I trust most of my readers have worked on professional projects to some degree, and know that they have two certainties; they begin and they end. Project work can be the most devastating thing one can do, but also the most soul elevating form of work. It’s all up to chance and other variables.
I’ve been working on few projects for a while now, and it has become apparent that the company employing the group I work with has been less than keen on the project, overall speaking. As much I have emphasized on clear dialogue between parties, in reality this is absurdly hard to accomplish to its fullest extent. Nevertheless, there should always need to be a clear cut agreement on what the project in itself is about. Sadly, in my case the current project is now more or less trashed and the goal of the project has, as much as the project workers are concerned, changed to something it was never supposed to be.
This is completely normal and ordinary event, I’m afraid. Project works that have no closely tied supervisor often will meet absolutely stupendous things, where all the work done up to a point needs to be discarded. There are some unmentionable events where the project has been discarded multiple times before the project is cancelled or moved to another team.
One example, one which is far too common, concerns web design. The designer may pitch an idea for the layout, and the customer, be it an individual or a company, is highly excited about the look and eagerly awaits prototype. When the prototype is introduced, the customer is very satisfied and tells how this is the direction they want to take. Cue for the finalised product, when the whole project is essentially finished. At this time the customer can come out and say how this is not the direction and want everything redone. At this point it is completely understandable if the designer would want to strangle the customer or pull them up to the flag pole from their balls. This sort of event is unfortunate. No, unfortunate is not the right word, because this is unforgivable thing to do from either side.
When a project is begun, it would be good form to create an agreement written on paper what is the goal and ultimate end of the project. To that, there needs to be a clause that allows the service provider to notify the customer that they cannot change their views and wants drastically from the agreed goal. Minor deviations and such happen and are more than expected, but something like discarding a finished webpage design is an unforgivable thing to do.
That is the crux in project work everybody should be afraid of; the hundreds and thousands of hours put into work can be dismissed and discarded on a whim, leaving the worker with practically nothing but regret on his wasted time. Imagine a group of ten designers working six months on their respective versions of one’s product, making complex calculations and highly accurate models that can be used to make the production model. Then, the contact person comes in, spends about five minutes and grabs the product he thinks is the best while telling how busy he is and storms out. One designer got his product chosen, but much like all others, he is left with no feedback, thanks or anything else.
That is an atrocity and offends the designers.
A literal contract that ties both parties to the project as described is the best possible one can do, because it benefits both parties and the end-user to its fullest extent. Any and all projects require clear cut objectives to succeed, and these goals should never be tampered without absolute reasons.
Sadly, often you see companies or organisations putting up projects for whatever’s sake and use funding from the likes if European Union. It’s good publicity to have projects that carry positive name on them and lay out narrative how these projects are for the benefits of the citizens. However, at some point the projects end without any proper end, most often because the money ran out or the positive publicity has already been gained.
However, sometimes projects can become highly regarded success stories. To tie the theme of electronic games as examples in this blog, take a look at our favourite example; Super Mario Bros. Games are, essentially speaking, projects that realize a fully functional product. There is no room in obfuscated goals or diverting from what has been done at the point; otherwise things need to be scrapped and redone from the scratch completely. However, this is far too common and it is known that all games go through multiple variations, from slight adjustments from how the gameplay works to absolutely scrapping changes like changing the game’s genre. All this requires insane amounts of money and it is no wonder electronic game industry has become the money eating behemoth it is nowadays, and it’s less surprising there would be people abusing their status as the people making news about them for their own ends.
Nevertheless, when the money is tight and companies need to produce games that would rake in profits to keep the company afloat and in good shape, projects like Super Mario Bros. appear. SMB at its initial design stages would have Mario wield a gun and jumping was initiated by pressing Up, but this was scrapped. Time and money were o the essence for Nintendo at the time, and they needed games that would succeed. SMB’s design was simplified from the gun to what some call platforming perfection, and after work based on finalised design began, it stayed mostly the same until the very end. Not until Nintendo could afford to shuffle their hands and essentially dick around was that their projects became modern messes they are. Naturally, the more complex game design, the more versions and variations are needed to iron out the problems.
However, here comes the crude truth with projects; when it becomes apparent that the project cannot be realized as it is, it either is given a chance to reform with a clear cut goal or be shut. The first of these two choices should not be used but very few times, otherwise you will end up giving you far too long development cycles. The latter, however, executes the project altogether and may direct resources for more beneficial projects. Mega Man Legends 3 is a sort of good example of this decision, despite CAPCOM’s horrible multi-level approval policy with their projects. We don’t know where the resources went, but I’m guessing large parts went into Gaist Crusher and other similar projects, which have seen questionable succession.
This post originally to be Music of the Month, but the subject matter became too serious for it. Let’s have that one during the weekend.