"Eighty Percent" Projects

Chances are that if you’ve ever done a semester long project, especially a game, you have an “eighty percent” project sitting around. Maybe more than once. I believe I have at least three, maybe more. I regret leaving them as eighty percent projects, and I would like to go back and spend the effort to fix them up properly next year.

So what is an eighty percent project? Factually, it’s a project that basically works, does all the things it’s supposed to, but is clearly a rough draft at best. Maybe those menus didn’t quite make it in, or the font rendering isn’t quite crisp, or only two game levels ever got built and one makes no sense. Expressed more personally, an eighty percent project is one that has progressed just enough to be disappointing. It’s not really disappointing when a project is a half baked pile of junk. You really always knew, when it comes down to it, that the project was utterly worthless (as an object in its own right) and always would be. Maybe the core game idea just wasn’t good. Maybe you never came up with one at all. You probably learned a lot along the way, but the goal was never really to finish.

An eighty percent project is not like that. An eighty percent project had that spark and basic potential, enough that the result seems like it could have really been a solid piece of work. Something you would send to an employer, or publish to the internet. Except it isn’t that good. There’s just too many small (and occasionally not so small) things to fix. Levels 3-8 never got off the drawing board. The semester was just two weeks too short for that final cool feature to go in. And every time you consider finishing it, the to-do list seems to get mind bogglingly long (typical 80/20 rule).

I think my real personal goal for next year is to create a few 100% projects out of eighty percent ones. SlimTune is definitely the big one, but there are others too. I’ve been involved in several game projects that no one really knows about because they all stalled at eighty percent. I’d like people to actually see those and not laugh, myself.