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Agile Game Development: Build, Play, Repeat, 2nd Edition

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Agile Game Development: Build, Play, Repeat, 2nd Edition


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  • By Clinton Keith, the only Certified Scrum Trainer who’s built 20 AAA games
  • Contains several new chapters, including an all-new section on Agile for large teams and live games
  • Presents more of Keith’s popular stories about actual game development teams, and new “Things to Try” sidebars illuminating advanced Agile practices
  • Now covers Kanban and other Agile approaches alongside Scrum
  • Reflects Keith’s extraordinary in-the-trenches experience helping 150+ game development studios succeed


  • Copyright 2021
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/8"
  • Pages: 576
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-652781-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-652781-7

The definitive guide to more effective and personally fulfilling game development with Agile Methodsnow revamped to reflect ten more years of experience and improvements

Game development is in crisisfacing bloated budgets, impossible schedules, unmanageable complexity, and death-march overtime. It's no wonder so many development studios are struggling to survive. Fortunately, there is a solution. Agile and Lean methods have revolutionized development in the game development industry. In Agile Game Development, long-time game developer and consultant Clinton Keith shows exactly how these methods have been successfully applied to the unique challenges of modern game development.

Clint has spent more than 25 years developing games and training and coaching hundreds of game development teams. Drawing on this unparalleled expertise, he shows how teams can use the practices of Scrum and Kanban, customized to game development, to deliver games more efficiently, rapidly, and cost-effectively; craft games that offer more entertainment value; and make life more fulfilling for development teams at the same time.

  • Contains several new chapters on live games, leadership, and coaching, including an all-new section on Agile for large teams of up to 1000 developers
  • Updates to all chapters to reflect a decade of experience with more than 200 studios
  • Now covering Kanban and other Agile approaches alongside Scrum
  • Understanding Agile goals, roles, and practices in the context of game development
  • Discovering how Agile benefits every specialty in game development from art to QA
  • Communicating and planning your game's vision, features, and progress

Game developers and leaders are recognizing the modern challenges of gaming. Game development organizations need a far better way to work. Agile Game Development gives them thatand brings the profitability, creativity, and fun back to game development.

