SomethingAwful Game Jam 9: Pre-mortem

This week's Freakonomics unpacked the idea of stigmatizing failure. In short, don't be afraid to fail. Failure shows you something that didn't work. If at all possible, it's better to fail to hit a deadline than complete something incorrectly. Among the techniques discussed in the podcast was the 'pre-mortem'. Unlike a post-mortem, which investigates the things that went wrong and caused a patient to die/project to fail/rocket to explode, the pre-mortem asks everyone on a team to pull together an imagine that the date is three months after the spectacular failure of a project. "Assume the project has indeed failed, and it has failed completely. When people whisper to one another bitterly in the halls about it, what's the narrative? How did it fail? Give as many details as possible." This approach cleverly repositions the team naysayer/skeptic/demoter as someone who is trying to help the team. Really, the team as a whole now has a valid channel for predicting the failures of a project. In much the same way, I'd like to share my concerns about what's going to happen in SAGJ9.

1) Deployment issues. It's hard enough to get people to play your game without asking them to download Java. Worst case scenario will have judges going through the trouble of pulling down the JRE and the game, only to finally have it crash on startup because the shell is sitting one directory level below the library folder.

2) Gameplay issues. Is this going to be fun? The idea of an angry Bob Ross was amusing and charming, but neither is on its own a sufficient condition for a good game. When the prototype is done on week 1, will it be at all fun?

3) Development issues. The image comparison function could completely fail to correctly/effectively score user submissions, frustrating the users or, worse still, completely breaking forward progression in the game. Will I be able to maintain my enthusiasm when I get to the boring parts?

Number three has been a problem for my entire life. I have a surplus of attentional deficit, and leap from interesting project to interesting project as the boring bits surface. This means a lot of smoke and a lot of spinning tires, but little in the way of forward movement. A thousand half-finished projects don't look as good as one finished project.

Lastly, I'd like to give a shout out to SA forumgoer, IRC poster, and all around chill dude, Poemdexter. He gave a talk recently on finishing projects. The slides are available here: and his website is It's hard to think of anyone who is more capable of getting stuff done, so you should listen to his advice.

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