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Educational Feature: Scope

Educational Feature: Scope

March 11, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

Knowing how to scope a project is one of a game designer's most important skills. Not scoping a project is the number one reason game projects fail, says game designer and author of a new article on scope, James Portnow. The article has just been posted on, Gamasutra's sister web site dedicated to helping new comers break into the game industry.

Defining a game's scope is, in part, about working within the limitations of your resources or working to your strengths and playing down your weaknesses. But it's a bit more complicated than that. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"The scope of a project is its breadth and depth. What are you making, and how complex does it have to be to achieve what you want?

Scope is something to be decided, not something to be discovered post-facto. This may seem silly, but many projects roll forward without someone taking a step back and asking, 'What does doing this really entail?'

Scope, most simply put, is the understanding of how vision meets execution.
Many people think producers control scope. This is one hundred percent wrong. While producers have veto power, they can't actually enact anything themselves. When the producers on your project start to its control the scope, you're in a fail state.

So who is it that defines the scope of a project? It's the designers. They directly determine what the boundaries of the project are and, if they fail to do it well, they jeopardize the entire project."

To read more of James Portnow's article, including additional advice on how to define a game's scope for the team or for an external client, visit

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