Sunday, March 07, 2010

"You can have two out of three . . ."

Many people worldwide have talked about a maxim related to any kind of manufactured goods, or to projects, that runs like this: For production in general, "fast, cheap, good--you can have two out of three." Discussing the three pillars of project management, controlling the cost (budget), being on schedule, and meeting performance goals, it is: "In projects: cost, schedule, and performance, you can have two out of three." In general, these forms hold true, though it IS possible to make all three in some cases.

This can also be applied to many areas of endeavor where “two out of three” really is the limit. For example, I used to tell my computer networking students, “fast, cheap, long-distance: in networks you can have two out of three.” The Internet is cheap and long-distance, but not fast. The typical local area network is fast and cheap, but not long distance. A fast, long-distance network is ridiculously expensive.

In boardgames, the maxim is something like "short, simple to play, richly detailed. In boardgames, you can have two out of three,” but almost never three out of three.

It took me a while to come up with this form, compared with the networking form. “Complex” could be confusing, and “detailed” alone didn’t seem quite enough. I think the current version pretty well expresses the situation.

Games using cards are more likely to be able to achieve all three, I think, with Magic: the Gathering being an example of the many collectible (and sometimes non-collectible) card games that achieve all three. This may be why cards are now so often a part of boardgames. Yet games that use a standard deck of playing cards will surely lack rich detail.

In video games, you have the advantage of using the computer to keep track of (and display) details. So you may be more likely to achieve all three in one game, because the computer can hide the administrative part of the rich detail that players often must track themselves in a board game.

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