Winning the Proposal
To Dream The Impossible Dream
You are a developer and you have this incredible idea for a video game that just eats away at you from the inside trying to get out. You can barely contain the excitement as you share the details with your fellow gamers. You stay up late over the weekend putting together your outline in a 48 hour caffeinated frenzy. All your life you have dreamed of this moment, and you are not about to let it slip by.
Monday morning you slap some cold water on your face and towel down your hair as you frantically search for that one unwrinkled shirt left over from Mom's visit. You grab a double latte as you head into the office and sit quietly as you check and recheck the order of the pages in your proposal. The time has come to take the plunge. During your morning staff meeting, you decide to make your move and when the time comes for "New Business", you steel yourself and pitch the idea to your bosses.
After some tense moments waiting for their faces to show some signs of life, you feel the ache of your lungs and realize you forgot to keep breathing. Slowly you inhale and exhale as beads of sweat start to form above your eyebrows. Just when you feel you might faint, you see the edges of their mouths curve up into a smile. Their heads start to nod up and down approvingly and all of a sudden you realize that you are breathing too fast. As you approach the dark recesses of hyperventilation, the big boss reaches across the table and offers you his hand. "Great proposal! This is going to be phenomenal! Your idea, your project, son. Take the ball and run with it - we're gonna make us a game!"
You are overcome with joy and start smiling broadly yourself. Just then, you hear him say "Get it done by Christmas and you can keep your job." The sound of your jaw hitting the floor is the last thing you hear as the blackness of fear and trepidation grip your soul. "Is he joking?" you ask yourself, "Should I start breathing again?" Welcome to the world of a video game designer. The easy part is over and the hard part is just beginning.
Ever-Popular Stool Stories
In order to build a good product, you have to take a look at the foundation that holds it up to search for weaknesses and work around them. You decide to use that analogy you learned about in management school: the three legged stool. In this case, the legs are the operating system, the hardware and the device drivers. In order for the stool to be stable enough to support the weight, each leg has to be just as strong as the other two, and where you find weaknesses, you shore them up.
Leg One: The OS
Back in the day, DOS seemed fairly stable. After all, you could only run one main program at a time, and you did not have that many system drivers to worry about. Then came Windows. In order to have a nice looking GUI and the ability to open up and transfer data between applications, we had to put up with some very annoying idiosyncrasies. You could hear the anguished cries of fellow workers from the cubicles around you: "System Resources? How can I be low on resources when I have 32 megabytes of RAM and 500 meg of free hard drive space?" and "But it says right on the box that this video card can do Super VGA - but it keeps crashing!!!" were just a couple of them.
In retrospect, you can look back all these years later and laugh, because deep down inside you know that since Windows 3.0 was released over 10 years ago, things must have gotten better. Right? Then you remember just last week when you updated your video card driver for Direct X 8 compliance and ended up in Windows Safe Mode wondering what went wrong. You say to your self: "But how come when I print pages using my brand new printer, what looks like Red on screen comes out orange on paper?" and realize that maybe we have not come that far after all. Windows isn't perfect, but it's all you've got. After all, buggy games showed up long before Windows and your customers are just not going to want to hear the excuses.