with their help).

Oh, did I mention I come at this from slightly outside the development team in a product manager role? And it STILL makes sense to me and helps me be more effective in my role.

Agile without user feedback!??? (3, Interesting)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070024)

The essential philosophy of Agile is that development should be done in tight cycles were small self-contained features are designed and implemented, followed by user feedback while planning for the next cycle.

This process is intended to cope with a couple of problems from the old waterfall model, such as:

  • End users of a system have needs but they don't know them fully and correctly up-front, so a fully defined requirements document is impossible. Tight cycles of feature-development-user-feedback facilitate user discovery of requirements and allow for small adjustments based on user feedback.
  • It avoids the "As soon as we give the requirements to the IT guys we stop hearing from them for a year while all they tell us is that 'they're working on it'" problem. The end users of the system being developed become part of the development process in an Agile process - that brings all sorts of benefits like keeping them happy and getting quick feedback on potential problems.
  • The planning stage before each cycle helps with prunning of low-value-high-cost features. By having the user-stakeholder choose the priority of the features to implement in each cycle, the important features will not be left behind just because they didn't look important to the developers

All that this has in common is the existence of end-users (which can be other systems, if your system does not have an UI), which have roughly defined needs (typically a business process) which the software being built will address.

Now look at games:

  • The real end-users (gamers) need entertainment. They don't have a pre-existent process which the game would automate to achieve that - in fact some of the best entertainement comes from games that do things no games ever done before.
  • "Having fun" is an emotional state which depends on many things that are difficult to pin-down and that even change over time and depend on the user's mind-set: a way to make users achive it cannot be discovered as part of small interactive development loops
  • There is no typical end user that can act as a representative of the other users. In fact a successfull game aims to entertain as many sorts of users as possible and as cannot be tunned to the wishes of only some users
  • Games are often one-pass entertainment: you play it once and then you never play it again. This means that any users trying the game in between the tight development cycles of Agile would quickly become useless as test-subjects (as boredom overwelmed fun)
  • The programming part of a game is often the least important bit of it. In fact in most modern games the code just powers the rules engines (for the mechanics of the games) and the graphics engine (that gives shape to the game world and displays the artwork) and is at it's best when it's not noticed.

So games don't usually fit in the (software development context) pattern for using Agile development methodologies wholesale.

At best, some games might have a creative person behind it with a vision which can serve as the user-stakeholder, but even then often the "vision" is vague and can change a lot over time (a "vision" is much less prone to a continuously-improving discovery process than a "business process" - in fact if the person with the "vision" is not methodical, you end up with a process where a cycle is just as likelly to take the software closer to the "vision" as it is to take it further way from it).

To repeat the often heard (but seldom heeded) motto: "There is no silver bullet!"

I only read the title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070144)

Agile does not seem like a very good choice for game development (with a few exceptions).

A better methodology for game development would be rapid application development, because:
You want to make a model of the system before implementing it.
You want to make prototypes.
You are not planning on "maintaining" the system for years to come, you want it to be done relatively fast.
Almost none of the benefits of agile apply to game development unless its some kind of constantly running, constantly changing MMO.

Other good methodologies:
  * Contract Driven Development
  * Model Driven Development

process is something to tread carefully with (1)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070166)

I can see some form of structure is useful, but people seem to always get carried away with it, which sets of a cascade of bad things.

Things take longer -> enthusiasm drops away -> it becomes just a job -> people lose interest in talking and reading about the technology -> their learning slows or even stops.

I believe process and structures should be applied very very carefully, and more often than not, sparingly. I believe chaos, common sense and "yeh that works for us" can combine to come up with simple processes and structures that work best. I don't doubt things can be learnt from other processes, but it is a slippery slope to walk on.

Was it ever Agile? (4, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070254)

The problem is not in "Agile" methodology.

The problem is in "Mongolian Clusterfuck" methodology, called "Agile" by managers who think "Mongolian Clusterfuck" isn't catchy enough.

Agile sets short reachable targets, and reiterates and modifies them upon reaching them. The cycle is 2-4 weeks.

Mongolian Clusterfuck is similar, but the cycle is 2-4 hours and the targets that haven't been reached are abandonned half-finished.

Agile has specs that accept modifications when the customer requests them. Mongolian Clusterfuck has specs that change every time your boss stops by.

Agile has daily meetings of what problems to solve and how. Mongolian Clusterfuck is "this is broken, leave whatever you're doing and fix it now."

Agile has one clear set of goals of a golden middle between performance, stability, portability, cost, time and maintainablity. Mongolian Clusterfuck has two. Simultaneously.

Game development is exceptionally prone to Mongolian Clusterfuck methodology. And then people who never knew Agile think it sucks bad.

Re:Was it ever Agile? (1)

Pond823 (643768) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070426)

Mod this up! We're already talking MC vs Agile in the office now.

Re:Was it ever Agile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31070784)

I'm glad you pointed out that thing about bug fixes. We're having that problem right now. We're expected to fix any and all bugs that appear -as- they appear, but still keep our time-table for the sprint. The bugs aren't even assigned to us or discussed, we're just supposed to each do a certain number of them.

I'll have to see if I can't find something online to send in so they'll see how deadly this is to the process.

Orientated. (2, Interesting)

ericvids (227598) | more than 4 years ago | (#31070958)

I stopped RTFB'ing when I read the word "orientated."

His choice of words betray his place in the hifalutin versus technical [askoxford.com] continuum.

Oh crap I said "continuum", I'm turning into one of them droids! I'm meltiiiiiiiiiing...

Re:Orientated. (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071174)

I stopped RTFB'ing when I read the word "orientated."

A friend of mine from Indiana spent a year in Japan. During the first 3 months, he felt very out of place. Then he got orientated.

Excellent article against Agile (2, Informative)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31071842)

Good Agile, Bad Agile [blogspot.com] by Steve Yegge at Google is an excellent article on the pros and (mostly) cons of Agile development.

Personally my single biggest problem with Agile is that it specifically de-emphases code ownership (mental ownership, not economic). In my experience as a developer, the only way you get people to go the extra mile on a project (working nights, weekends, whenever and whatever it takes) is when they feel like that code is theirs.

The other big problem I have is that whenever I see someone talking about Agile development it always feels like they're trying to sell me Amway products. It has the same, almost proselytizing tone that a Born-Again preacher takes when they're holding out the money-jar.

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