Mac the plumber

November 01, 2008

I've lost track of the number of times I have been hired to "fix our development process". And then when the meetings are held or the documents circulated I hear: "We really can't change our development process, we'd like you to adopt to ours"

My first reaction is to tell the story of Mac the plumber. Let say for instance... that your sink is stopped up. You realize that the task is out of your skill range, and you just don't have the tools.

When I arrive, ready to be hands-on and use the tools of 27 years of game development.. you let me start, but within the first 5 minutes you are telling me how to do it, and insisting that I use only your tools.

The moral here is, if you hire someone for a specific job... let them do THAT job. If you're a CEO or a marketing person... let the game expert BE that expert.

When I was at Ripcord games, I was told to present a number of new products. I presented one that I knew in my gut would be an amazing hit and establish a new genre. My boss there told me: "you're too close to this". I sat stunned for a moment but eventually said: "Its my job to be close to this. To help people like you who don't know games".

They instead went with a game that was a follow-on to another title that was published for the 3DO. They picked it because in part the head of sales liked it... a self-admitted game hater. As you can imagine, the game bombed and as a result Ripcord is no more.

As a side note, one of the titles I proposed that they did pick up, but later sold to Microprose... sold 750K copies, including one expansion. Majesty, I love ya.

So when you hire a plumber, let him use his tools, and fix the problem that you hired him to fix. In the end, you'll be better for it.


Update: 1/27/09 This is not to imply that the company must do everything my way, I'm not the lord of all things. But when given a task and told to fix it at any cost, I fix it. Don't hire C++ programmers and then give them a requirement that they have to program in PHP. Don't hire artists and then tell them they have to paint in just 2 colors. Don't hire a level designer and then tell them that they can't do anyting that requires the player to press buttons.

If you could fix the problem yourself, there's no reason to hire an expert in the topic. Hire an expert when are open and ready to take their advice.