To ICSE ’16 and Back Again: A Research Tale

I recently went to Austin, Texas to present my research on best practices and common mistakes in game development at the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE ’16). My paper, titled “What Went Right and What Went Wrong”: An Analysis of 155 Postmortems from Game Development, presents an empirical study on postmortem reviews from game development. I coauthored this paper with Pavithra Sathiyanarayanan, Meiyappan Nagappan, Thomas Zimmermann, and Christian Bird.


In order to perform this study, we read a lot of postmortem reviews written by game developers. These postmortems generally contained a list of areas that went right during the project, along with a list of areas that went wrong. The postmortems were voluntarily published on about a year or so after the game was released, and were posted over the last 10 years.

Through our analysis we are able to identify which areas of game development that developers excel in. The image below shows the percentage of postmortems that listed each category as something that went right during development.

Chart showing what went right

Conversely, we were also able to find the most common areas of game development to go wrong, as shown below.

Chart showing what went wrong

The full paper is available at here, and the data we analyzed, along with some additional resources, is available on Google Drive. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions about my research and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner.