Maintain high development velocity

This probably rings familiar to any developer who has worked on a sizable project:

In the beginning, anything is possible. New features and content is added at a rapid pace. Months pass. The project grows. Developing new features becomes slower. More and more time is spent testing, handling problematic special cases, and fixing interaction problems between different features, content and subsystems.

There are many reasons why development slows down. Two major reasons are increased complexity and accrued technical debt. We want to avoid this slowdown; in fact, a significant portion of our development philosophy can be summarized as “maintain high development velocity”. All the tools in our toolboxes should be evaluated in the eternal struggle against slow and frustrating situations when working on a project.

We have experienced it many times before. Fortunately, we have learned from our mistakes. Here are some guidelines of ours. We rely on these to keep the situation at work painless. Some of these might also apply to your project.

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Starting over

Hi! I am Mikael, CTO at Fall Damage. I founded Fall Damage together with Anders, Markus and Dan in late 2016. Prior to Fall Damage, three out of us four had been with DICE for almost our entire careers.

My first job was with DICE in 1998. Back then, the company was made up of 20-odd people making a racing game. When I left in 2015 it was a 500+ person organization making multiple projects in parallel. During that time, the typical game project changed from being a small group of people in a room working together, to multi-department, multi-studio, multi-continent endeavors. It was lots of fun. Challenging? Often! After having worked on such large projects for a number of years, I felt it was time to try something else. For me, Fall Damage is a return to the small group of people in a room working together.

We get to bring our experience with small and large projects. How do you form and maintain a successful team? How do you keep software from becoming a brittle mess after a while? How do you work effectively with outsourcing?

Not everything stays the same. It is a much smaller studio, with a different set of people and skills, and the world keeps changing. Many questions need to be revisited. Piece together a game engine from individual libraries, or pick an off-the-shelf engine? Publisher or self-publish? Self-funded, take investor money, go for some level of crowd funding? Make games for mobile, PC or consoles? Games as products or services?

Fall Damage is, to me, another roll of the dice (pardon the pun). We aim to create a games company where people want to work for a long time. Where people learn new things while they create high quality games. Where people tell their friends, “I work at Fall Damage, and so should you.”

So far, we are a group of ten people, and we are well underway with our first game. Things are looking good.