Don’t Wait Until You’re Perfect

I’m not perfect. God am I ever not perfect.

I’ve been working  on the Spirit Lake Game beta on and off for the past several weeks, adding, fixing, changing. In most of these cases we knew months ago as we wrote the game that we needed documentation or that we would need to come back and re-design one part or another.

Yet, we made the decision to go ahead last fall and test the game as-is. I cringe a little when I think of all of the work-around and trouble-shooting we required of Dr. Longie, our vastly under-appreciated site coordinator, and the teachers in the pilot classrooms. On the other hand, I feel pretty good about all of the improvements to show them next week when we are in North Dakota.


Even with that work done, daily, I am going in and replacing pages that I knew at the time could be done better. We had framed pages that we replaced with our own code, videos that we replaced with our own videos. I’m making some supplemental games. Marisol and Danny are working the Easter eggs  that will pop up in the side quests (thanks to Ronda for suggesting this when she wasn’t busy punching people).

There are SO many reasons for getting something out in the world with all it’s flaw and imperfections rather than waiting until you have a perfect product.

One is apparently contradictory – that is, to put some pressure on to get it done.

You see, if you are working on something that you are going to release, then you have all of the time in the world to make it better. If you have something already in people’s hands, you feel like you damn well better fix whatever that bug is and NOW.

Another one is that with the right people testing it, you will find lots of improvements you hadn’t considered, so you can make many changes in one fell swoop.

Yet another reason is that once people have something concrete in their hands, they know you are serious and not just one of a million other people with an idea. You will get more people who are willing to work with you, work for you, advise you, provide you funding. That’s assuming, of course, that your product doesn’t suck.

Wait, what, didn’t I just say that our alpha version had a ton of glitches, compromises and problems “to be fixed later”. Yes, I did say that, but it was still a good first effort and the students and teachers involved were well aware that they were getting a first effort. We deliberately selected a group who would work with us as collaborators in developing a better product rather than just critics pointing out the flaws.

Similarly, the people who backed us on Kickstarter realized that what they received a few weeks ago was our first beta. There will be an update in a few weeks. We are actually just holding it off so that our new, soon-to-be-hired intern can play the game on several browsers and identify any problems that require immediate attention. So, they got a decent, playable beta version and will get a better version in a few weeks.

By the end of September, we should have that game looking REALLY good along with the first six levels of our next game, as we start to iterate again. We’ll send those same backers another update in January when we roll out the game in several schools.

Through this process we have obtained funding from Kickstarter and USDA, entered into agreements with several schools, met personnel from several other schools interested in working with us AND continually improved the game.

By the time we DO have a nearly-perfect game out there, lots of people will be aware of it and many kids will already be playing it.

The biggest reason to not wait to try something – turning in a paper, releasing a beta test on the market is as a philosopher once said,

The Best is the Enemy of the Good

I had a couple of friends in college who often chastised me for my slacker ways.

One semester, I had a programming class that had a syllabus stating do X number of projects for a C, X+2 for a B, X+4 for an A.    Since I was required to keep a B average for my scholarship, I did X+2 projects by the third week and took that time over the remaining 13 weeks to catch up on my sleep. (Hey, it was the mid 1970s and computer programming seemed as likely to be useful in my future career as, say, making integrated circuits.) Those of you who are sniping at my decision probably did not simultaneously attend college, work full time and compete in a varsity sport plus win the national championships in a second sport. I was tired. Also, 17 years old.

Anyway … one of  my friends gently scolded me about this and pointed out how he was going to get an A in the class. He wanted me to agree with him that his projects for the course were far superior. Knowing him, I asked if he had turned in his assignments yet. He told me no, he was still improving them. He had too much pride, he said, to turn in work that would earn him less than 100%.

The end of the story …. he ended up taking an incomplete in the class because his assignments never were perfect enough by the end of the semester. He had incomplete grades in several classes and still had three semesters left when I graduated, even though we had started at the same time.

Perfect is good, but getting something done is better.

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