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What's Wrong With the Games Industry 119

Gamasutra has up a piece by game developer Stephen Ford, entitled What's Wrong with the Games Industry (and How to Make it Right). The article covers the idiosyncrasies of game development, such as the problems of pitching a title, making a demo, working to publisher expectations. It then looks at ways to make the same-old same-old 'right'. From the article: "One amazing fact that has yet to permeate the strata of the industry is that most of their employees have the equipment that they need to do their jobs at home. One example is freelance audio engineers, who do most of their work off site and mail the files in. However, for code, design and art there are still large levels of resistance to the idea that you can effectively export work off site and maintain control. On-site control is an illusion, and while the camaraderie of a large office space is nice, it is also the least financially efficient way of getting production work done in an age of broadband."
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What's Wrong With the Games Industry

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  • Proof? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:02PM (#16457691)
    "it is also the least financially efficient way of getting production work done in an age of broadband."

    Have you got -any- proof of that? Some people do NOT work well away from the office. I'm guessing that game programmers, designers, and other game-jobs have huge amounts of people in that category.

    In fact, anyone with ANY interest in games has a compulsion to play games. Try having a doctor do paperwork at the golf course and you'll see exactly the same thing. The temptation is just too close at hand.
    • Re:Proof? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doctor Crumb ( 737936 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:26PM (#16458127) Homepage
      Some people don't work well *in* the office, playing games or surfing the internet. This is what managers and performance reviews and the like are for. An inability to get things done means that whatever management is in place is insufficient, whether telecommuting or in a traditional office.

      The irony is that I am posting this to slashdot while at work, and odds are you did the same.
      • Re:Proof? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iocat ( 572367 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:25PM (#16459145) Homepage Journal
        People can screw off anywhere, and they can concentrate anywhere, but for some (not all), the impulse to screw off is overridden by presence of co-workers and managers. For others, the ability to concentrate is destroyed by same. A good manager knows who can work well where and when. In my experience, people in the former category will tell you working offsite is impossible, and people in the latter category will make up a bunch of reasons for doing so. So it's not like people are trying to maximize their screw-off potential when they argue this point, it's actually that they argue that what works best for them works best for everyone, which is not necessarily true. Still, all things being equal, having people near each other so they can kibbutz and talk (not just IM each other w/ questions whne an issue comes up) seems to result in greater overall efficiency over the long term, especially in necessarily collaborative projects, such as game development. IM is great, but actually looking at someone else's monitor, overhearing info over a cube wall (in a good way), getting together in small groups occaisionally to discuss while one guys codes -- those are all valuable things that it is hard to replicate via IM or other PC-to-PC sharing tools.
        • People can screw off anywhere, and they can concentrate anywhere, but for some (not all), the impulse to screw off is overridden by presence of co-workers and managers. For others, the ability to concentrate is destroyed by same. A good manager knows who can work well where and when.

          AMEN!

          At the only job I was ever fired from (not game-related), my cube was right at the intersection of the main corridor and the kitchen entry, the printer/fax center, and the door to the server room.

          I told my manager I was hav
          • by Skreems ( 598317 )
            Not only that, but I find my level of screwing off drops dramatically when I'm given a well-thought-out project with clearly defined goals and requirements. When I have to poke at a piece of code without really knowing what it's supposed to do, constantly go hunting for more information when nobody seems to know whose decision it is, and without any decent support in the rest of the application, my motivation goes through the floor (and I start finding a bunch of new flash games online). When I'm given a pr
          • by mgblst ( 80109 )
            Managers are fools, you can't expect them to form a solution for you. What you should have done, is explained your problem, then give them a solution - "like there is a free cubicle over there, and I will closer to my main development team!" - Yes, you have to do the work, then, maybe they will do something about it.
            • Managers are fools, you can't expect them to form a solution for you. What you should have done, is explained your problem, then give them a solution - "like there is a free cubicle over there, and I will closer to my main development team!" -

              Oh, I tried, but then that would have meant that the manager who assigned the cubicle was wrong.
              No, the manager is always right, so of course, since I'm not being as productive as I can be, the best way to correct this is to ignore what I say, and keep me in the most v
        • People can screw off anywhere

          Don't I know it.

          Well, back to work.

          (yeah, right)

      • Thats true. Some people need someone else to keep them in 'check' and up to date on milestones and deadlines. If you're any studio, you would know that if you missed a milestone then your money is gone and most likely the IP of the game.

        Another reason you still need a centralized facility to do the work (office space) is because its the only place you have a controlled development environment. The lead designer/producer cannot check and see if the PC at the employee's home, which they work out of, does not
      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @08:48PM (#16461919) Journal
        I know a few game coders and I'm honestly concerned for their well-being if they don't have to get up in the morning, take a shower, eat something and go into the office where they are forced to interact with other humans.

        I have seen firsthand the results of 36-hour codings sessions and the psychological and physiological damage done by the outrageous demands of the software industry on young programmers.

        Just because management puts up a nerf basketball hoop and stocks the fridge with Vault, they're expected to be seen as "cool" by their underlings who are then expected to push themselves beyond human limits.

        Please don't mod this as "funny" because I'm dead serious. People are getting hurt out there.
        • I agree, that nerf-darts in the eyes are getting annoying.

          So. Where's my jolt? Where's my coffee? How do you expect me to keep coding for 36 hours without either!

          Aside of the usual stereotypical comments, you're absolutely right. Even though you can have a management that does know the meaning of 24 hour shifts itself. If they do, they can quite well sympathize and don't needlessly ask (let's be nice and pretend it's asking) you to spend your weekend in house.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DuckDodgers ( 541817 )
          Maybe I just suck as a software engineer, but really the quality of code I write starts to take a serious dive after my first six or seven hours of work.

