Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vision and Direction

Players are bad at far-mode game design decision-making. People, in general, are bad at far-mode thinking. People live in the here and now, and they don't want to think too much. They may know that they aren't happy, but they can only take almost-random guesses at why. Most people do not care enough to figure out what is wrong. They just know something is wrong and someone should make it better. When they try to articulate what is wrong, they run into a twofold problem: first, they actually do not know what is wrong; and second, they couldn't communicate well enough to convey the problem effectively if they knew the problem.

Would you blame people for not thinking? Thinking gets you into a situation like mine: I'm at a point where I feel like game design is borderline a hopeless endeavor and that we are doing no more than flailing around in semantic mud by talking about it as if we know anything. If I didn't think about games, I wouldn't be here. I could enjoy whatever I happen to enjoy, write love notes on the forums, and leave the blogging to more qualified meddling mages than myself.

People who are smart, thoughtful, and good at reasoning have trouble deciding what is wrong with complex interconnected systems like games. Taste can wash out reasoning about games easily, leaving a designer feeling like there is no anchoring point for making decisions. Without a logical framework from which to make decisions, a game designer would be no better than some guy off the street. You can only get so far by thinking really hard about fun--or even just thinking really hard about what you, in particular, find fun.

People tend to reason through emotion, not through logic--and I am also guilty of this, as is everyone made of biological matter that I've ever talked with. This means that we'll prefer that game mechanics and interfaces work a certain way, and this preference will have no backing in logic. We'll dig for reasons, but in the end the reasons aren't the source of our preference, they're just an attempt at post-hoc justification. Whatever mechanic or interface will simply feel right to us. It's hard to have valuable discussion about such matters, but we desperately try.

The odds are stacked against meaningful and useful discussion. When a designer sets out to create a system and tune it, he's set adrift in a rolling sea where waves of subjectivity splash incessantly at every odd angle and nothing remains as it was for long enough to be appraised and understood. In this environment, designers are left reaching desperately for some kind of raft, some surface that remains stable in the roiling undulations.

What can a designer do to make something of this intractable situation?

One possible solution is to rely on other people to validate the big picture. Unfortunately, other people just won't get what you're trying to do. If you don't have some kind of idea of why you're making a game, then don't make a game. If you do have such an idea, the advice of arbitrary other people will uniformly be useless if not damaging. Asking the right people for advice, though, can greatly help, provided they understand your vision (not a safe assumption under the best of conditions).

The solution isn't to drift aimlessly in the eddies of popular opinion, clearly, because there is no direction there.

Direction comes from establishing some theory and then trying to test it. To make a great game, you need a (mostly) unified and consistent vision of the boundaries of the game systems and some relatively particular idea of what you're trying to accomplish. Some players can help on small matters, like fine-tuning and balancing within existing frameworks (though players' feedback will almost always be garbage), but when designing the basic concepts of how a game will work, there's no substitute for vision.

Even if parts of the game fail, a designer with vision has something to fall back on: they can ammend their theory to account for the failure, or simply come to the realization that a core idea just does not work and move on. Following popular opinion, the designer will simply get lost and have to thrash about if something larger fails because he has no framework within which to make a profound, solid judgment of what has actually happened. "My source was wrong," is all he can say, "and now we need to come up with something else to try." At this point, you might as well be designing your game by adding random features and sticking them together as quickly and easily as possible.

Even a "follow the leader" mentality fails without vision. You can't choose the right mechanics to copy if you don't have a reasoned way to pick mechanics. Picking at random will only get you so far in game design because games are not collections of independently operating mechanics and their metaphors, but are instead systems of highly dependent systems of mechanics whose results are often greater than the sum of their parts.

Without vision, the chances of success greatly decline, the value of success declines (because you chose at random and cannot reproduce success through reapplying reasoning), and the value of failures is almost nothing (because the only alternative to choosing certain random elements is to choose certain other random elements). So when someone asks me why a dev isn't doing what the players want, I respond "maybe they know what they are doing". And if the devs are thrashing about and demonstrating there's no vision guiding them, I know it's time to abandon ship.


Klepsacovic said...

Maybe there are no good or bad design ideas, only ideas which are presented to the wrong audience. Some players have the most fun with very slow progress while others must progress quickly. In the same game they will clash until eventually speed wins, as we've seen in WoW.