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

Scaling Agile Game Teams

Table of Contents

Foreword     xxvii
Preface     xxix
Part I: The Problem and the Solution     1
Chapter 1: The Crisis Facing Game Development     3
The Solutions in This Chapter     3
A Brief History of Game Development     4
    Iterating on Arcade Games     5
    Early Methodologies     6
    The Death of the Hit-or-Miss Model     8
The Crisis     9
    Less Innovation     9
    Less Value     10
    Work Environment     10
    Mobile/Live Challenges     10
What Good Looks Like     11
Summary     12
Additional Reading     12
Chapter 2: Agile and Lean Development     13
The Solutions in This Chapter     13
What Is Agile?     13
What Is Lean?     14
Why Game Development Is Hard     16
    Learning from Postmortems     16
    The Problems     19
Applying Both Agile and Lean     23
Why Use Agile and Lean for Game Development?     24
    Cost and Quality     24
    Finding the Fun First     25
    Iterate More, Fail Fast     26
    Agile Values Applied to Game Development     27
    Lean Principles Applied to Game Development     30
What an Agile Project Looks Like     33
    Agile Development     35
    Projects Versus Live Development     36
    Pre-Deployment Releases     37
The Challenge of Agile and Lean     37
What Good Looks Like     38
Summary     38
Additional Reading     38
Part II: Scrum and Kanban     39
Chapter 3: Scrum     41
The Solutions in This Chapter     42
The History of Scrum     43
    The Big Picture     44
    The Values of Scrum     47
    The Principles of Scrum     47
Product Backlog, Sprints, and Releases     48
    The Product Backlog     48
    Sprints     50
    Releases     51
Scrum Roles     52
    The Scrum Team     52
    Development Team     54
    Scrum Master     54
    Product Owner     59
Customers and Stakeholders     62
Chickens and Pigs     64
Scaling Scrum     65
What Good Looks Like     65
Summary     65
Additional Reading     65
Chapter 4: Sprints     67
The Solutions in This Chapter     67
The Big Picture     67
Planning     68
    The Sprint Goal     69
    Part One: Identifying the Sprint Goal     69
    Part Two: Planning How to Achieve the Sprint Goal     70
    Length     74
Tracking Progress     78
    Task Cards     78
    Burndown Chart     79
    The Burndown Trend     80
    Task Board     82
    War Room     84
The Daily Scrum Meeting     84
    The Practice     84
    Improving the Daily Scrum     86
Sprint Reviews     88
    Review Format for Smaller Games     88
    Remote Stakeholders     89
    Studio Stakeholders     90
    Players     90
    Honest Feedback     90
Retrospectives     90
    The Meeting     91
    Posting and Tracking Results     92
Sprint Challenges     92
    Sprint Interrupted     93
    Sprint Resets     93
    Problems with the Sprint Goal     94
    Running Out of Work     96
What Good Looks Like     96
Summary     97
Additional Reading     97
Chapter 5: Great Teams     99
What Are Great Teams?     100
The Solutions in This Chapter     101
An Agile Approach to Teams     101
    Cross-Discipline Teams     102
    Generalizing Specialists     104
    Self-Management     105
    Team Size     105
What Good Looks Like     108
Summary     109
Additional Reading     110
Chapter 6: Kanban     111
The Solutions in This Chapter     111
What Is Kanban?     112
    Visualizing the Workflow     112
    Measuring the Workflow     113
    Managing the Workflow     114
Improving the Workflow     117
    Reducing Batch Sizes and Waste     117
    Reducing Handoffs     118
    Responding to Bottlenecks     118
The Difference with Scrum     120
What Good Looks Like     121
Summary     121
Additional Reading     122
Chapter 7: The Product Backlog     123
The Solutions in This Chapter     123
A Fateful Meeting     124
Why Design Documents Fail     125
The Product Backlog     126
    Product Backlog Items     126
    Ordering the Product Backlog     127
    Continual Planning     128
    Allowing for Change and Emergence     128
    Encouraging Team Engagement and Alignment     129
Creating the Product Backlog     129
Managing the Product Backlog     131
    Backlog Refinement     131
    Who Attends the Refinement and When?     132
    Techniques for Ordering the Product Backlog     132
Defining Done     137
    Types of Debt     137
    Managing Debt     138
    Development DoDs and Stakeholder DoDs     139
    QA and DoDs     140
    Sets of Done     141
Challenges     142
Dysfunctional Product Ownership     142
    The Proxy Product Owner     144
    Product Owner Committees     144
    Silo Product Owners     145
    Attention Deficit Product Owner     146
    Tunnel Vision Product Owner     147
    Distant Product Owner     149
What Good Looks Like     152
Summary     152
Additional Reading     153
Part III: Agile Game Development     155
Chapter 8: User Stories     157
Speaking Different Languages     158
The Solutions in This Chapter     158
What Are User Stories?     159
Levels of Detail     160
Acceptance Criteria     161
Using Index Cards for User Stories     163
INVEST in User Stories     164
    Independent     164
    Negotiable     165
    Valuable     166
    Estimable     167
    Sized Appropriately     168
    Testable     168
User Roles     169
Collecting Stories     171
Splitting Stories     174
    Split Along Research or Prototype Dependencies     175
    Split Along Conjunctions     175
    Split by Progression or Value     176
    Other Splitting Tips     176
Advantages of User Stories     176
