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Long Dev Time Equals Better Game? 88

Posted by Zonk
from the not-always dept.
Via a GameSetWatch post, a piece on Treyarch Producer Stuart Roch's blog. He discusses the long development time of Shadow of the Colossus, and what four years of work did for that title. From the article: "Granted, it's a bit of a stretch to make a simple correlation between more development time and higher quality product based on this tiny product sample, but I have to admit, there is certain attractiveness to the argument. Can it be that in a given number of development cycles, those that had more time with less resources would create better games than those that had short dev cycles with monster teams? One might think that having more time would allow for more polish and iteration and therefore yield higher quality product, but as I'm sure you're thinking, examples can be made of both good and bad games that were in production for long periods of time."
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Long Dev Time Equals Better Game?

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  • by 9mm Censor (705379) * on Friday March 03, 2006 @03:57PM (#14845667) Homepage
    Duke Nukem Forever will be uber sweet.
  • I have one name: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IMarvinTPA (104941) <IMarvinTPA AT IMarvinTPA DOT com> on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:01PM (#14845706) Homepage Journal
    Daikatana

    IMarv
  • Sample size = 1 (I can't read the article at work, just based off of the teaser here). Good conclusion.

    There are so many things to disprove this (Daikana). Numerous games that waddled through development hell to end up terrible or medioctre.

    • Re:Solid work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fishybell (516991) <fishybell@hotmaCOLAil.com minus caffeine> on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:10PM (#14845794) Homepage Journal
      Having worked on several long-term projects-done-by-small-teams in the past, I can say that my experience differs greatly.

      Usually if something is taking a long time, it's not because you haven't polished it enough, or because it's not perfect yet, but rather because it's too broken to sell in its current state. Usually a 3-5 month initial devel, followed by a month or so of in house testing, followed by 3 fscking years of beta tests leads to a very polished terd with lots of useless doodads added on.

      Yes, there are examples of projects that have taken a long time, and been good at the end, but you can not correlate the long dev time to the quality in way. The only thing the long time speaks for is that the developers couldn't get everything done in a smaller amount of time. "Everything" of course refers not just to features but also the features working correctly.

      • Usually if something is taking a long time, it's not because you haven't polished it enough, or because it's not perfect yet, but rather because it's too broken to sell in its current state. Usually a 3-5 month initial devel, followed by a month or so of in house testing, followed by 3 fscking years of beta tests leads to a very polished terd with lots of useless doodads added on.

        So you're excited about Windows Vista too, huh? :)

    • Sample size = 1 (I can't read the article at work, just based off of the teaser here). Good conclusion. There are so many things to disprove this (Daikana). Numerous games that waddled through development hell to end up terrible or medioctre.

      Yeah, Master of Orion 3 took YEARS, and turned out to be as fun as an Excel spreadsheet.

  • More data points (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:06PM (#14845751) Homepage Journal

    Blizzard games are not rushed. They turn out excellent because they are not rushed.

    One of the developers of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker disclosed that collecting the pieces of the Triforce was rushed, and that turned out to be the most annoying part of the game among critics.

    • by SharpFang (651121) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:11PM (#14845812) Homepage Journal
      I wonder about The Elder Scrolls.

      It's always delayed by a few months.
      It's always unplayable until the first service pack is released.

      Shouldn't they delay it by another few monts instead?
      • by ninjamonkey (694442)

        I wonder about The Elder Scrolls. It's always delayed by a few months. It's always unplayable until the first service pack is released.

        If by "The Elder Scrolls" you mean "Daggerfall", I agree with you 100%.

        Arena and Morrowind were most certainly playable out of the box (and yes, Morrowind was delayed probably to make certain that it was not buggy to the point of being unplayable).

        To me, the recipe for a good game is mostly two-fold:

        1) Ample time spent in PRE-PRODUCTION! Making sure that the ga

        • Morrowind had some bugs that didn't occur 100% of the time but would in case of some players break the main quest (like Caius Cosades not willing to talk to you and give you the Corprusarium quest that would heal you because you contracted Corprus disease), besides that it was quite crashy and quite a few sidequests were broken. Sure you could generally play it, but there were places where you'd have to "drop current thread" and start doing something else till a fix was created. And save often, in case of c
    • That's exactly where I stopped playing, strangely enough. I simply don't want to play the game anymore.
      • That's too bad. Gannon's fortress was actually quite fun, and the boss battles was probably some of the more challanging in the series.

