Appendix 1 - My Worst Project Management Failure

Appendix 1 - My Worst Project Management Failure

One of the worst project failures I ever had was due to missing a competency in a critical role.

My team was building a role-playing game on a very tight schedule with a fixed budget. I assigned our two senior developers to environment/level design and story/progression/world/flow design. I assigned a passionate and smart junior developer to be our battle systems engineer. While his math skills were brilliant, he was missing the creative design aspect needed to create interesting enemies and put them into the game.

One-third of the way through the project timeline, I noticed that we didn’t have any battles in-game yet. I consulted with our battle systems engineer, and he assured me that everything was right on schedule. He had been working with another teammate on implementing the battle skills we needed, and they were nearly done. Once the battle skills were implemented, it would be very easy to populate the game with enemies and battles.

Two-thirds of the way through the project timeline, everything else in the project was coming along great. We had maps, items, shops, backstory, cutscenes, and everything… except there were no battles in the game. If you have ever played a role-playing game, you know how important battles are for the player experience! I consulted with our battle systems engineer, and he was very excited that many more complex battle skills had been implemented. He told me that once the battle skills were all implemented, it would be very easy to populate the game with enemies and battles.

At this point, I knew the project was in big trouble. You can’t create and populate a full RPG game with diverse and interesting battles in the final iteration of a project. So, I assembled the team, and we quickly pulled both senior developers off of their roles and had them work to create enemies and fill the world with battles and interesting boss fights.

As a result, to meet our timeline, we had to cut about half of the planned (and nearly finished) content from the game.

What’s the point of the story?

Make absolutely sure that you have the key required competencies covered at the start of a project or as close to the start as possible.

A weakness in one core area can negate a TON of progress and quality in all other areas.