TOUCH THAT AND I’LL KILL YOU: The Amazing Power of Loss Aversion

Image taken from

Image taken from

Resident Evil 4 is the best game ever made. Hands down.

You don’t agree? Well then, let me rephrase: I think Resident Evil 4 is the best game ever made.

No dice? Fine: I think Resident Evil 4 is the best game ever made, but I could be wrong.

There is nothing materially distinct about those statements. They all express an opinion that Resident Evil 4 is the greatest game ever made. But I’m going to guess that your reaction to each of them was incrementally less severe (unless you also think RE4 is the greatest game ever made). Why? Loss aversion. Continue reading

What the Hell is It That You Actually Do Anyway, Mr. Marketing Guy?


Ahhhh, marketing. Few professions are as maligned as marketing. When I say the word “marketing”, no doubt your mind is flooded with images of sleezy skags in suits talking about how transmedia synergies are really hot with the teen male demo. Nobody could say it better than Bill Hicks:

But here’s the question: what IS marketing? Do you know? Do you really know? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you absolutely, fundamentally hate marketing folks without reservation, you probably don’t actually know what marketing is. Or, rather, what it’s supposed to be. I’m a student at a graduate school that made it’s reputation on marketing, and I didn’t actually know what marketing was supposed to be until I took a marketing class. Marketing isn’t just advertising. It isn’t just focus groups and lowest common denominator bullshit. Continue reading

Don’t Read Too Much Into Guerilla Games Comments About Dev Costs


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Herman Hulst of Guerilla Games was quoted on Destructoid as saying that development on PlayStation 4 -and, by inference, the next generation in general- is “not as scary as maybe some led you to believe.”

Now, before you go blogging and Twittering the fallacy of any assertion by publishers or developers that next gen development is more expensive, it’s important to consider what Hulst is and is not saying. Continue reading

A Case for Story Points


Image above captured from Hansoft (

Of all of the concepts in Scrum, one of the most maligned (anecdotally it would seem, at least) is the Story Point. I have heard Scrum’s proponents and detractors alike discount the idea, saying Story Points are meaningless or too abstract, and that estimates and forecasts are better served by Ideal Days. For me, it’s a matter of probability, and the argument between Ideal Days and Points is one between precision and accuracy.

An example: imagine a man who weighs exactly 215.68 pounds. If you put that man on a calibrated digital scale, you will see that he, indeed, weighs 215.68 pounds, a number that is both accurate and precise. But, what if you didn’t have that scale and you instead had to look at the man and simply estimate his weight?

If you said he weighs between 150 and 160 pounds, you would be neither accurate nor precise. If you said he weighs 208.667 pounds you would be precise, but not accurate. But, if you instead said that he weighs between 210 and 220 pounds, you wouldn’t be precise, but you would be accurate. And if I have to choose between accuracy and precision, I’ll take accuracy every time. There’s a reason you hunt quail with a shotgun and not a 9mm. Continue reading

What Can The Art of War Teach Us About Game Development? Part 2

The Art of War in it's original presentation: bound bamboo planks.

The Art of War in it’s original presentation: bound bamboo planks.

Note: This entry was based on Samuel B. Griffith’s translation of The Art of War, specifically The New Illustrated Edition (Copyright© Duncan Baird Publishers, 2005). All quotations are Griffith’s translations.

You can read Part 1 of the series here.

Chapter IV: Dispositions

Thus a victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle; an army destined to defeat fights in hope of winning. (Chapter 4, Verse 14)

Contrary to what one might assume, Sun Tzu was not a bloodthirsty warmonger. He stressed that the aim of war was expedient victory, not destruction, and that the most skilled generals achieved it with a minimum of bloodshed on for any side, or no bloodshed at all. To win through pure violence was the hallmark of the amateur and the inept. Truly adroit generals win before the battle even begins. In modern terms, they set themselves up for success. How do you, the modern game developer, do likewise? Simple: do your due diligence. Continue reading

What Can The Art of War Teach Us About Game Development?

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, Japan

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, Japan

Note: This entry was based on Samuel B. Griffith’s translation of The Art of War, specifically The New Illustrated Edition (Copyright Duncan Baird Publishers 2005). All quotations are Griffith’s translations.

Part 1: Estimates, Waging War, and Offensive Strategy


Sun Tzu’s The Art of War was written approximately 500 years before the common era. Despite its age, the work still has relevance to modern warfare. And, as it turns out, game development. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, there are parallels between those two fields. Both are expensive and prolonged endeavors. Both involve the coordination of large, segmented groups of people and diverse talents toward a common goal. Both feature frequent examples of a disconnect between the perspective of those at the top of the organization and the experience of those dealing with day to day operations. And both are largely concerned with managing risk.

The Art of War is divided into thirteen chapters, on subjects ranging from estimates to espionage. I will be exploring groups of chapters over a series of entries. It is possible that nothing in these posts will be a blinding flash of revelation, nor will anything in Sun Tzu’s writings alter the course of the industry. I would only suggest that there is something for the modern game director, producer, or publisher to gain from thinking about Sun Tzu’s philosophy about combat, and how one could apply it to business.

Continue reading