        On the matter of the triforce collection, I not quite sure what people are so mad at about it. Is it having to collect all the maps? They were all little mini-missions, so that part wasn't particularly tedious I thought. Was it collecting rupees to pay Tingle's outrageous transcribing fees? Perhaps, but with the 5000 rupee wallet I don't recall ever needing to do an
    • I actually found it pretty fun, because it was something new. Granted, I was hoping for a few more dungeons (although they are probably the most superbly designed in any Zelda game).

      Ocarina of Time even got me a little bored of dungeons nearing the end.
    • Blizzard games are not rushed. They turn out excellent because they are not rushed.

      Really? WoW, meet Tepples. Tepples, WoW, WoW, Tepples. "Hi Tepples, I'm WoW! I get patched every Tuesday, rain or shine!"
  • Three Words: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lally Singh (3427) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:10PM (#14845795) Journal
    Mythical Man Month
    • Re:Three Words: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by russellh (547685) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:54PM (#14846204) Homepage
      Mythical Man Month

      Back in the day, I used to use games as examples of great software. We were doing banking software for enormous financial institutions. We got the Big Book of Requirements and we did our best to make it happen. Not exactly an environment where you can get passionate about the results. So much software is built by people who don't really care, have no real connection (emotional or otherwise) with the final result, and don't feel like they have any way to fix real problems - like usability or bad design. The beast is huge. I always thought that games might be the one place where people really truly cared. I'd played a lot of games since the early 80s, and rarely can I remember an instance of those games crashing, for instance. Games can be better or worse, but they all seemed to have a level of quality that I assumed derived from the passion of the creators due to the unique situation of game creators as user-developers. This, of course, has changed as games became truly Big Business.

      But the answer isn't found in Brooks. It's purely Christopher Alexander - when things are built by their inhabitants, they can achieve a wholeness that does not exist in any other way of creating.

      Everything else results in the big book of requirements and people that don't care. To the extent that big business drives games in that direction, they will suck, no matter their development time or team structure.
  • by th1ckasabr1ck (752151) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:11PM (#14845807)
    Based on my experience, it would be wonderfull in game development if we could cut down on team size and increase development time. You would think that there is a happy balance here between the cost of the project, the number of people working on it, and the length of the development cycle, but this balance is elusive. Of course the people paying for the projects basically want it done as quickly as possible so that they can get their payoff which basically negates my "longer cycles, less people" plea.

    Of course that doesn't make sense to the publisher, but it really would be the way to get the best games as an end result. You would (or maybe wouldn't) be surprised at how much stuff has been cut out of the games that I've worked on, ALWAYS due to lack of time.

    Trying to crunch the development cycle pretty much always just perpetuates this lack of time, no matter how many people you have on the project. When people start going fast they make mistakes. Sometimes they make structural mistakes, or don't think systems out enough before they start implementing. This stuff really bites you further down the line. And forget about having time to go back and clean up existing systems, that oppertunity is very very rare.

    Of course these things aren't really game specific, I'm sure people in other lines of work have seen similar trends.

  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:13PM (#14845843) Homepage Journal
    Sometimes you strain and strain and strain for what feels like hours and are sorely dissapointed by the piffly splash.
    Othertimes without even trying your bowels fall out and you almost get swept away by the tidal wave wake it causes.

    Don't rush development and for gods sake, flush afterwards.

    I have code that I've been holding off developing for a while now - the ideas are still fresh and there isn't any market competition, however I just don't feel relaxed enough to code it yet. The time will come, I'm not going to rush it.
    • Software development is like having a crap

      Sometimes you strain and strain and strain for what feels like hours and are sorely dissapointed by the piffly splash. Othertimes without even trying your bowels fall out and you almost get swept away by the tidal wave wake it causes.

      Best. Analogy. Ever.

      • Best. Analogy. Ever.

