Putting a Deadline Is Not Impossible (It’s Pretty Easy Actually)

Lamonte pointed out that putting a deadline (or meeting the deadline) in reality is nearly impossible. Projects are late, so putting a deadline does no good.

I have a pretty confusing on this opinion. I totally agree and totally disagree with it.

First of all, I agree on this because often in the real world all the features are fixed: you simply need to do certain features and thus it’s practically impossible to set a deadline (and might be foolish to do so), instead the best you can do is to give a rough estimation about when the project could be complete.

On the other hand I disagree that it would be impossible to set a deadline and meet it.

I think in reality the deadlines are missed because managers/publishers/sales people/producers/you-name-it have promised certain features (and more), in certain time (or less) and that your project can use only certain amount of money (or hopefully less). Meeting the deadline is impossible because for some reason all the 3 elements: features (quality), deadline (time) and resources (money) are fixed – which can be impossible equation.

It’s bit like saying that:
– You need to go 100 meters in 5 seconds.

That’s practically impossible to reach I think. But, if we could agree to change those 100 meters to 10 meters, I’m sure we could do that. Or, if we could get 50 seconds to go those 100 meters – no problem. Or, if it’s not “me” who needs to do this, but instead we could get a brand new Ferrari that’s going full speed, going 100 meters in 5 seconds would be no problem.

According to this, having a fixed deadline is not impossible. It simply means that we might need to use more money (hire more people, get better equipment etc.) or that we reduce features (and have lower product quality).

Setting a deadline is more than possible if we decide to have one, in fact – I think it’s very easy: you just pick a date, and that’s it.

After that, it’s a matter of decisions. If we want to stick with that date, and if we agree that the certain date is the fixed piece, then the other elements (money and quality) will need to reflect this.

In my opinion, having a deadline is not impossible. It’s more like a choice.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Yep I should be an aim that no indie or casual games takes longer than 1 year (imho). This ensures you can stay up to date with the market.

  2. Thanks :) Good luck with Unwell Mel I just saw it released on BFG.

    To clarify on point 2. On indie projects you often have an “unlimited” amount of time. At least you think so :P

    In my opinion having two unknowns (features and resources) in the equation is also a recipe for disaster. “Oh I got all the time in the world… so I can start working on these unnecessary features or over engineered tech”.

    In this case I suggest you simply set a deadline when you want your game to be finished. Working iteratively it will be the best possible game on that time frame.

  3. Well… when setting deadlines you have two major problems:

    1. Time, the farther away the deadline is in the future the higher the risk of not meeting the deadline. Heck if you have a 1 year deadline set, you probably have changed the feature list many times, so the deadline is worthless (if it’s expressed as “these features at this time”).

    Beware of people trying to do this, the don’t know the first thing about software development.

    2. People trying to control all the parameters. The development team really have to have control over at least one parameter in the Resources – Features – Quality equation. Fiddling with quality is not a good idea, leaving Resources and Features. Resources are often fixed as in time and money. Leaving only Features. That is the actual developes need to be those responsible for saying what they can achieve at top quality given a certain amount of resources.

    I personally only do iterative development, using 2 week iterations. I always have a plan for what I want to achieve in those 2 weeks. But if life happens to me, I toss features to keep the deadline. Keeping the deadline and delivering on time is vital to project success.

    And remember; planning is everyting the plan is nothing…

    my 2 cents

  4. Thanks for the article :) honored. I get what you mean. Meeting a deadline is all about having the core system done instead of having bloated featured which could be added down the line. Yeah this idea pretty much exists on not just game development, but web applications and more.

  5. There is another aspect of deadlines that make them a requirement. If you don’t have a deadline then your sense of urgency to finish things is lessened. Its a lot easier to say “lets just throw this in before we release”, “let me fix these last few bugs before we release”, or “I don’t like this one part, should we change it before we go llive”.

    Having a deadline helps you make those decisions intellligently. Without the deadline there isn’t any reason to say no, but with a deadline you can determine just how important it is to do one of those things.

  6. For software development, there is a simple equation that can be used as a rule of a thumb:

    quality * number_of_features * speed_of_development = const

    You can have more features, if you sacrifice the speed of development or quality. You can have better quality, if you decrease the number of features. You can deliver faster, if you have less features or settle for lower quality.

Comments are closed.