How to Fix the Inevitable Busted Roadmap

Read Time: 6 Minutes

Let’s be real for a moment. The vast majority of plans in our industry fail.

  • They don’t seem to be up-to-date or reliable.

  • People feel impatient, don’t trust the plan, or want more.

  • Work is always getting done, but we can’t always tell if the game is improving.

If a plan doesn’t solve these problems, what purpose does it serve? We invest so much time and energy in them that it’s a shame to see studios struggle to get anything meaningful out of them at all.

We’ve forgotten how to plan effectively, use the plan correctly, and often don’t understand who the plan is for.

Rather than understanding what’s happening when plans go south, most leaders lean in ever harder, constantly replanning and “battening down the hatches” until the team is so exhausted they can’t get anything done. I’ve seen leaders push this agenda so hard that they’ve effectively gummed up the organization in planning hell to the point where nobody can get anything done.

Yuck. We can all agree this isn’t an outcome we want.

So why do we keep doing this stuff? And why doesn’t it work?

  1. We build our plans for the wrong people. And we also don’t realize that we might need multiple “views” for different groups.

  2. Our plans primarily focus on “doing work” instead of solving problems, improving the experience, or meeting the goal.

Today, I will explain why this happens and what you can do about it. Having a smooth & steady momentum on your team and a plan everybody trusts is worth its weight in gold. But it will take a couple specific changes to get there.

Serving Two Masters

We have bosses. We want to get paid. Typically, the stuff we’re working on is something somebody asked us for.

So, we build roadmaps that look like this…

They answer questions like:

  1. When’s MY thing going to be done?

  2. My team is dependent on X to start Y. Will we start that in April or May?

  3. Are lots of things getting done? I want to know if the team is productive!

  4. What’s the final date?

There is nothing wrong with these questions. They are essential to answer. But it’s important to note “who” is asking them.

If you guessed stakeholders and other teams, you nailed it.

So what do we do? We build all our roadmaps and plans for people outside the team. And we wonder why our teams get so cynical about what’s in them and what’s being communicated.

On top of that, they are wrong 90% of the time.

This is a single view of “the plan.” It is not the ONLY view of the plan. We need another one to hit our goals and have a successful and predictable roadmap.

Whether we like it or not, we’re serving two masters. Any team leader knows this reality working in a game studio. You need to make sure your stakeholders & other teams get what they require.

You also need to support the people you are leading.

Keeping stakeholders and other teams “happy” with a roadmap built for them necessarily mean you’re building the right thing, are predictable, or moving toward your goals.


  1. Write down a list of all your questions regarding your team's current plan. What are the questions it should answer?

  2. Ask your fellow team leads who the primary customer of your current roadmap is.

  3. Ask your fellow team leads what they don’t like about the current planning process. Get a conversation going about it and write down what comes up.

In addition to these “classic” Gantt-style approaches to roadmapping being targeted at “outsiders,” they also have a glaring flaw:

Value is implied.

That’s right. 

The only thing that matters… 

The thing that delights players… 

The outcome…

None of it is on our roadmap.

We spent all this time planning and left the most important thing up to chance.

And we wonder why we often do all this work and can’t see a working product.

We will fix three key things these classic roadmaps need to include:

  1. The impact of negotiating scope

  2. Keeping all work focused on a testable theme or goal.

  3. Clarity on whether we’re achieving any value instead of just getting work done.

Let’s break them down.

Negotiating scope is a critical function of any planning process, yet very few leaders do it. This is a huge miss and one of the main reasons why most plans (and studios) fail to deliver.

Understanding which features, functions, and scope are critical to achieving a goal is an evolving conversation that needs to happen daily. 

It needs to involve the people doing the work and be framed around the objective. That context allows us to decide what “stays” and what “moves down.”

For example, suppose I’ve decided that our initial internal release is a “barebones experience” for my new auto-battler game, where everything is pretty much auto-calc’d, and the player interaction is minimal. 

In that case, I probably don’t need a login function yet.

This sounds intuitive, as I’ve just given you the context of what we’re trying to accomplish.

That’s the point.

By moving this scope down, the team has saved much time and effort and can still successfully deliver the goal. Now THAT is exciting. Less work & more results.