The solution would seem to be a multitude of games with varying attributes, almost like a car. Great mileage but slow acceleration, this other car is very safe, and the last looks great and has a great top speed but is extremely expensive.

If players can't think well for the long term, then maybe the sellers need to adapt to that by making the long term also look better in the short term. So for a game with slow progress, have a cheaper subscription, a longer trial, a longer 'free' period with the box.

Or maybe those were all bad ideas.

Nils said...

A wise man knows that he knows little.

I take part in MMO discussions for quite some years now and I certainly do have a vision. But even with that vision I am unable to describe my 'dream MMO' in detail. I tried several times. It is just too complicated. All could do is state some guesses.
(1), (2)

So, your are right. Game design, especially for MMOs is more art than science. You have to start with a vision and then iterate, iterate, iterate ... until it feels ok.

Logan said...

I've got over 150 pages in my own homebrew MMO design document... and i still can't accurately describe this game to even my closest friends.

not to mention the excel spreadsheets... the UI mockups... and detailed encounter ideas...

i think part of the problem is that i'm simply not very good at explaining things...

but the other part of the problem is that nobody is willing to really read and try to understand my vision... nobody wants to spend hours reading my ramblings.. probably multiple times... in order to get an accurate picture of the game i want to create.

i think this is why a lot of complex games have parts that just don't seem to fit with other parts... not everyone on the team fully understands and is excited about the vision of the game... so you have people working on different aspects of the game with separate ideas as to what the game should be like and you end up with a series of systems that just don't mesh well together.

i think the key is to get everyone on the team to buy into the same vision... but how do you do that? is money the only answer?

i've been toying with the idea of creating a video that shows what gameplay is supposed to look like... so team members can get a feel for the animations, setting, and systems that they're going to have to create... this way everyone has a clear goal and can look back to this video to see if what they're doing fits with the game.

so basically you create a video from the players perspective, of just like 10 minutes of normal gameplay... showing the camera angles and how it should move, some of the skills and how they affect other players and the environment, how combat should work, what boss battles should look like, some examples of puzzle solving, crafting, a few PvP battles, etc:... and then basically your team tries to make the game look as awesome as you made it look in the video.

the problem is that it's probably more difficult to create this video than it's worth.

but there has to be some way to get people on board with the same vision of the game... and i think a visual representation of what the game should play like in a finished state is the best way to do that... i just don't know enough about making videos to know if this is even a viable option.

sorry for the long post.. basically i agree that vision is very difficult to create and keep... but what would you do to try and fix that problem?

evizaer said...

Your game is too complicated. Cut out most of the mechanics.

The problem with projects that had vision but lose it: they are so big that vision and direction no longer can extend to all of their parts--let along the subparts that may lie beneath those parts. The game is just too big.

This is why I'd like tosee a simplification of MMOs and a removal of a lot of the excess working pieces. Currently, MMO games don't seem to be defined by some kind of overarching idea, they're just a collection of industry standard ideas with some twists here or there. I think that designers should rethink the genre and simplify to only what is needed to accomplish something, not just an attempt to be like every other MMORPG.

Kenny said...

I go with Evi on this. First, if you cannot communicate your idea it simply doesn't exist for all intents and purposes. Second, if you cannot condense it to an "elevator pitch" it doesn't exist, it's just a collection of random, disjointed thoughts. Third, if you take those random parts and try to fit them together you'll get.. you guessed: nothing.

As stupid as it sounds, condense you idea to one _simple_ sentence. Then make a 30 second elevator pitch. Then try to make the back cover of the box with everything you think should be mentioned. You'll not fit. So:

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" (Antoine de Saint-Exuper)

And: "You need a bullet point for your Powerpoint that's stupid enough for executives but not so dumb it offends developers" (

If you are unable or unwilling to to do this you'll never get anything. If you find over the time that what you're doing doesn't fit what you laid down, you have nothing. However if you're ever in trouble how to fit something in to your vision and these 3 things help you by falling back to them to help you define what exactly do you want to do, you're on the right track.

Logan said...

