What do software development and board game development have in common?

    What do software development and board game development have in common? This was best know Sergey Milfgard Abdulmanov who studied in "mathematician-system programmer" and owned by IT-company, and is now known to readers Habra posts in the blog of "Mosigra".

    He will conclude the Joker conference with his Keynote “How we expanded the bottleneck of development”, and on the eve of this conference we asked him a number of questions about how the two industries are similar - and how they differ.


    Sergey : In short, it will be more correct to announce the thesis “how we fiercely screwed up.” This is so that you do not think that we came up with a new agile there or something else. And also at our place, testers almost filled the developers’s face. In private. But this is a separate song.

    - There is a well-known thesis from the book “Mythical Man-Month”: “if more people are added to a software project that is behind schedule, it will only slow it down”. And in the development of board games, does the same effect manifest itself or not?

    Sergey : It depends on what kind of people. There is a horizontal scaling, this is when one team gets one game for 5 months. You take and do 10 such commands, the speed grows 8 times. And there is a vertical one - this is when you break everything down into microservices and expect each section to go faster. We tried both one and the other, and the third. I think yes - if you add people, you can grow in speed. But it must be professionals. The second question is where to get them or how to train them.

    In general, my practice shows that working with professionals is cheaper. Even if they are more expensive.

    - Often, programmers are considered very difficult to manage compared to other employees (“it's like grazing cats”). You saw the management of both programmers and non-programmers - in your opinion, how much does this representation correspond to the truth?

    Sergey : Listen, man, what are you getting to the bottom of me? I am an introvert. I do not know, it is equally difficult for me with everyone. But I at least understand the developers.

    Seriously - no, there are no such problems. There are others.

    - Usually they say about development that it is a rapidly changing industry, where you constantly need to relearn and adapt to the new. And the development of board games in comparison with this is a quiet backwater, or is it really there, too, and just have time to relearn?

    Sergey : Our key skills remain longer, but our market itself is changing and developing. And the company, you know, is not the most calm. The motto is - "if you do not go forward, then you go to ...", well, in general, you don’t go there.

    The coolest thing an employee can do is make decisions on his own and bear responsibility for them. And this is always scary. This is what you need to learn.

    Here we also need to take into account that we, with our 9-year experience (and someone has it two times less), are now trying to crawl into Western markets. And it turns out. And there the competition is much stronger. This is where everything really boils. We are plush for them from the point of view of development - we don’t know anything about the tastes of their people, and they are for us from the point of view of retail. As a result, somehow unusually well agreed with the Dutch. Judging by the games, they work there, in an altered state of consciousness - and they understand us very well.

    - In software development, it often turns out like this: a successful programmer is appointed to the managerial role, but in this role he turns out to be much less successful, and as a result no one is happy, but it is not clear who will replace him. And in the case of board games, are there any such difficulties?

    Sergey : You're talking about Uncle Edison, right? We have another problem - development looks at hundreds of games a year from the authors. Therefore, she is forbidden to work on her projects. In general, we recently have an IT director became the head of retail. That was a really cool feint with my ears.

    - You recommended on the Habré the book “Mental hospital in the hands of patients”, which describes the stereotypes of thinking of programmers / designers and the difficulties that this causes for users. And how much its content is applicable to board games - do such difficulties arise because of the differences between the “typical game creator” and the “typical game consumer”?

    Sergey : Oh, to the fullest. The commercial success of the game consists of two things: the beauty of art and the interface. The second is a purely engineering topic. How to optimize the thinking time, how to reduce the necessary memory capacity of the human subsystem, how to more enchantingly generate a random number in the right range, which timer to use, where the symbol is needed on the map and which icon it is, how to formulate the rules more correctly - all this must be understood.

    Typical difficulties are slightly different. Not to know, for example, how the white box behaves on the shelves (gets dirty from touching and looks dirty almost immediately), does not know how to design the box so that the components do not wake up inside, write such rules that you won’t figure it out with half a liter. All this does not affect very separately, but it develops. And this is evident in sales. There is no better metric.

    - Software development is always a combination of “what was originally planned” and “what was found out in the process”, and even with a clear initial technical task, everything can noticeably go aside. And how do board games relate to “input” and “what happened” - how many inputs are there at all, and how often in the process do you have to abandon what you originally planned?