        Ditto composing music. Some of my best pieces happen quickly, and others become bogged down (pun intended) and uninspired. Lately I've learned the value of getting my team of one to have a coherent vision from the start, instead of just starting and seeing where it will go. It makes my large scale compositions better, and the overall architecture easier, which means I can concentrate on other things (though composing should always be difficult- any composer who composes things easily

  • Developers should take thier time to make thier games. However that's not going to guarantee us a great product.
  • In a hits driven market where about 4% of the games accounts for over 55% of all sales, there is no correlation between longer development time and market success. A longer development leads to higher engineering quality (e.g. more iterations for testing etc). But still that does not guarantee a hit title. I think there is an upper limit on the development time at a certain time technology catches up and your fancy 3d engine is already outdated before your game hits the shelves. Reworking at that stage is
    • You're goddamn right in the sad sense that there's no correlation between sales and playablity of a game. All you say is true: developers may spend years polishing a game and making it really great, and it still will be a marketing flop. The few players that will buy it, will love it, but the rest won't even know it existed. Generally time spent on a game correlates (not always but usually) with the quality of the game (in terms of good gameplay, less bugs, better art and all such), but unfortunately it doe
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:17PM (#14845881) Homepage Journal
    This means all my hard work these past 20 years on my pet project, "E.T. II" for the Atari 2600, have not been in vain!!!
  • Computer Projects (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:27PM (#14845969)
    There was a computer science teacher a year ago (or so) who took a survey of how long it took his class to do various programming assignments. It turned out that there was no connection between how long the student spent on the assignment and what grade he got on it.

    I suspect it's the same with video games- one person with a great idea and good programming skill could program the next "Geometry Wars" in a couple months, while some shovelware games have taken huge groups of people years. (Daikatana is the first that pops into everyone's head, but there have been others). Don't judge a game by how much time has been spent on it- it's like saying a movie will be good because it had a high budget.

    • Re:Computer Projects (Score:3, Informative)

      by masklinn (823351)
      Source of that comment is Joel's Hitting the High Note article [joelonsoftware.com], data comes from Professor Stanley Eisenstat at Yale, who teaches CS 323.

      Scroll to the middle of the page for that part, you can see the chart here [joelonsoftware.com], Joel's comment being

      There's just nothing to see here, and that's the point. The quality of the work and the amount of time spent are simply uncorrelated.

  • by tokengeekgrrl (105602) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:32PM (#14846012)
    Whether it's a team of 5 developers or 500, if there isn't someone paying attention to the overall picture and architecture of a software product, be it a game or CMS, it's going to take longer.

    I've worked on teams of 10 or less where everything was disorganized and took forever to complete, regardless of additional resources, and ones where there was a Tech Lead making sure everything was on track enabling us to produce far more than we had promised under schedule.

    I've also worked in a big company on larger teams and the same logic holds true. An incompetent manager meant lots of programmers stepping on each others toes and producing conflicting code. A competent manager meant lots of parallel and complementary development.

    Disclaimer: Of course, I'm generalizing based upon my anecdotal experience and leaving out a ton of external factors that affect development, (funding, policy, overriding and sometimes harmful decisions of executive management), so this is just my overall impression based upon my limited work experience that did NOT involve game development.

    - tokengeekgrrl
  • Good Grief (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BruceTheBruce (671080) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:36PM (#14846046)
    I guess the money men like to have some concrete metrics they can hang their hats on, but the hard truth is just that CREATIVE TEAMS make great games. Without a good vision and good creative people behind it, no amount of time will make the game great.
  • EVE Online... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by code-e255 (670104) on Friday March 03, 2006 @04:46PM (#14846135)
    EVE Online apparently went through 11 development cycles, with several complete re-codes, over a period of a few years. Their graphics / MMO engine was so ambitious at the time that the developers couldn't do it one big go, so they did it in numerous steps. For them, it paid off.