This is what we mean when we say “scope negotiation.” It is one of the most potent ways to push down or remove scope while achieving your goals actively. This, more than anything, will ensure your team hits their dates.

Next up - keeping the work focused on a testable outcome (goal).

Another issue with the Gantt chart or classic planning view is that it shows us a bunch of work bars and task work, but it doesn’t necessarily answer the question, “What’s the next playable build going to focus on?”

This might allow us to track a thousand tasks, but it doesn’t keep us focused on what matters. At the end of the day, we’re trying to meaningfully evolve our game to the next level and see that demonstrated with a playable build.

Enter thematic releases.

Don’t think of releases as something you must patch to a hundred machines. A release in this context simply means our game's next meaningful and playable increment. We can name these releases based on the “theme” of what we’re trying to show/demonstrate.

This is the context I mentioned for the team earlier—the backdrop of the conversation for them to negotiate scope with you. If you have clean and well-defined thematic releases on your roadmap, you can keep everyone focused on what matters the most.

And finally, clarity on achieving value:

The greatest lie ever told in game development was that if we got all the work done, we’d ship a great game.

I’ve seen studios repeatedly and heroically get mountains of work done and still achieve very little.

This happens because we fail to look through the impact lens with our planning approach. If you build a view as we describe here, it will be evident whether you’re achieving value.

Does the game suck?

Is it even playable?

Were the things we tested this week the right stuff to build first?

Answering these questions is much easier when you can see it in context. Value is far more intuitive. This is precisely what you want.


  1. If you were to lead a scope negotiation on your team tomorrow, what would you tell them to clarify that conversation? Do they have that clarity now?

  2. Once you answer the first bullet point, have a scope negotiation with your team ASAP. See what comes up and adjust the plan accordingly.

  3. Create an artifact with your team ASAP that describes what the following testable features or build will look like. What do you want to learn from it? What’s in it? What’s not?

A New View for the Plan

Now that we’ve walked through what’s missing from traditional roadmaps, we need a planning approach that solves the new and old stuff.

I recommend a “dual-view” approach. One view is for the stakeholders & other teams - it looks a lot like the one you’re used to:

A new view shows us the holistic player experience, our upcoming thematic releases, and which features are essential and where. It helps keep our team on track

By doing both, we can track things and answer questions for one group (stakeholders, etc.)…

…while also focusing on the goal, the impact, and a sensical planning approach for the other (our team).

The new view is pretty simple.

  • Across the top (left to right), you have the critical pieces of the player's journey from loading up the client to exiting the client

  • Across the side (top to bottom), your thematic releases show meaningful increments and how the testable experience will evolve. (with target dates)

  • If you want to get fancy - you can add colored dots for which individuals or teams work on each feature. This shows the distribution of effort across your map.

Now you’ve got a view that doesn’t just imply value; it shows it to you in concrete terms that you and your team can understand.

It also provides the perfect backdrop for you to get aligned on the experience you’re targeting and, just as importantly, negotiate scope!


  1. Try building the “experience view” for your project. Run it by your team and see what they think.

  2. Even if you’re stuck in your current planning process, start getting your team to talk in front of the experience map daily.

  3. See if you can create BOTH views from the same reusable components in Miro or other planning software. Suppose you can make two views from one set of information. You save yourself time & energy while solving both problems.

  4. For bonus points: Show your stakeholders the experience map you’ve built and get their input. They might be pretty excited to see it!

Wrapping Up

The preeminent planning approach in the games industry isn’t equipped to deal with the projects we run these days. Most of the problems I see with planning, and even more so with studious struggling operationally, are rooted in the issues with the classic roadmapping approach.

It makes many assumptions that simply aren’t true and leaves out critical information that we need to make good decisions for our games.

Use a dual-view planning approach for your team and start having those conversations immediately. 

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways we can help you…

—>Courses built by game devs for game devs - check out “Succeeding in Game Production” HERE.

—>Regular deep dives on critical game development topics on the BBG podcast

—>We’ve helped many high-profile game studios save a ton of money & time through building clear vision and leveling up leadership. If you’d like to work with us, please reach out at [email protected].

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

-Paulo Coelho

“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche