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Who tells the programmers how the game is going to play?

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It differs quite a bit on the technical level based on development model that is used, for example waterfall or scrum adaptations. It differs as well based on type of company and publisher relations. 


In a nutshell, if a publisher is involved that is the level where strategic targeting is translated in to project or venture targets which are then given to management levels of subsiduaries or incorporated franchise studios. From there on it gets nicely subtle, as the people who do the actual (real) work of design, programming etc. work within the roadmaps thus passed down. 


Today the customer is essentially just a resource, which is why all too often it is forgotten that it is a lot less about a desired vision from above than it is about the vision of the customer. 

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If your organization actually produces software solution majority of the time someone higher up comes up with a bright idea.That idea regardless of its history is forwarded to biz analyst/project manager for more detailed bright ideas.Then a solution is presented including options.Then some higher up decision maker lays down the law and says. This is the truth.Then dev team runs off with tail between legs to deliver the news.A bright idea programmer may say "but this makes no sense and is risky" and then the lead developer says "not our call man, job security when it fails I guess".

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