I'm going to have to disagree...

i think the problem with most games these days are that they sound great in a 30 second elevator pitch but then when they go to actually make the game they run into a lot of problems because they didn't have the specifics figured out.

honestly, if you can describe in MMO in 30 seconds... then it's a pretty poor MMO... farmville can be described in 30 seconds... WoW cannot...

this doesn't necessarily hold true for all games... for example super mario bros. can be described in 30 seconds easily, and it's an amazing game... but MMOs are completely different and much more complex beasts... they simply cannot be summed up in 3-4 sentences... if they can, then chances are that it's a pretty boring MMO.

elevator pitches are a TERRIBLE way to design a game... the only reason they're used is because the bigshot CEOs and and investors don't have the time or energy to actually read/listen to an idea for more than 30 seconds...

talking to investors is like talking to a kid with ADD... you have to use big flashy signs and you still won't be able to hold their attention for more than 30 seconds.

elevator pitches are fine for talking to investors and suits... but if that's all you have when you start making a game then you're in serious trouble.

if you give 10 people the same 30 second pitch and then tell them to go create the game you just described... you'll get 10 RADICALLY different games... this is NOT vision... you do NOT want the 50+ people on your team to only have a 30 second pitch to set the vision for the game... because nobody's vision will be even remotely close to anyone else's and you'll end up with a sloppy, disjointed, buggy final product.

vision has to be clear and concise and everyone has to share the same vision if you want to get anything done... the more you simplify the vision, the more room for error and the more problems you'll run into.

believe me i understand the less is more philosophy... i'm half industrial designer, half marketer... but the only people you want to simplify things for are the suits, and the consumer... not the team creating the game.

still curious, what do you guys think about the video idea?

Nils said...

I am with Logan here. MMOs are complex. They may be easy to learn and hard to master, but when you design chess, you also need to think about what happens when people master it. You need to think it through!

However, I do believe in the distinction of vision and iteration. That is: At the start you need a vision about what you actually want to do. Eventually you iterate on the game a hundred times and more. This does involve compromises! But you may never forget about the vision.

That is WoW's problem, by the way.
They iterated so often and listended to players for so long that they eventually forgot their vision. That is also the problem EQ has. In fact, it is the death that most MMOs die.

Anonymous said...

Part 2
I have often touted that "pacing" is important, and unless one design a simple game as Tetris, I think problems of "pacing" is of major importance, just like for when cutting a movie into a product to be released to the cinema. And I am thinking that if one allow for some pacing in the game, one can steer clear of any theme-park mentality. A mentality which I suspect might be, consciously or not, what gamedesingers default to when wanting to simplifying their problems or trying to adhering to principles. I think prinicples are too strict and limited for use in game design.

I guess, that I believe that "pacing" (in various ways) allows for expanding the gameplay in the gamedesign process and perhaps makes it easier to solve specific problems, because that one probably avoids having certain core features (principles) inherently prevent the adding of new ideas that would expand the game features.

As for life and meaning and all that. I believe there is a difficult (or not so difficult) dilemma of recognizing stuff (ones/our reality) in life. Wanting to improve ones understanding of things seem to a common motivation, and for game design, I think people should be able to keep themselves busy so I don't share any hoplelessness about game design. Improving things should be of importance.

For some dabbling into convoluded really difficult philosophical problems I suggest reading the following: (direct link to pdf)
(Symptomatology of Spirit, The Curve of Intentionality and Freedom)
I would say it should be required to have read for example about David Hume, to avoid believing that psychoanalysis is actually something that touches on "reality" "in principle".

Anonymous said...

Part 1
Whatever ideas a game designer have for his game, it should not something that is to ultimately be kept secret by default, either by its proprietariness or perhaps someones shame. I say this as a potential gamer and game critic of course.

For example we ought to have gamedesigners not just conjure up ideas and expect others to simply accept, that it has to be tried out and be allowed to fail or just show as being confirmed as bland, boring and largely unfun.

A problem here would perhaps be that devs are not inclined at sharing their design documents or even change their basic ideas. So there would be in such a case no option ever for anyones input anyway. So I hope Evizaer are not trying to butter up to game designers to presumably want to make them feel good and run steadfast with whatever idea they got.

I always liked the fact that Evizaer ponder on gamedesign questions, but I realize now that I detest what I will characterize (perhaps abit unfairly) as arrogance in his writing.

To perhaps better explain my concern, please concider the following quote by Geroge S. Patton: "Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way"

A reoccurring thing with Evizaers writing seem to me, to be the assertions he make, which I often find less poingant and more demanding. So I would suggest to not psychologizise the designprocess as if that was as important than making sense by putting words to notions or somewhat specific ideas.

