A Game Studio Culture Dictionary
October 6, 2011 Page 4 of 5
And so began the Crunch...
Donut Diplomacy: Management tactic applied to game developers where cheap incentives are provided in the hopes of boosting output. See also: "pizza diplomacy."
Eater Leavers: People who stay just late enough to get the company-bought dinner, but leave right after eating instead of working for a few more hours.
Hero Death Spiral: The cycle you get into where one or two people end up always being the hero to "get a project going in the right direction", and those one or two people work later and later into the night, and show up later and later in the morning/afternoon, until you operate as two nearly distinct teams. The team that "does stuff" and the team that "breaks stuff."
Stockholm Syndrome: Usually refers to junior developers who are loving this hardcore crunch-laden life that is being imposed upon them because suffering gives meaning to their existence.
Vultures: Folks who eat the crunch dinner, often before the people who are working too hard to immediately jump up and run for dinner as soon as the announcement comes in can get to it.
Morale diminished with each passing day...
Cassandra: A person who foresees the future (usually pending doom) but is ignored for various reasons.
Clown Shoes: A really bad mistake or decision born out of shortsightedness, inexperience or just plain incompetence.
DarkPathing: Deep, deep bitching about the project or company. Contagious negative ranting that can spread toxins into the company culture.
Donkey: Used as an adjective to indicate something as terrible and utterly lame (noun form: "Donkey Porn")
Gone All Kurtz: Someone tasked to get something under control who instead makes it worse.
Lipstick on the Pig: When you know the project should be cancelled (high likelihood of vaporware) but the publisher still wants it in the box and on the shelf.
Rally Monkey: Person who engages in ill-advised attempts to raise morale.
Something needed to change...
80/20 Rule: 80 percent of the game comes from 20 percent of the work. The remaining 80 percent of the work goes into polishing that last 20 percent of the game.
Chainsaw to Scalpel - Dealing with the biggest problems first, and then the smaller ones after.
High School Problem: a problem that seems huge and awful at the time, but reflecting on it later, you realize it wasn't that big of a deal.
Gold Edition: A feature to be saved for a future edition of the game that will probably never happen and we all know it, but nobody wants to commit to killing the feature entirely.
Isle of Dreams: Lowest priority bugs that may be addressed in the sequel.
Pre-mortem: Someone messed up really bad, usually a group of people, and we need to talk about it as a team right now.
Reboot: when you need to restart a project because something big (usually the design) failed.
Save the Astronauts: The "Save the Astronauts Meeting," "Let's go Save the Astronauts," "We were out Saving Astronauts." Inspired by the scene in Apollo 13 where the scientists on Earth have a table full of equipment and very little time to figure out how to save the astronauts' lives, the ten-minute, time-boxed meeting is one of my favorites: "We have 10 minutes to squash this problem and Save the Astronauts."
Shotgun Decisions: pushing someone to make a decision quickly on something. "Imagine you have a shotgun to your head and you have one minute to make this decision. What would you do?"
Triage: Going through the bugs to determine priority.
Eventually, the game became stable.
90/10 rule (for code): 90 percent of processor execution time is taken up by 10 percent of the code.
Bobblehead Help: When a helpful person is just nodding and making "I understand" sounds until you figure it out on your own.
Cardboard Cutout Dog: The person you drag to your desk to explain why a bug can't possibly be happening, so that halfway through you can discover what the bug is, without them saying a word. From Steve Baker's seminal article.
Binary Chop: Applying the binary search algorithm to commenting out lines of code in order to track down a bug.
Kludgy: Describes an awkward or inelegant solution to a problem.
Ugly-Pretty: Code that looks ugly until you realize that the problem itself is horrendous and that the solution is good relative to that.
Space Magic: Glowy technology that makes no sense at all.
And the fun started to manifest.
Cobra Venom: The distilled-down, core coolness of an idea or a project. You just need a little bit of this to make a big impact.
Special Sauce: That one missing gameplay element that hasn't made it in yet that's needed to make the core loop fun and engaging.
Sticky Grenade: Named after the feature in Halo. A game mechanic that simply never gets old no matter how many times you use it.
Until finally, the game became ready for the masses.
This was a story...
… about every game developer that ever was...
… and every game developer that ever will be.
You are not alone.
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