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Beachhead a New Practice

by Clinton Keith on 05/30/17 09:17:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Often, large groups are hesitant to roll out change. I recently visited a team that releases a large sports

title every year. The title always does well in the market, but it comes at the end of months of crunch and compromise.

They know it needs to change, but doing something that would cause them to miss their sport's season start would be disastrous.

I recommended a practice from Gear Up! Advanced Game Development Practices, called "Beachhead a New Practice", included below.


Beachhead a New Practice

Most practice improvements are small and incremental, but sometimes bigger, more risky leaps are what is needed. It’s even riskier when you ask the entire studio to make the change at once. Examples of such changes could be:
Reseating teams into an open cross-discipline space

  • Adopting unit testing and continuous integration
  • Pairing on all or most of the work
  • Swapping out a major part of an asset production pipeline

Beachheading is named after the military practice of landing a small unit on a beach and making it secure for the larger group behind.

The Practice
The approach to beachheading practices for game development is the same. The team will adopt the practice for one or more iterations with the following goals:

  • Determining whether the practice is beneficial for development
  • Finding out if it is a good fit for the studio culture
  • If possible, determining what changes are required to meet the two previous goals

An existing team can be asked to beach-head a practice or one can be formed for that purpose. The advantage of asking an existing team is that they are used to working together and will be better able to assess if a new practice is beneficial. A newly formed team may allow you to “cherry-pick” a group that might be more enthusiastic about trying a radically different practice (we used this approach in adopting Test-Driven Development practices).

Before the team starts, establish some goals or metrics to evaluate the experiment. For example, if the team is beach-heading a new level production pipeline, it should be easy to measure the throughput of the completed levels.

If the practice is a good fit and is beneficial, the beach-head team can coach or encourage other teams as the practice is rolled out. Peers promoting a practice is a great way to put people at ease.

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