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the PI stuff
Meeting 2 - Agile Development, with a side order of Planetary Interaction
CCP attendance: Pétur (CCP Xhagen) and Eyjólfur (CCP Dr.EyjoG).
The CSM watched a video of Alli's presentation on Global Agile Game Development at GDC Europe 2010.
While most of the CSM was already familiar with the basics of Agile and SCRUM, part of Alli's presentation (slides 50-51) touched on what happened during the development of Planetary Interaction for Tyrannis, and the lessons CCP has learned from the experience.
The PI team was newly formed when it was assigned the task of producing the headline feature for Tyrannis, and as a consequence of their inexperience as a team (as opposed to as individuals), they underestimated the difficulty of the task, and thus the
feature ended up having only MUST user stories. In particular, emergent tasks -- unplanned, unforeseen tasks that only become apparent after development work is underway -- grew to dominate the workload for the team. The graph on page 51 of Alli's presentation shows this emergent work (in blue, including bug fixing) crowding out progress on planned tasks in each subsequent sprint. In the end, the team only managed to deliver 45% of what they had planned.
CSM: What is being done so this doesn´t happen again?
CCP: All teams are now aware of the problem, and are adjusting their planning to give themselves more slack. MuSCoW is great for planning, but no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, which highlights the need to plan for iteration in subsequent expansions -- as is being doing with Planetary Interaction in Incursion.
CSM: What is the difference between working with a fixed release date compared to not having a fixed release date? Wouldn?t it have been easier to simply delay the release of Tyrannis?
Eyjólfur: It is difficult to move dates around; there would be conflicts with holidays and vacation dates, plus it would mean breaking the commitment to new expansions twice a year. Furthermore there are other teams and other projects that are dependent on release dates being held, so the domino effect would have been impossible to contain. The options CCP has with Agile mean that it is possible to make features as good as possible within the timeframe, and then plan and/or commit to iterations.
CSM: After PI, has there has been a change so that teams have more freedom to work on features they like?
CCP: Yes, but that does not mean that they can do what they want. The teams can make suggestions about what they want to work on to their Senior Producer, and the Senior Producer makes suggestions about what direction to take, and coupled with the broad vision that comes from the Creative Director a list of possible things to do emerges, and from that list it is possible for the teams to choose.