    Face-to-Face Communication     177
    Everyone Can Understand User Stories     177
What Good Looks Like     178
Summary     179
Additional Reading     179
Chapter 9: Agile Release Planning     181
The Solutions in This Chapter     181
What Is Release Planning?     182
    Release Planning Meetings     183
    Chartering a Shared Vision     184
Estimating Feature Size     186
    Velocity     186
    How Much Effort Should We Spend Estimating?     187
    Where Are Story Sizes Estimated?     188
    Story Points     189
    Alternatives to Story Points     194
Release Planning with Story Points     195
    Updating the Release Plan     197
    Marketing Demos and Hardening Sprints     198
What Good Looks Like     200
Summary     200
Additional Reading     201
Chapter 10: Video Game Project Management     203
Midnight Club Story     203
The Solutions in This Chapter     204
Minimum Viable Game     205
Contracts     207
Hitting Fixed Ship Dates     208
Managing Risk     209
    Incorporating Risk in the Product Backlog     210
The Need for Stages     211
The Development Stages     212
Mixing the Stages     213
Managing Stages with Releases     214
Lean Production     215
    Production Debt     216
    The Challenge of Scrum in Production     218
    Lean Production with Kanban     220
    Working with Scrum     234
    Transitioning Scrum Teams     235
What Good Looks Like     235
Summary     236
Additional Reading     236
Chapter 11: Faster Iterations     237
The Solutions in This Chapter     238
Where Does Iteration Overhead Come From?     238
Measuring and Displaying Iteration Time     239
    Measuring Iteration Times     239
    Displaying Iteration Times     240
Personal and Build Iteration     241
    Personal Iteration     241
    Build Iteration     242
What Good Looks Like     250
Summary     250
Additional Reading     250
Part IV: Agile Disciplines     251
Chapter 12: Agile Technology     253
The Solutions in This Chapter     254
The Problems     254
    Uncertainty     254
    Change Causes Problems     255
    Cost of Late Change     256
    Too Much Architecture Up Front     257
An Agile Approach     258
    Extreme Programming (XP)     259
    Debugging     265
    Optimization     266
What Good Looks Like     269
Summary     270
Additional Reading     270
Chapter 13: Agile Art and Audio     271
The Solutions in This Chapter     271
Concerns About Agile     273
Art Leadership     274
Art on a Cross-Discipline Team     275
    Creative Tension     275
    Art QA     276
    Building Art Knowledge     277
    Overcoming the Not Done Yet Syndrome     278
    Budgets     279
    Audio at the End of the Chain     280
    Shifting to Kanban     281
What Good Looks Like     281
Summary     282
Additional Reading     282
Chapter 14: Agile Design     283
The Solutions in This Chapter     284
    Designs Do Not Create Knowledge     284
    The Game Emerges at the End     285
Designing with Scrum     286
    A Designer for Every Team?     286
    The Role of Documentation     286
    Parts on the Garage Floor     288
    Set-Based Design     291
    Lead Designer Role     295
    Designer as Product Owner?     295
What Good Looks Like     296
Summary     296
Additional Reading     296
Chapter 15: Agile QA and Production     297
Agile QA     297
The Solutions in This Chapter     298
The Problem with QA     298
Most QA Is Just QC     299
Agile Testing Is Not a Phase     300
The Role of QA on an Agile Game Team     301
    QA, Embedded or in Pools?     303
    How Many Testers per Team?     303
    Using a Bug Database     304
    Play-Testing     305
    The Future of QA     307
Agile Production     307
    The Role of a Producer on an Agile Project     308
    Producer as Scrum Master     309
    Producer as Product Owner Support     309
    Producer as Product Owner     310
    The Future of Production     311
What Good Looks Like     311
Summary     311
Additional Reading     312
Part V: Getting Started     313
Chapter 16: The Myths and Challenges of Scrum     315
The Solutions in This Chapter     315
Silver Bullet Myths     316
    Scrum Will Solve All of Your Problems for You     316
    Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt     316
Scrum Challenges     321
    Scrum as a Tool for Process and Culture Change     321
    Scrum Is About Adding Value, Not Task Tracking     323
    Status Quo Versus Continual Improvement     323
    Cargo Cult Scrum     324
    Scrum Is Not for Everyone     326
    Overtime     326
    Crunch     327
What Good Looks Like     329
Summary     330
Additional Reading     330
Chapter 17: Working with Stakeholders     331
The Solutions in This Chapter     332
Who Are the Stakeholders?     332
The Challenges     332
Focus Comes Too Late     333
Milestone Payments and Collaboration     334
Limited Iteration     335
First-Party Problems     335
Portfolios Drive Dates     336
Building Trust, Allaying Fear     337
The Fears     337
Understanding Agile     338
Publisher-Side Product Owners     339
Meeting Project Challenges Early     340
Managing the Production Plan     341
Allaying the Fears     342
Agile Contracts     342
Iterating Against a Plan     344
Fixed Ship Dates     345
Agile Pre-Production     348
The Stage-Gate Model     348
What Good Looks Like     350
Summary     350
Additional Reading     351
Chapter 18: Team Transformations     353
The Solutions in This Chapter     353
The Three Stages of Team Transformation     353
    The Apprentice Stage     355
    The Journeyman Stage     359
