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One of the problems with long
term schedules is that they try to plan away uncertainty. Uncertainty
can take many forms, but generally falls into three categories:
Agile methodologies were created for use in cycles of product development that have a high level of uncertainty. Uncertainty increases the further out you try to predict the future, or the larger the task you are trying to estimate (see Figure 1).
The benefit of agile is in iterating on short-term, detailed estimates of short tasks. Agile limits the detail of planning to the matching of certainty and priority. When we have a lot of uncertainty in high priority features, we break them down into smaller parts that fit into an iteration. This way we can continually refine the estimates for the whole to be increasingly accurate.
As mentioned earlier, game projects are often divided into pre-production and production. If you want certainty in production schedules you need to address the three areas of uncertainty during pre-production. This has to be the goal of pre-production and the measure of when pre-production is complete. Ideally pre-production will demonstrate a certain percentage of all asset types combined in a shippable demo version of the game that demonstrates the final fun factor, performance and resources required to build the remainder of the game.
Some Scrum adopters in the game industry have adopted an iterative approach to pre-production followed by a detailed production schedule. This is effective, but it does not mean that all the benefits and practices of agile should be dropped when the team enters production. The principles of agile can still help in production.
There are benefits of agile that can be employed to help the team and the customers refine the production schedule: