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Josh Howard talks morale issues during APB development


Josh Howard spoke at the IGDA Leadership Forum last week, specifically about how to keep a team motivated throughout the dev cycle. However, on the minds of almost everyone attending was the closure of Realtime Worlds and APB: All Points Bulletin -- which has since apparently been purchased -- a game that the introduction to Howard's speech called an "ambitious" title.

"Ambitious is a polite way of putting it," said Howard, who served as executive producer on the ill-fated MMO. "If something fails, it's ambitious. If something succeeds, it's just a big hit." But, as he strayed away from APB: All Points Bulletin and got to the meat and potatoes of his chat -- a discussion on leadership solutions for development managers -- Howard did eventually come back to the MMO to talk a bit about how he felt the morale of the team was negatively affected over the course of development.

"The organization I was most recently at -- Realtime Worlds, where we just shipped APB -- exciting, exciting ride. It was a great ride, I learned a lot. But one of the exciting things, one of the things I learned really -- this is something I will say I really learned at RTW -- was that we removed deliverables in so many places of the organization that we actually did ourselves a disservice. In an attempt to streamline the development process -- 'we don't need specs' and 'we don't need this, we're just going to move' -- we ended up actually reducing the level of morale on the team. We had gone past the point of trying to be more effective and, frankly, I struggled with why: 'What happened?,' 'Why did the team go too far?' And this is actually something I hit upon: we removed so many opportunities for deliverables that we were removing opportunities for mastery at a tactical level. There were a lot of people on this dev team of 150 who needed more than just 'at some point, the game will ship and I'll know that what I've done is good.' They wanted, as you might imagine -- we're all gamers here -- they wanted little micro-wins. And not giving them those micro-wins, I was actually negatively impacting their motivation."

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