“Bud, your dog just ran off with another blueprint!” Bianca exclaimed.

“Well, Spot's already made off with four others, maybe he thinks he's designing his own base,” Bud muttered. The fun-loving dog was already down the hall.

Bud and the other four employees of the Luna Mare design firm were just finishing their seventh “live simulation”, as Bud liked to call it, of possible designs for the first self-sustaining settlements on the moon.

Weeks ago, Rick had suggested it would be "amazeballs” if the team competed with each other to create the best design. As the owner of the firm, Bud had embraced the idea but took it one step further: he turned designing the moonbase into a game. He drew the building module blueprints onto game tiles, and the players would choose one tile at time and add it to their growing bases. Before the game started, Bud would choose the overall goals of the base for that day’s simulation. Once the goals were set, the players were free to develop their own strategies on how to achieve the goals. Bud believed that if they played enough games with enough variety in scoring schemes, that an optimum design would emerge.

This iteration, Bud had set two goals for the scoring: be very efficient, and have a high building density. Minnie had argued that these goals were “completely opposite” because efficiency meant more points for fewer tiles and higher density drove the players to have more.

Bud had just chuckled and said, “You’re right Minnie, but sometimes we have to deal with two or even three goals that seem to be opposite.”

Everyone except Steve had already crossed the finish line for the fourth and final time. But Steve was having trouble deciding what to do. With his background in architecture, he prided himself in always striving for the most efficient design. He also knew that the cost of transporting the modules to the moon would be the limiting factor for the actual moonbase. With five tiles completely enclosed, he already had the highest density, but he needed a tile with a tube on it to enclose a sixth tile. And the only tile with a tube still on the board was Sponsor Quarters, which cost three of his resources. Additionally, it was on this side of the finish line, which meant he would have to take yet another turn before finishing. It was a difficult decision, but he finally decided to go ahead and end the game by crossing the line and choosing the Museum tile, which gave him four points immediately.

Bud added up the end-game scoring and everyone added the points to those they had acquired throughout the four rounds. Bianca won again, giving her three wins to Minnie’s two. Rick and Steve trailed with one win each.
Bud looked back around the table. “OK, for the next game, we’ll have another new set of goals for the end-of-game scoring, but this time we’re also going to revise the lap scoring just a little bit. I think you’ll be surprised at how it affects the decisions you make. Everyone take a five-minute break, grab some of that pizza, then it’s Game On!”

Meet the team

(Gray): Bud Livingstone, owner of Luna Mare, a start-up design firm.  Bud originally worked at a no-name hum-drum firm, but when he heard of the upcoming moon base competition, his focus shifted from his daily boring work to assembling the perfect team to start a new firm.  After months of searching, he pulled the trigger, quit his job, sent letters to his "dream team", and invested his 401(k) into Luna Mare.  The entire team accepted, and they began working together the next week.

(Yellow): Steve, a recent graduate of a prestigious architecture school, was the first to embrace the "game" concept. This was no surprise because Steve grew up playing all kinds of games with his brothers and sisters. Some of his favorites involved developing their own strategies, sometimes in cooperation and sometimes in competition with the others. He always credited his love for designing homes and businesses to the competitions he had with his siblings to construct the biggest or fanciest Lego buildings. Even though he was the youngest, Steve had always won.

(Purple): Minh-Chi was born in China, but was too young to remember when her parents moved the family to Vancouver. Her mom and dad insisted that she embrace her new Canadian culture and asked everyone to call her Minnie. Her adviser in graduate school had asked her why she was so driven to perfection as a graduate student in Civil Engineering. She had great respect for her adviser, so did not respond immediately, but really considered her answer. In a moment of clear introspection, Minnie realized that as hard as her parents tried to shield her from the culture and ethics of the place of their birth, they couldn’t change who they were. By their example of humility and self-control, her parents had taught her to love the strict discipline required to create designs that would withstand the test of time both in structure and appeal. With this insight, she changed her direction from strictly creating perfect structures to creating perfect living spaces. Going beyond simply construction materials, she needed to design the power, water, sewer, air handling, and data flows- as well as the systems to control all of these. Now she prided herself in designing the “whole package”.

(Green): Rick was surprised by Bud’s letter to join Luna Mare. Ever since he had dropped out of the Art Design Institute, he had tried to improve his design skills through Instructables and Vimeo videos. Rick thought he was pretty far from an optimum candidate, but Bud must see something in him that Rick himself didn't.  While Rick was pretty sure that he was self-taught enough that he could be boot-strap a company of his own, he did appreciate the awesome paycheck he received every two weeks.  Maybe his own company wouldn't have ever gotten off the ground anyway.

(Orange): Bianca was very excited about playing Bud’s game, but what she was most excited about was optimizing it.  Ever since the 4th grade, Bianca had been driven to programming optimization routines, even if that meant neglecting friends and hobbies.  In fact, she was so involved in every aspect of optimization - its subculture, its languages, its art - that it really was her passion AND hobby.  When she got the letter from Bud asking if she wanted to join a team to design and optimize the first moon base, she was sending an acceptance text to Bud before she had even finished reading his letter.