Iterative Innovation in Games and Gardens

Michelle and I spent 15 years building our California garden, piece by piece, using the same UX experimentation process I saw The Sims team using at Maxis. Here, Michelle is doing the UX testing for the Sun Tan feature. 😉

We built the deck with variable shape & height so that we could run tests as we built it to see if the feature was enjoyable enough, and improve it as needed.

Using metrics and automation to accelerate creativity has been my obsession for some time now. I’ve found a generalization between how one builds both games and gardens.

Games and gardens are immersive environments that are designed for aesthetics and enjoyment: goals that are difficult to quantify and harder to engineer. They take years to complete, and it is hard to evaluate success without the user’s viewpoint from inside the immersive environment.

The hurdles: quickly, constantly and cheaply acquiring user, system and process data; preventing defects and implementation gaps from compromising the data; and continually shifting from rapid prototyping to fielded, highly complex systems over years of development and operations.

The hypothesis: tightly integrating agile strategies into the core of your project via Automation, Architecture and Analytics produces a hyper-agile software system: one can quickly identify problems and quickly shift both code and process, while also casting meaningful projections of future behaviors from current and historical data.

A cyclic, incremental evolution strategy that draws metrics from the current cycle to guide the next cycle, automation to accelerate each cycle, is discussed.

This Measure / Change / Measure model provides better focus on tangible problems than the traditional Guess / Change / Hope model, more predictable progress and manages continual growth. Creativity is enhanced by providing a higher “what ifs per day” factor for each developer, and by having stable code bases and stable play test environments to experiment in.
The integration of several agile development strategies is proposed, ranging from test driven development, short, instrumented sprints, metrics driven development and Kaizen process improvement.

Iterative Innovation is a force multiplier that augments your entire team.

Get more done, in less time, with less blood.

Here are the Before and After pictures for our garden! It worked out pretty nicely. 🙂

 initial deck view

 bike path wildflowers

Example stages in the garden refactoring process.

I did several GDC lectures on the tech involved:

Here are a few of the blog postings that form the basis for this page.

Innovation Factories:

And the funny/serious side combined: You can live without metrics in the same way that you can live without bottled water, in a land where Montezuma still seeks his revenge.

The longer paper on metrics-driven development:

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