I will suggest a more academic approach that could spur on a more commonsensical and intelligable approach to solving specific or vague problems with game design. Maybe it can be said that the article author is fond of writing essays?

I think there are basicly two problems and challenges with designing a game: Will the proposed game design actually work as intended, and what should be included. So basicly one want the game to work, and you want the game to be fun. Then, after all is done, I believe it should be obvious to anyone what the game "is about" and anyone are free to sense a lack with their take on things. All this without having played the game and only by reading a description. Having some experience with games is helpful in making ones mind up about things.

evizaer said...

(There was some issue with Anonymous' comments going into the spam box (thank, Nils). I brought back the cleanest post of the first part. They're reversed, but all the content is now there. I deleted the comments about the mix-up so they wouldn't confuse people. Thanks for your patience.)

Kenny said...

@Logan: a 30 second elevator pitch is neither a complete design document nor an "X statement". It is also not a substitute for a guy who knows what's he's doing (see the post about this) and can correct course if someone of those designer-minions get strayed away from his vision. Creating a game is not a democratic process, few games tried it and failed (mostly miserably).

And yes, it is possible to describe any game - or anything ever conceived, ever, for that matter - in 30 seconds or even in one short sentence. Now, if _you_ are not able to do this with _your_ idea then I'm sorry to say but you don't really know what you want to make - and just how exactly are other people supposed to know if you don't, and most importantly cannot explain without spending the whole day explaining and essentially doing their work instead of them?

@Nils: see, we agree. The vision and the underlying principles, what the game is really _about_ can be summed up pretty quick. What you iterate from that condensed version, what systems you attach to it, what eyecandy you use later matters nothing in terms of that original vision, how clear it is and consistently sticking to it so you have a "tight" product to ship.

Nils said...


So, are you able to come up with a WoW-vision in 3 sentences ?

I think a vision would have to be some pages long. Perhaps 3 or 4.

Logan said...

the more defined your vision is, the less you have to iterate, the less time it takes to get to your true vision, the better the game becomes, and the less money it takes to create the game.

a well thought out and detailed vision will have already thought through the possible problems that could be faced and either will have solutions ready or the vision will be altered so to avoid the problem in the first place.

with just a 30 second vision you will run into a TON of problems... which is why you have to iterate so much. if you do a good job creating a detailed and well thought out vision, then you won't run into as many problems, and you won't have to backtrack and redesign whole aspects of the game which may very well alter the vision.

case in point is Warhammer Online... it sounds amazing on paper, the elevator pitch they gave had gamers like me foaming at the mouth, the back of the box read like a dream come true... but it was complete crap because that vision was way too vague, they didn't have any clue how they were going to accomplish their vision, so they floundered and made mistake after mistake and iterated like mad but still couldn't actually achieve their vision.

maybe if they had taken another year or 2 to iterate constantly they would have come up with something decent, but if you have a solid and complete vision then you won't have to go through hundreds of iterations and constant backtracking and re-working and can instead focus on polish and QA and all the other things that were obvious flaws in WAR... if the vision was more clear and concise they would have accomplished their vision much quicker and would have had plenty of time to fix the glaring flaws in the game.

those glaring flaws are what people notice first, but the reason for those glaring flaws isn't just shoddy technical work, it's a lack of time to polish because they couldn't get the actual design of the game nailed down in time... even years later the game is nowhere near achieving its 30 second elevator pitch vision.

evizaer said...

There are useful elevator pitches as well as useless ones.

If you see phrases like "balanced classes", "open-world PvP", "Massive events" etc., alarm bells should go off. Those abstractions are far too broad to be direction-giving. Everyone wants balanced classes--how you are going to balance them is the interesting part. We're interested in how you intend to solve these problems, not that you are going to try.

Also, MMORPGs have grown too big. They're monsters full of excessive features and random trash. The reason you can't think of a one-page vision for such games is because there are so many unneeded frills involved that the "essence" of the game is completely blotted out and blurred by fringe features.

