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Time and Timing...

One of the things I have noticed in developing games is the difficulty in accurately figuring out how long it's going to take to complete any given task.

One of the things I have noticed in developing games is the difficulty in accurately figuring out how long it's going to take to complete any given task. It's the kind of thing that really only comes about when working with an established team, when you've been working together on one or two projects, you get a sense for how accurate the team members estimates are, how long it can take to create specific assets, etc.

But when your team is new, or ever changing, it's a much stickier wicket. You don't have that experience to fall back on and you are required to, well, trust your people and make a good-faith guess at the timeline. This happens so often, you'd think it would be an "understood" almost an industry standard.

If you've been a producer on multiple projects, over time you learn how to counter this, you know about how long the last three projects took and can project what is going to happen with the next. It's an experiential value, one you can't get through a degree, through managing a project or two for the Game Design club. It's the kind of thing that takes time and boots on the ground, so to speak.

So when young and inexperienced, or even when you jump from producing games of one stripe to games of an entirely different sort, what do you do?

Well, "Marc's Rules of Research" number one states "If you don't know the answer, ask someone who does.".

Chances are you are going to know at least one established producer if you've come this far. Ask them. You're not going to get a "this is what you do" answer, it's going to be more anecdotal, than what you might have been expecting, but buy him/her a beer and listen up, because the answer is *in* there, an average of what had to be done for this project versus that project versus the other thing. Be appreciative and ask leading questions, they are handing out experience you haven't had time to get yet.

If you *don't* know any producer types, and aren't enough of a social barracuda to get through the mobs at GDC or Pax to do more than cross business cards, there is another basic rule of thumb you can work with. This is pulled from the old hoary chain-smoking advertising guys lectures (and may have a touch of Mr.Scott in there to boot, the guy was quite a Trekkie). Take your best, well thought-out guess and double it. You're still going to come up short, but not catastrophically so.

This project I'm working on now, it ought to be done. My inexperience is showing, but there's no way through but forward. Everything is again on track, moving towards the inevitable (and glorious) conclusion, but the bumps in the road are all almost directly attributable to my inexperience in timing, in making sure the right assets get developed in the right order and delivered to the right people at the right time.

Can I fix this? Absolutely! Every bump, every lost contractor, every hiccup has shown me ways to improve this process.

Will it go more smoothly next time? Absolutely!

Do I lie awake at night mentally flogging myself for failing to make a deadline clear or for forgetting a crucial component? Absolutely!

But it has been an enlightening process and I can already see how this experience is helping me set up the time and timing better not only for the remainder of this project, but for the next three I am already lining up.

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