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The latest Kingdom Come: Deliverance development blog focuses on the hurdles the developers at Warhorse Studios have met after their successful Kickstarter campaign. From expansion problems to dropped features, this is, if nothing else, a candid write-up, so it's only fair I quote a section large enough to provide some context:
As you may have gathered from the previous posts, Warhorse has doubled in size in the last two months from less than 30 people to 60 of us. The new recruits came not only from our own little country, but also from the US (even from Bethesda), Poland and Sweden. So theoretically we can now do twice as much work. The problem, though, is that work on a game is based on the design document. Naturally, our original plan was to write the design as we went along. According to the design, the core features were supposed to be designed first and as the designs gradually expanded we would take on more people as needed.
But our situation in the last, quite dramatic year drew a stroke through our budget. Since I was looking for money and shooting the Kickstarter video instead of designing, our design document has a few, quite significant gaps and even though I am now far from alone on the job (there are eight of us now), it is only coming together as a whole very slowly. The new people have to be trained, we all have to get on the same page, write the design in the same way, set up a system of work and define patterns of how we will write so that other people apart from us will be able to find their way in it, and all of that is demanding. Especially when, like me, you have to roll in front of you a massive boulder of backlog stuff.
Got a cloning device?
Don't get me wrong. Our design runs to several hundred pages we don't pull the game out of thin air. Most of the features are described down to the minutest detail. Only then a situation come along where you are desperately trying to write the last few missing, but quite important features for the programmers, the designers meanwhile are working on lacking craft mechanisms and in the middle of it all ten new graphic and concept designers are asking for assignments. But to assign work to the graphic guys, you first have to read and comment the crafting design from the designers, which after two weeks of work by six people (surprisingly) runs to a hundred pages, and that you cannot read in five minutes.
So you make an agreement with the graphic artists that instead of creating assets for minigames they should first design situation plans and white boxes of the villages on the map and then start on the crafting next week after you've done your review. During the course of the revision, however, you discover that some of the designers haven't quite gotten the idea of how the crafting should look, that two very similar activities from two different designers have completely different controls, and you will have to go over it with them, redo it and add some stuff that you didn't think of when conceiving the crafting, but turn out to be quite fundamental obstacles to its functionality.
So in the end it turns out that the graphic guys have to wait a week longer and the designing of features and handling the backlog will have to wait, too. The Boulder of Sisyphus has rolled back a bit. And then when you've finished all the crafting and show it to the programmers, they throw their hands up and tell you it can't be done like that and they're not going to waste two months of work on some nonsense like cooking and we should go and simplify it. So the graphic designers.
Along comes anarchy, which in the majority of game studios is on the daily agenda and to some extent is inevitable in something as complicated as game development, but which I honestly hate. Especially when it is I who am the main cause of it, and the fact that our woes of last year had a lot to do with it and everything would be different if things had gone according to plan doesn't change anything. What's done is done. At our regular leader sessions the heads of the individual departments complain that I ignore them and they feel like the ship is tossing in the waves without a helmsman.
So for the last month we have been gradually establishing order and trying to get into a routine. We updated our roadmap. We started fundamentally reworking the planning system and since we use agile planning, we even had a guy here from Hansoft to help us set up the right processes. Even that did not go ahead without shouting matches, because even though agile planning is great for programmers, planning design and its implementation in it is something like writing the script of a big-budget movie while shooting. It happens sometimes, but it's not OK. Here, too, we had to work out complicated compromises and hopefully we've done that. Only now we have to update our entire backlog. And my Boulder of Sisyphus rolls back another little bit.