Feb 15, 2011

Development Schedule and Bad Lists.

As I mentioned in a previous post I hope to have something releasable by the end of the year. In order for that to happen I've had to cut features.

These features aren't lost forever, they have simply been moved from the "essential list" to the "wish list". As the name suggests, the essential items are absolutely required for Bulldog to be playable, whereas the wishlist items are all the cool and interesting features that I want to include to make Bulldog stand out and be fun to play, but will delay the first releaseable version.

My plan from day one has been to release as early as possible and then release updates as time goes by, rather than work in isolation for 5 years and try to suddenly release something amazing. I'm hoping that the first release will show enough promise and get people sufficiently interested in what I'm trying to achieve in the long term, that I can build up a community around Bulldog, which will help guide the development and let me know what works and doesn't. Well, that's the plan at least. :)

Since the wishlist items are a long way off, I'll ignore them for now and focus on the "essential" list, which looks as follows:

//TODO: Inventory Screen / Management
//TODO: Food & Water
//TODO: Danger.. ie Mobs
//TODO: Title Screen
//TODO: Save/Load World & Zones - partially implemented.
//TODO: Character Models
//TODO: items spawning + management
//TODO: Item Models/graphics
//TODO: Windowing System
//TODO: Picking System
//TODO: Ability to move character
//TODO: Ability to issue orders
//TODO: Ability to attack stuff
//TODO: Ability to loot stuff
//TODO: Mobs models
//TODO: Mobs AI

It doesn't look like many items, but each of those items actually has many subitems that need to happen before they can be completed. For example, the first entry about the inventory screen will require that I complete the windowing system, then design and build the inventory screen, implement the ability to drag and drop items into containers, come up with and design in-game items, and design the graphics for the icons being used.

Interestingly, I just noticed that since I wrote that list over two months ago I haven't been able to cross any items off the list. I've actually made progress on Bulldog, but on supporting tasks, which aren't captured in that list.

I've been told that you're more likely to be motivated to complete a list of tasks if you can see some tangible progress on the list. The idea is that you take a big task and break it down into more manageable sub tasks, which you can tick off and feel good about your progress.  So for example, you're more likely to finish cleaning your house if the task list has items such as "vaccuum the floor", "wash the windows", "do the dishes", etc.. than just "clean the entire house".

So its pretty obvious to me now that the list above is a bad list. Not just bad for motivation, but also bad for tracking progress on the project overall. If I wanted to estimate my overall progress and come up with percentage complete figure, I pretty much have to take a guess based on what I've done. I can't actually use any of what is still left to be done to help guide my estimate, as the list is woefully vague in the actual details. The end result is likely to be a false impression of how much work is left and may lead to schedule slip.

So I think my next task is to go away and break down the list into more manageable tasks, which will also serve the purpose of forcing me to think about and define what each of those tasks actually entails.

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