    http://myeve.eve-online.com/download/videos/?type= 3 [eve-online.com]
    http://myeve.eve-online.com/download/videos/Defaul t.asp?a=download&vid=41 [eve-online.com]
  • Duke Nukem, in its development, has become so amazing that it can't be released lest it spawn a new religion or flat out kill people because their brains cannot handle the incredibleness of the game.
  • Longer time could also mean out of date Game/Engine
  • Long development time doesn't have anything to do with quality at all, beyond a reasonable time to get the game together, that is. Actually, such games can fall into the Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever trap and forever have to catch up with the technology they keep falling behind, and expectations impossible to meet from the long time it has been in development.
  • by Surt (22457) on Friday March 03, 2006 @05:02PM (#14846282) Homepage Journal
    Is that whatever technology you settle on may be obviously inferior by the time you release. Imagine starting a game on dx9 now that takes four years to complete. By then the world has dx11 and you have obviously dated graphics.
  • I generally prefer smaller teams with more time, but just creating that situation is not necissarily even a win. If anything, I'd say the amount of focus a project has is most closely tied to it's potential success; and focus is naturally diluted as you add people and time (usually more by adding people than by adding time). As a counter example, we just shipped Guitar Hero. Start to finish in 9 months, including designing our own hardware controller. It's as highly regarded as SOTC or GOW is, yet was buil
  • KOTOR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by darthservo (942083)
    I have to say the first Knights Of The Old Republic was far better than the sequel. Many of the LucasArts fans attribute this to such a rushed deadline for KOTOR2. Even some artwork developers complained that their hands began to cause grief after a while.

    Also, many felt that KOTOR2 was so rushed that the storyline suffered as a result. In fact, a petition [petitiononline.com] was raised surrounding that very point.

    I have to agree, longer dev times can only help a game's success. I personally would rather have a functional

    • It would have helped if Black Isle (or Obsidian or what they're called) hadn't just tried to make Planescape: Torment 2 out of it.
      I mean, I loved PS:T for what it was. But the type of story wasn't Star Warsy.
  • The difference between Daikatana and SotC is this:

    SotC was made pretty much by a single team, and they pretty much had a cohesive vision of what should go into the game. It may have taken them a long time to find out what that vision was, but the team, being small for game team standards, managed to pull it all together in the end through communication and a common goal of making a great game.

    Romero... how many teams did he go through to produce Daicrapola? 3? Didn't he bring in a bunch of game mod kiddies
  • ...but at least one game I followed very closely, which ran way overdue on development and pretty much flopped suffered from one thing: Making the components hit time-to-market at the same time. It was almost ready to go (called it version 0.95), wouldn't have done great but would have been ok. Then some investor money came in and the scope was changed.

    First up was a graphics overhaul (it needed it). But that again lead to some new opportunities in gameplay, which lead to new game features, which lead to ne
  • by Daetrin (576516) on Friday March 03, 2006 @06:47PM (#14847011)
    I'm not sure if the dukenukem tag on the article should be modded "funny" or "flamebait" :)
  • the question is completely stupid and pointless.

    "examples can be made of both good and bad games that were in production for long periods of time"

    Doesn't that tell you something... perhaps there are other factors at play here.

    Additionally, there isn't much benefit to using a term like "longer" in the question without providing a "than" to go along with it. longer than what? "longer than a very short time and shorter than a very long time" would be an appropriate answer to a poor question.

  • I give you a previous slashdot article [slashdot.org] about meteos, easily the greatest puzzle game ive ever played. Not the longest development time, apparently.
  • Must then join the ranks of DNF, for the uber sweetness that it will be.
  • after over 10 years at big and small dev & publishing houses alike, hits and misses, taking a long time on a game is due more than anything to lack of professionalism, lack of a coherent vision, & lack of understanding of the game and the game's players.

    Good games shouldn't take a long time. That isn't to say there is one way to make a game, but "taking a long time" is the suckers route, not to mention the most expensive (and in part why many game dev houses fail after a year or two).

    To avoid this,
  • Derek Smart had been working on that game since 1992, and look what that got him.
  • Psychonauts: 4 years in development, great game.
  • Malice was to be an xbox launch title, but only came out about 8 months ago, not a really bad game just not all that great.
    Seems that the 'talent' were not working on it all that time, the original trailers would have made it a must buy for me.
    But the question is should it have been completely killed off instead of taking the long way around that it did ?
    Has anyone got any good links detailing what went wrong ?

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