The difference between making and creating

March 15, 2009

When I first started in games my managers were good guys, they tried really hard to understand what we were doing but there was a clear limit. My boss in Broderbund asked me once: "When will that bug be fixed?" To me this is a silly question, if I knew what the bug was, I wouldn't have written it in the first place. And so if I don't know what it is, how could I know how long it would take to fix?

I've had bad bosses too. Some that felt the best way to get things done faster was to yell. They didn't understand the difference between making something, and creating something.

When you make something, you know the exact steps. You can see your progress and know exactly if you are on schedule or behind. At the end of the day you can confidently say you completed the manufacturing of X number of widgets.

When you create something its never really done. There is always something that can be added or tweaked or polished. I'm often asked how many games I have completed, I always answer the same way: "I've completed none, but shipped about 25". These blog posts are examples of creating.

If you need some examples, did van Gogh make a painting? Or did he create it? (creating)

Did Henry Ford create a car? Or did he make cars? (making)

When confronted with a "make" type boss I try to give them something visual to explain the difference, feel free to use this...

Imagine there are 5 tall glasses in front of you. A glass full of water is a completed level with the level of the quality, or above, required by the market today. A full glass means its done, anything else than a full glass means more time spent on it would lead to improvement.

Now imagine that as a manager you allocate time spent on the development of these levels. In this analogy time is represented by water in a bucket. Start by filling the first glass with water until its full, then move to the second. If you run out of water and don't have 5 full glasses, you don't get more water... you have to redistribute the water you have until all of the glasses are filled to the same level.

So now, add a 6th glass... a 7th glass and then get the idea that you're diluting the completeness of each level by adding more levels and not adding more water (time) to the bucket. When the manager has added enough levels that most of the glasses only have a couple of drops of water, explain that the levels currently ready really aren't ready... By adding levels without adding time, all of the levels suffer.

I hope that helps... comments?