    Sergey : If this is work to localize a Western license, then usually the result coincides with the plan. Although, for example, we did " Trains " (there will be a mega-cool game " Express", I’m really really looking forward to serial copies to immediately drag away a bunch of gifts) - this is a Japanese bestseller. They are just nuts on trains. So, she has a very delicate balance tied to the playing field. And the playing field is a map of the railways of Japan. But Russia needs it, because in Japan it will not be very interesting for our player to play. For almost half a year we made calls in order to maintain the original balance - and it worked. Then they showed the railwayman, and it was straight through that he only corrected some of the terms, and did not get to the bottom of anything else. I did not directly participate in this process, but I was interested. When I met a train station superintendent in Payne Creek in Australia, there was something to talk about. He thought I was a Russian railwayman.

    And if it’s pure development, then there has never gone according to the original plan. Introductory is usually just a market segment and the need for it. How to solve is already a question for development. From the unresolved - I really want to play the game on the " Elite " for several years, and now it’s only about how the commercial product should look like. Or even a dream - a game on This War of Mine . A crazy license, but the potential opponents made a dash of it, and made it not very playable, alas. Many projects of past years are lying, waiting in the wings - when we will understand what and how to do with them. Experience accumulates gradually.

    - Developers often talk about how important testing is and what disastrous results can lead to neglect. But at the same time, there are hotfixes in the software and the ability to roll back to the previous version. And in your case, when you are preparing a physical product, the price of the error “sent something wrong to production” is much higher, or not? What does testing look like in the case of board games, and how meticulous is it?

    Sergey : The recall of the circulation is a thick polar fox. And it happens after all. We now calculated the losses on the alterations within the process - even before the release, purely in beta, and realized that we were doing some kind of unproductive garbage. But this is a system-driven thing, a development framework like that. Everything needs to be changed, but we cannot. Therefore, now we are still trying one process.

    Well, that’s right to compare with business requirements in development. This is when you are sawing, sawing softina, and then during the play the business requirements of the internal customer change. Here the rollback will not save. In a good sense of the word.

    What is even sadder, testing does not give everything. Here you can’t cover a unit, very many things are numerically immeasurable. It is necessary to issue a circulation and see if the project is successful or not. A lot of things are solved by intuition and understanding of the market. This can not always be formalized.

    - Software stands out for its “iterativeness”: while many other products are created “once and for all”, there are gradual changes, the work does not end at 1.0, and conservatives generally only use something from version 1.1. And games usually come out immediately in the final version, or do they also have a second circulation different from the first?

    Sergey : We have hotfixes - these are new versions of rules or errats. Separate rules with tournament regulations are usually made for tournaments; they differ greatly from ordinary ones - for example, otherwise the situation of permissible draws is specified.

    The circulation itself usually differs a little, and you won’t release 1.1 - immediately 2.0 comes in six months or a year. Of course, we collect all opinions, watch reviews, sometimes change something at the level of mechanics. Now the most frequent request is that it is difficult to play color blind. We put special patterns on the cards, we make an additional indication often. Even from circulation to circulation, knowledge about production is growing and new lines are coming into operation - we can change components, for example, wood to glass - it turns out more beautiful and environmentally friendly (although how to look) and cheaper.

    - It is known that many IT people love board games. Do you observe any more specific correlations in this regard? For example, some genres are more popular among developers, and others are more common among system administrators.

    Sergey : The general correlates are games where you can show a skill. That is, usually deep tactics. A striking example is the Hive . The second correlate is simple games such as Jenga , on pobuh-socialize. They are taken to offices most often.
    Although not, that's all nonsense. This is me about the generation that 80386 saw live.

    - About the computer game Factorio you wrote that it is a "kind of programming language." And among desktops, can you name one that most closely resembles programming for you?

    Sergey : Of course, Neuroshima-6 , this is directly embodied debugging and a ready-made language. An excellent tactical game by Mikhail Orach. We had regular tournaments on it, and children came, watched how big bearded uncles played, quickly learned the logic and won in them. One such Ender torn serious players at tournaments a couple of times, but, alas, did not rise above second place.

    I recommend Shima to download first - there is a free version in application stores, it helps to understand whether it is yours or not. And then to play later, if inserted. Post here .

    It was a good game about programming " Roborally ", very children to learn. Her Richard Garfield wrote, we have it almost like Lenin. But in Russia, it has long been gone, only if it has lodged with someone.

    There will also be a miracle how good Trains are . There's generally building a deck inside the game, such constant recursion. They can now be obtained in English, but very soon there will be Russians.

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