If you’re even remotely interested in video games, you might have felt a shift in the Force yesterday when Starcraft II came out.  For those of you not familiar with games, Starcraft II has been 7  years in the making.  The company who made it, Blizzard, has a reputation for creating gigantic hits (ever heard of World of Warcraft) by not releasing a game until it’s ready for prime time.

The back of Jacob’s head as he plays Starcraft II.  I predict I’ll see this every night from 10 pm until 11 pm for the next 3 months.  At least.

Spending 7 years creating a game is pretty much unheard of in the video game industry.  In fact, as more and more studios try to vie their way into the Facebook and iPhone markets, they tout shorter development times.  “We can get a game out in 6 months,” they say.  Or four.  Or three.  It’s almost like golf, where the PR winner is the one who has the lowest months in development bragging rights.

And to that I say, who cares?

Who cares if a company can crank out a game in 3 months?  That’s not the point, is it?  The point is, is it any good?

Now Blizzard might be an extreme example, but I challenge you to think about the last project you did at work.  How much importance did management place on time?  Did the boss always want updates on progress?  How many questions were asked about the schedule?

Now flip that thinking on its head.  Did management ever wonder about quality?  Whether the project delighted customers?  Did the project meet its objectives?

Time management is important, don’t get me wrong.  But in my experience (and I’m guilty of this as well), deadlines get greater weight than meeting the original goals of the project.  And how silly is that?  In the end, a project is executed to meet requirements and fulfill objectives, not to hit some calendar date with a red circle around it.  But once we’ve set a deadline, it feels like a goal, maybe even THE goal.  And we’ll push toward THE goal no matter what.

The next time you think THE goal is a deadline, think back to Blizzard and that 7 years.  You could get a Masters and Ph.D in that time.  It hardly seems worth it for a video game, especially if you can create a good one in under one year.  But then again, Blizzard knows its quality bar for games, and so far, they’ve nailed it every time.

-Deborah Fike

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