Logan said...

exactly Evis.

i don't think you could describe any 1 of the 3 things you mentioned in under 30 seconds, let alone 30 minutes... and those are all 3 vital to the success of the game... it's one thing to say what your goal is, it's another thing to have a plan of how to achieve it.

if all you say to your team is that we want balanced classes, then you're going to get 50 different thoughts about how to balance the classes, not a single person is going to be on the same page as any other person and you're going to end up with a convoluted mess that has to be constantly reworked and iterated on to become functional.

yes MMOs have become very convoluted and complex, but personally that's part of why i enjoy them... and they're not going to get any simpler anytime soon... certain aspects might be simplified and streamlined, but i don't foresee the overall game getting any less complex, if anything it needs to keep getting more and more complex to hold jaded players' attention.

Kenny said...

@Nils: No, for two reasons: I'm not a game designer and I'm not that familiar with WoW. Also "WoW" can mean many things from Vanilla to Cataclysm, now or 2005, etc. If you clarify I can try to come up with something for you.

@Logan: "the more defined your vision is, the less you have to iterate, the less time it takes to get to your true vision, the better the game becomes, and the less money it takes to create the game."

The more defined anything you have before you start coding the more rigid your systems become (both code and mentality). I've seen agile taken to the extreme where there was no design document at all for features not yet completed. All (ok, most) of pre-pro is there for iteration, expanding on systems, trying out new ideas, prototype, etc.

"a well thought out and detailed vision will have already thought through the possible problems that could be faced and either will have solutions ready or the vision will be altered so to avoid the problem in the first place"

I think you're not talking about "vision" on the same terms as I do. How about if I say "high concept instead"? Would this make it more clear?

"with just a 30 second vision you will run into a TON of problems"

A 30 second vision is not a complete game design bible. For example if I were to talk about WoW I could pretty much omit everything about PvP except "player are able to attack each other". What else do you need in a sum of the game? "How", "why", "what for", etc - these are things to be answered but not by the vision itself. But the same statement won't hold true for CoX or WAR, those statements would focus on PvP instead and leave other stuff undetailed. Again I have the feeling that by "vision" you mean the complete design document.

BTW a "vision" is not the place to lay out how you want to balance the classes. Nobody cares who the "vision" is intended for; the rest of the people are actually working on those very issues, designing and coding.

But let me ask you: how do you come up with your version of the "vision"? Do you just write down whatever pops into your head and that's it, or do you iterate?

@Evi: You're saying exactly what I am. If you have the very much condensed "vision" ("high concept", "X statement", whatever) nailed down then you can always ask youself one of my quotes: does this system add anything to that vision or is it fluff?

Anonymous said...

What I would say I learned by playing Eve online, is to appreciate that the core game mechanics simply works, and works well in various interesting ways.

Although people have problems with lag, and although I personally think that game should have evolved abit further, I think the devs can be proud of having such a solid game.

Mark said...

Logan, the thing about a vision is that you need to be able to share it with people who don't know what you're doing. It needs to be accessible and simple. For example:

"World of Warcraft is Dungeons & Dragons in a massively multiplayer environment."


"World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer game set in a factional, medieval fantasy world. Players develop their characters to collaborate with and compete against both each other and NPCs. Characters progress through levels to become more powerful and specialized in their class."

Pitch those to a VC and he'll know you're not talking about Frogger. He'll also want to know how your idea differs from WoW because that's it in broad strokes. It seems a lot of Blizzard's competition answered in terms of execution or setting.

Pitch those to a good game developer and he'll have questions because a lot of details are lacking. He'll need more direction from a design lead but at least neither will think they're building Frogger.

Kenny said...

Re: Mark: Exactly!

Let me write a perhaps even better one. If I had to come up with a sum and elevator pitch for EVE it would be something like :

"Decision - Consequences" **

"An Elite-like sci-fi MMO where the gathering, production, trade and destruction of assets are mostly player controlled and they decide how, when and if they participate in any of those. Every action they take or not take will have an effect on the rest of the player base."

Is that utterly familiar from the CCP videos? Well, might be since they are extremely good at communicating the essence of their game. Note that none of these say anything about, say, high-sec and null-sec PvP or player ran market dynamics. It doesn't have to. That's for pre-pro and iterating on what else it needs in order to make the completed project a whole.

