How Lean Six Sigma Can Transform the Future of Game Development
Game development is one of the most demanding forms of software development, mainly because of the huge amounts of time and resources that can be wasted on a poorly managed project. It’s not rare to see projects fail before they’ve even hit the release date, simply because the management couldn’t handle the large number of tasks and the multiple areas that require their active attention. Lean Six Sigma can work quite well in this environment, and it can produce some very good results in a short amount of time. Some small teams have already started to discover this, but we’re yet to see it applied on a larger scale.
Waste is a huge problem for game developers, as we pointed out above. Many of them don’t even realize it – they get stuck in an endless loop of prototyping and throwing away ideas that don’t work, without ever learning anything from those experiences.
It’s not such a bad move to keep discarding ideas you’ve worked hard on. That’s just the natural cycle of game development. The problem is when those hours end up completely wasted because you don’t draw anything useful from the situation. For example, you might learn how to program a certain aspect of the game more efficiently, or how to organize your asset management better.
The point is, missing an opportunity to learn something new from a failed experiment in the design of your game is just as wasteful as using your resources incorrectly. In fact, it can be one of the biggest types of waste in this environment.
Lean Six Sigma can help you grab that bull by the horns and ensure that waste is properly accounted for and dealt with. It might make things slower at first, but it will definitely lead to much better and more productive results in the long run.
Another type of waste commonly encountered in game development situations is the overabundance of assets. This is especially true for the prototyping stage of a game that wasn’t planned very thoroughly in the first place. It’s important to limit the team’s asset use to a bare minimum required to hit the next milestone, otherwise artists, sound engineers and coders will inevitably find themselves entangled in a mess of an asset jungle, and that trap can be very difficult to get out of.
Improving the product quickly
Another important aspect of any good game development studio is the ability to improve upon an idea quickly and iterate on what they’ve learned. Your developers have to be able to adapt to changing requirements on a practically daily basis, and Lean Six Sigma is one of the best ways to pave the road to that. Of course, it’s another story to ensure that those requirements actually make sense and would be a good fit for the project at hand, but that’s outside of the scope of lean methodologies.
In combination with what we pointed out above, the use of Lean Six Sigma in a game development project can also ensure that the team learns from their past work and introduces that new knowledge in their future work.
Communication is another area that can be addressed nicely with the help of lean methodologies, especially when it comes to the discussions with any clients the company might be working with. Don’t forget the rapidly changing nature of game development – as we said above, lean thinking can help your developers align their work with rapidly evolving changes without getting stuck.
Any game developer knows that their work doesn’t end when the product is finished. There is a lot more work to come in the following months, especially if problems with the initial release are discovered. Lean Six Sigma can help the team to keep its focus on the factors that matter to their customers the most, and prioritize fixing issues that would deliver the most value to the product.
This is just another form of eliminating waste, but it’s more specific for the game development industry. And with good mastery of lean methodologies and practices, it can not only be avoided, but the company can even stand out above its competitors in the way it handles its post-release support. This is especially true if the company is already planning to work on another project and has to split its development efforts between the two.
Game development is one of those areas where one wouldn’t really expect to see something like Lean Six Sigma applied, and yet we’re starting to see some successful examples, with more sure to come in the next few years. It makes sense for multiple reasons, and we also expect to see the gaming industry having a positive impact on the way lean methodologies evolve.