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What is Feature Creep?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Feature creep, also called scope creep, refers to the tendency of project requirements to exceed their original estimations. It is common with the development of major computer projects, in which engineers decide that additional features should be added to the product before release to make it more usable and enjoyable for the target market. It can also happen when the client contracting the project keeps adding to the wish list. Feature creep can affect the overall budget for a project, as well as delaying the release time considerably, causing frustration to company executives. It can also ultimately weaken a product by clogging it with interesting but unneeded features, so companies need to take care to avoid it.

The problem can be mitigated by having a tightly organized project team which recognizes the exact requirements of the project and works together to meet them. A project manager who is aware of the risks of feature creep can help to head it off at the pass by refocusing the team or reminding the client of the original goals of the project. On occasion, exceeding the estimations is actually necessary, especially with large projects in which engineers are exploring new concepts. In these instances, several team members should meet together to evaluate the feature creep which is occurring and decide whether or not it is a valid result of the direction in which the project is moving.

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Especially in the case of software, the temptation to succumb to feature creep is often intense. Software developers are constantly thinking of new ways to improve their products, and at a certain point, project managers must put a stop to it. Feature creep in this case can be reduced by having frequent project meetings to remind participants in the project of the goals which were stated at the beginning. When developing any kind of new product, the team should always meet together before starting work to agree on what is being created, what the team wants it to do, and how the product will accomplish these goals.

Efforts to discourage scope creep are not designed to punish creativity. Rather, team members should make notes of additional features that they think would be interesting and useful, and should submit them along with weekly project notes. If other members of the team agree that the features are vital, they can be added to the project development. If the features are interesting but not necessary with that particular project release, they can be tabled for further development on later releases of the project, whether it be new software, a car, or any other sort of device.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - That's why games and other software need to ensure that they have some kind of unique hook in the first place. If the game is just another generic first person shooter, for example, then yes they will have to make sure they have all the latest bells and whistles in order to be competitive.

If they spend time on the story and making sure they have solid mechanics and compelling visuals though, it doesn't matter if they don't have the absolute latest gimmicks.

And the same goes for software. You want to be able to provide something unique, not the same stuff everyone else is providing. If you've got something unique, then that's what you should be concentrating on rather than trying to add more and more extras to your product.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@browncoat - I don't think it's a matter of never allowing new technology into a current game design though. Gamers like the latest thing in their games and a game is a massive investment. If you put years of work into it and then release it based on the capabilities of the medium from three years ago no one is going to want to play it.

You shouldn't keep adding new features forever and never release the game, but you also shouldn't put out a mediocre product. You have to make sure you understand the current market and stay competitive within it.

browncoat
Post 1

Feature creep in video games is a serious problem and there are plenty of projects that have been abandoned because of it. The trouble is that technology continues to advance at a fast rate and games can take years to finish even when they are kept strictly on schedule. The temptation is always there to change the game in progress to incorporate the latest technology. But there will always be more things to add and they all take time and money.

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