    The Master Stage     367
What Good Looks Like     369
Summary     370
Additional Reading     370
Part VI: Growing Beyond     371
Chapter 19: Coaching Teams for Greatness     373
What Is a Great Team?     373
Why Coaching?     374
The Solutions in This Chapter     374
Coaching Skills     374
    My Path to Coaching     374
    The Coaching Stance     375
    Facilitation     377
    Coaching Tools     379
Coaching Teams to Higher Performance     381
    Psychological Safety     381
    Common Goals     382
    Shared Accountability     382
    Working Agreement     382
    Root Cause Analysis     383
Team Maturity Models     384
    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team     384
    The Tuckman Model     385
    Situational Leadership     386
Coaching Tools and Practices     387
    Lighten the Mood     387
    Love Card Wall     388
    Notes of Encouragement     389
    PechaKucha Introductions     389
    Socialize the Team     390
    Measure Team Health     391
    Group Confession     391
    360 Reviews     392
What Good Looks Like     393
Summary     393
Additional Reading     393
Chapter 20: Self-Organization and Leadership     395
The Solutions in This Chapter     396
Self-Organization     396
    Valve Software     397
    Supercell     398
    Growing Teams     399
Leadership     403
    Agile Leadership     403
    Studio Leadership     404
    Discipline Leadership     405
    Director Roles     406
    Mentors     407
    Reviews     407
    Servant Leadership     408
Systems Thinking     409
    Turning a Vicious Cycle into a Virtuous Cycle     409
    Seeking Out Systems     411
Intrinsic Motivation     411
    Autonomy     412
    Mastery     412
    Purpose     412
Flow     412
    Finding the Right Challenge     414
    Increasing Skills     414
Studio Coaches     415
    Shifting Roles     416
    Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS     417
Adoption Strategies     418
    Beachhead Teams     419
    Full-Scale Deployment     422
What Good Looks Like     426
Summary     426
Additional Reading     426
Chapter 21: Scaling Agile Game Teams     429
The Solutions in This Chapter     429
Challenges to Scaling     430
    Loss of Vision     430
    Adding People Late     431
    Communication Among Large Teams     431
Should You Scale Up?     433
Scaling the Wrong Process     433
The MAGE Framework     434
    Whole Game Focus     435
    Communication, Purpose, and Autonomy     435
    Systems Thinking     435
    Scaling the Right Way     436
The Product Backlog     436
    Tools and Mind Maps     436
    Pooling Functions and Dispersing Components     437
    Pillars     438
Team Organization     438
    Feature Teams     438
    Component Teams     439
    Production Teams     439
    Support Teams     440
    Tool Teams     442
    Pool Teams     443
    Integration Teams     443
    Feature Area Teams     443
    Communities of Practice     444
Product Ownership     445
Additional Roles     447
    Project Management Support     447
    Supplemental Roles     448
    Pillar Champions     448
Releases     448
    Release Planning     449
    Rolling Out the Release Plan     451
    Forming Teams     452
    Updating the Release Plan     452
    Using Project Boards     453
Sprints     454
    Aligning Sprint Dates     454
    The Scrum of Scrums     455
    Sprint Planning     458
    Sprint Reviews     458
    Sprint Retrospectives     459
Managing Dependencies     460
    Team Formation     461
    Release Planning     461
    Team Dependency Management     462
    Reducing Expert Dependencies     462
Distributed and Dispersed Development     463
    Distributed versus Dispersed     463
    Challenges to Distributed Development     464
    Challenges to Dispersed Development     466
What Good Looks Like     468
Summary     468
Additional Reading     469
Chapter 22: Live Game Development     471
The Solutions in This Chapter     472
Games As a Service     472
Why Agility for Live Games?     473
DevOps and Lean Startup     473
Feedback Loops     474
    Live Games and Fighter Aircraft     474
    Live Game Feedback Loops     475
    Measuring the Feedback Loop     478
Part One: Plan     478
    Have a Vision     479
    Model the Players     479
    Establish the Goals     480
    Identify an Incremental Step     480
    Develop the Hypothesis     480
Part Two: Develop     482
    Map and Measure the Entire Pipeline     482
    Identify Ways to Improve the Pipeline     483
    Reduce the Batch Size     485
    QA for Live Games     487
Part Three: Deploy and Support     487
    Continuous Delivery     488
    Live Support Tools     490
Part Four: Measure and Learn     494
    Measure Results     494
    Do Retrospective Actuals and Update Your Vision     495
What Good Looks Like     495
Summary     496
Additional Reading     496
Chapter 23: There Are No Best Practices     497
The Solutions in This Chapter     497
Visualizing Your Work     498
    Feature Boards     498
    Story Mapping     501
Developing for New Platforms     504
    Launch Title Development     505
    Parallel Development     506
Agile and Indie Game Development508
    The Draw of Indie Development     508
    The Challenges of Indie Development     509
    How Agile Development Helps     509
What Good Looks Like     510
Summary     511
Additional Reading     511
Conclusion     513
Index     515


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  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020