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Dissecting The Postmortem: Lessons Learned From Two Years Of Game Development Self-Reportage
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July 9, 2020
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Dissecting The Postmortem: Lessons Learned From Two Years Of Game Development Self-Reportage

July 8, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4


From looking at postmortems over the past two years and considering the data presented here, it would seem that the biggest takeaway is the importance of managing the development process itself.

Of course, we're not talking about just the "existence" of management, but good, methodical, careful management that keeps the interest of the game and the team at the forefront. Unlike some of the other disciplines, project and team management, when done well, may be able to compensate for inadequacies in other areas.

However, when executed poorly, it seems as though project management has the potential to unravel and destroy even the best creative work.

Beyond that, one of the most common and disturbing trends is the inability for game development projects to be properly scoped and scheduled.

We developers are constantly fighting a battle (that we aren't winning as often as we should be) between the resources we have available and the end product we are attempting to realize -- whether those factors are imposed by ourselves or by those paying our checks.

Methodology and Definitions

Data from the 24 postmortems was collected and organized in two different ways. These were the methods undertaken for each.

Organizing and Summarizing Things That Went Right and Wrong

The body of each postmortem consists of five expositions about things that went right and five about things that went wrong. Each of these atomic "things" was then classified into one of the following seven categories, defined as follows:

Design. Relating to game design, level design, gameplay and rule designs, and overall game vision external to team. This category covers all situations and decisions that were made that are clearly external to the direct team and development process, including business logistics, hiring, partnerships, funding, marketing, studio-wide decisions, and so on.

Art. Relating to art decisions, direction, or specific art processes.

Production/ Process. This relates to scheduling, work prioritization, production methodologies, development plans and processes, scope, team morale, team communication, team assignment, team management, and so on.

Programming. This category covers all technical issues, including tools, technology implementation, and anything code-related.

Testing. This category includes all traditional QA functions, including bug testing, gameplay/usability testing, localization, gameplay data collection, and metrics.

Other. There were only two items that did not fit any of the above categories, and were omitted from the results. Together they represented less than 0.5 percent of the data overall. One was a "right" item about sound direction (interestingly, this was the only item that could be categorized as relating to audio). The other was a "right" about obtaining nice office space.

A couple of specific types of challenges were encountered in categorizing each reported item from the postmortems. First, sometimes the original title of the item was not a good characterization of what was explained. This issue was avoided by categorizing the item based on the content of the explanations, not on how the explanations were titled. Second, sometimes the discussion on a certain item would have crossover with or would otherwise veer into other subjects.

For example, an item ultimately classified as "design" might make mention of some production process or something about art, or vice versa. In these cases, a good faith effort was made to select a category based on what the primary gist of the entire explanation appeared to be about.

Game Developer Magazine postmortems featured: Age of Booty, Aion, Akrasia, Brütal Legend, The Conduit, Darksiders, Deadly Creatures, Far Cry 2, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As a King, Free Realms, Golden Axe: Beast Rider, Infamous, Little Big Planet, The Maw, n+, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Saints Row 2, Scribblenauts, Tales of Monkey Island, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Trials HD, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Wizard 101, The World Ends With You

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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