*and I'm sure ABC would be really happy me ripping their quote.. :]

Logan said...


like i said before... 30 second elevator pitches are fine when talking to investors and consumers... but if that 30 second pitch is all you tell your design team then there is NO vision.. or more precisely, there are as many different visions as there are people on your team... which might as well mean there is no TRUE vision.

maybe you're right and we're talking about 2 different things... but i still contend that if you take a 30 second vision and then just start working away at building the game then you're going to have to do a lot more backtracking, reworking, and iterations than if you start out with a clearer, more detailed vision.

you don't need 10 iterations to design a decent UI, the only reason most games go through 10 iterations is because what that UI has to display changes 10 times because they don't know when they start making the UI how the rest of the game is going to work.

if you start with a solid understanding of the rest of the game then you should be able to create a pretty good UI right off the bat and only have to make slight changes and tweaks.

same with dungeons, and the crafting system, and enemy AI, and everything else in the game. the clearer your goal when setting out, the less you have to iterate, the fewer man hours required to create the finished product, and the more closely your finished product will resemble the initial vision.

as long as your vision wasn't total crap, you'll end up with a pretty good game... and if your vision really is crap, then no amount of iteration is really going to fix it... and all that time iterating is just money down the drain.

yes starting with a vague idea gives you more room to make changes, but every change costs time and money and you might still end up with a pile of crap at the end... at least if your vision is clear and detailed then you don't waste a ton of time and money iterating for years to end up with the same pile of crap.

i think what you're talking about is more in the brainstorming and ideating phase of development... where it's just a few designers sitting around a table trying to come up with ideas for their next game... i wouldn't call this vision...

vision to me is what you tell your team when you actually start making the assets for the game, it's what you keep preaching to them as the game comes together so that everything stays on track and all the pieces fit together nicely to create a coherent whole.

Logan said...


half way through an MMO project i don't think your 30 second vision statement would adequately answer questions the animators might have, or the sound designers, or the back-end server guys, or the class designers, or the encounter designers, or the world designers, or really anyone that would have an affect on the success of the game... except for maybe the investors and the marketers... for which i've already explained is perfectly fine and is what the elevator pitch is really meant for.

Kenny said...

@Logan: A complete design document is not a vision. Neither will you be able to create a design document without a clear vision. It doesn't work, not even for yourself for your own project.

The very simple reason is: because you have no idea what you want to do. You have no vision.

(I also have the impression that you're not really familiar with software development in general.)

Logan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Logan said...


i think we're arguing over mainly semantics here... i guess our ideas of vision just don't line up...

and after re-reading evis's post, i don't think even he has a clear idea of what vision is... he says things like...

"To make a great game, you need a (mostly) unified and consistent vision of the boundaries of the game systems and some relatively particular idea of what you're trying to accomplish."

notice how vague and ambiguous the wording is.


what i can tell you though is that i have a very clear vision of my own project... more clear than most designers have when they're already halfway through their own projects.

when i studied industrial (product) design, there was a reason all my classmates were up until 4am the night before a big project was due and i was at home fast asleep...

it's because i didn't start a project until i had a clear vision of how i wanted it to look and function in the end...

my classmates would get an idea, make a sketch, and go, "hey that looks sweet," and then immediately start on a prototype... they would then run into problems and have to rethink their design on the fly, often when some aspects of their product were already finished and couldn't be changed... so then they would have to scrap the prototype altogether and start making a new one... then they would run into another problem and have to re-work again... they would iterate 3-5 times and waste a ton of time, and money in materials and be struggling to get the project finished on time. (sound familiar?)

my approach was to get an idea, make a few sketches... and then sit there for a while just thinking about how i would actually go about creating the product i wanted to create... i would work through everything in my head and fix any problems i encountered BEFORE i actually ran into them in a prototype.. if i couldn't fix them, then i'd go back to brainstorming and sketching out new ideas... since i was able to think ahead and foresee the problems that would arise, i didn't have to iterate over and over again, or completely scrap an idea and start over after i had spent a week heading down a particular path... i did the iterations in my head and didn't start until i knew exactly how i wanted the finished product to turn out.

my way required a much clearer vision, and took a little more time and effort before actually starting the project, but saved me a TON of time and money in the end.

i guess this is why i'm partial to a more clear and concise vision before starting work on a project.

to me, excessive iterations means you did something wrong... sometimes iterations and tweaks are necessary, and it's fine to iterate for the purpose of experimentation... but EXCESSIVE iteration, to me, is a sign of poor vision, poor leadership, and poor design in general.