Feature uncreep

Motor Jim Offerman December 20, 2018

Feature creep is common in game development. It’s why you can do almost anything you want in Read Dead Redemption 2. And it’s why Duke Nukem Forever took twelve years to develop. On the whole, I believe, feature creep doesn’t make games better. Do the thousands upon thousands of collectibles in a modern Assassin’s Creed game really make for a better experience? Or are they unnecessary busy work for both players and developers?

Since I work alone, I have to be particularly wary of creeping features. While I am not entirely impervious to the seductive draw of a “wouldn’t it be cool if…”, there is a natural upper bound to the amount of work I can do. Yes, a dynamic sky would certainly be a cool addition to game #2, but you also spend most of the game indoors and away from the sun. And since I do like sleeping, the dynamic sky gets scrapped from the feature list.

With Motor, I have recently been going even further than just keeping a watchful eye on feature creep. I have been actively tossing out stuff and steadily whittling down the feature set to the absolute bare minimum I’ll need to ship game #2.

Often times, the features I am weeding out, were added (either by me or someone from the Mechamania team) in anticipation of problems we may run into in the future. As an example, our renderer supported multi-layered materials – just in case we might need someday need it. Perhaps we do, but in the mean time, the multi-layered system added a lot of complexity to the engine which remained largely untested, since the current content doesn’t make use of the multi-layered capabilities. Hence, for now, we’re better off without that stuff.