Linden Lab CEO and former Sims
developer Rod Humble tells Gamasutra
as part of a new feature that he hopes to encourage his developers to come up with what might turn into a "brand new unexpected product."
In his current position, Humble says he likes to "put the 'lab' in Linden Lab and really do some innovative stuff," which he tries to accomplish with a team of two other designer/programmers. Linden Lab is best known for virtual world Second Life
"What happens is we'll code up a fast prototype or just have an idea, kick it around, and then quickly see if we can stand it up and prove it out," he explains. "Then we decide whether to throw it away or keep going on it."
So far this year he says he's thrown away four ideas and kept two that his team is continuing to develop.
"It requires a lot of discipline to be able to recognize that a wacky blue ocean idea isn't working out and that it needs to be killed," he admits. "But that's the nature of R&D."
And even when projects don't work out, Humble believes there are benefits: "Even with the worst failures, you can learn something or come away with a little mental tool that will make a future project better."
He also sees R&D as the perfect remedy for programmers who have downtime between projects and don't know what to do with themselves.
"Usually they spend their time bug fixing," he says. "Instead, I tell them they've got a little blue ocean time. At worst, the R&D might improve their skill sets a bit. At best, the project succeeds and suddenly you've got a brand new unexpected product to sell."
The full feature, in which Humble discusses his inspirations and lessons learned from working at EA -- which also contains a Q&A with Sony's head of R&D, Richard Marks -- is live now on Gamasutra