I’ve recently been reading about Lean Startups. Audilble has a free 30-day trial with 2 free books, so I was able to listen to Rework and The Lean Startup for free! I’ve resorted to actually READING Running Lean, because there is no audio book available. These concepts have really changed the way I think about software development. I see the opportunity to lean things up everywhere.
Yesterday I was looking at the latest MMORPG games out there and it got me thinking about how bad SWTOR sucked. After 5 years of development and a ton of hype, the game was released with very serious usability and gameplay issues. Bioware seems to have left out all the core features that made the only other Star Wars MMORPG, Galaxies, so popular (before the combat “upgrade” of course). SWTOR's space combat is a terrible arcade game, and in a universe centered on “STAR” wars this is a critical mistake. I could go on, but I don’t think anyone can seriously argue any other case.
Lean Game Development
It made me think that game development could really benefit from a Lean workflow, MMOs most of all. I think a game like SWTOR could have been great with some early feedback from users, or as Eric Reis would say, at least it wouldn’t have wasted so much of our time.
It would require reworking the way MMO games release updates to players, because releasing 50 experiments as patches daily would be really annoying. Ideally, you would be able to push new content and adjust game mechanics without requiring a patch or forcing a logout.
I searched for a game engine that could support this workflow and ironically my search led to the HeroEngine, the same game engine SWTOR uses. So with a feature like Live Update built into the engine, why does Bioware follow such a waterfall approach? Who knows, and at this point who cares?
Cloud Game Development
While on the HeroEngine website I checked the price of a license and was amazed to find an Apple-like development plan. Only $99 a year for a license and a 30% cut goes to Idea Fabrik. It’s actually better than the iOS development plan because it includes up to 99 developers per license.
Even better, they have a cloud hosting service called HeroCloud that is included in the price. It also includes a way to bill customers, plugin support, and development tools. This is great!!! it’s like Heroku for game development. Now get out there and show Bioware how to make a killer game!