          On the rare occasions I've pulled a 10 or 12 hour day, I usually got something that didn't crash at the drop of a hat out the door. Then when I needed to extend that code later, it almost always needed to be heavily revised or outright scrapped and redone.

          I can't imagine frequent long shifts writing code. There'd be so much junk in the mix it would
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        lol Actually, I called in sick to work and I was playing video games... Hehe. But I usually read ./ from work, yes.

        But think of this... Current management makes them go to the office to work. Because they think it's necessary for productivity. Maybe management is already doing its job! Not everyone can handle the added responsibility of working from home, and they seem to think the majority of their workforce is in that category. Maybe they are right.

        Others noted that communication and collaboration
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by angelzero ( 935040 )
      "In fact, anyone with ANY interest in games has a compulsion to play games. " Have you got any proof of -that-? You can't just laud it as fact without evidence to back it up.
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        Just like how a lot of people think being a video game tester is a "fun" job since you're only playing games. WRONG! Testing video games is hard work. It stopped being fun for me after six weeks and I did that for six years.
    • Also, for the creative aspects that they stated such as Art and Design, I imagine those are collaborative efforts which require interaction and people feeding off each other... I don't see how well that would work if all the designers were isolated in their own homes... BTW, I know I work WAY better when I'm in a specified work environment than I do at home...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Froggy ( 92010 )
      My husband's been a game developer for twelve years, and believe me, playing games is the *last* thing he wants to do when he comes home of an evening. He just can't stop thinking about work. Even when he's watching the kids play on the PS/2, he can't stop picking out TRC violations in the interface.

      A better reason to work in the office rather than at home is that the typical software developer in *any* industry needs to communicate with their colleagues. You can go the whole formal weekly meetings route
  • Snuh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:02PM (#16457695)
    But the King Cause is simply this: Most game development management is pretty incompetent. most game development management --> most management

    Fixed.
    • Re:Snuh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ZephyrXero ( 750822 ) <zephyrxeroNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:33PM (#16458255) Homepage Journal
      There are two main problems in the game industry right now (and yes both have to do with managment in one way or another)...

      1. Game developers and publishers focus too much on flash. When you're only worried about how good your game will look in screenshots, videos and ads, gameplay suffers. A game should be just as fun to play with primatives and stickmen as it is once you add your pretty coatings on top, if your game isn't as fun or "cool" without out all the flash, you have a crappy game on your hands. The same goes for story and cinematics. Yes, story can be very important, but your gameplay should always come first (unless in perhaps the case of an RPG).

      2. The industry is stagnating. 99% of games released these days are rehashes of old games that don't even bother to try and add a new twist or anything. Why would any gamer want to buy the same game they already own but with a different title? Hopefully advancements in physics processing and controllers like the "Wii-mote" will help get the creative juices flowing again in the industry, but I fear most of the problem comes from investors and publishers not wanting to risk any money on anything even remotely original. It's the same exact problem we're seeing in the movie, TV, and music industries as well...
      • 1. Game developers and publishers focus too much on flash.

        Right, and this is nowhere more evident than on the evidence of how some games can keep pumping out sequel after sequel. Pokemon (barring my joke down the thread), Dynasty Warriors, Castlevanias on game boy. Very little upgrading of graphics over time and they're still best sellers.
        • Ahhh.... and now you've hit one of the root problems with almost all the businesses in today's world: short-sightedness. To a share holder or CEO, all you're worried about is how much money you can make in the next year, if not just the next quarter even....but making crappy products that you know will make you a quick buck right now, yet will quickly fizzle out soon after is just about the worst thing you can do for your company, if you want it to last for an extended period of time. In a world where busin
          • Very very insightful. I couldn't agree more. American business culture simply does not reward risk-taking anymore. Look at what most public companies are spending their cash on right now: share price pumping, ie. stock buybacks. Is there no better use for that capital?
            • I don't think it's just American business culture, or we wouldn't be seeing Final Fantasy XXXVIII next year. As far as the games industry goes, it's just like the movie industry. The more cash it takes to produce titles, the more risk adverse the studios become, the more likely they are to stick to sequels and/or formula based titles.

              Very very insightful. I couldn't agree more. American business culture simply does not reward risk-taking anymore. Look at what most public companies are spending their cas

            • Look at what most public companies are spending their cash on right now: share price pumping, ie. stock buybacks. Is there no better use for that capital?

              Look at the tax rate for personal income (which dividends are taxed at) and then compare it to the tax rate for capital gains (which share buybacks are effectively taxed at). That is about 99% of the reason why companies choose buybacks over dividends. Significantly more money ends up in the shareholders' hands through a stock buyback.
      • Flash is nice and all when it /adds/ onto what is already there, if something looks nice but is not even halfway unusable, no one will want it.
      • by Jartan ( 219704 )

        The industry is stagnating. 99% of games released these days are rehashes of old games that don't even bother to try and add a new twist or anything. Why would any gamer want to buy the same game they already own but with a different title?

        I'm going to say this is pretty much BS from where I'm sitting. It might be true for certain genres like FPS's and whatever genre console action games fit into. But for the rest of us I think we're starving for a bit of "rehasing" and "same ol same ol". I'm interested

        • Don't get me wrong, I love pretty graphics and everything. I'm a self admitted graphics whore, but I also know that there are more important aspects to a game. I'd love some graphical updates to some of the old classic games, but I'd rather them be called "remakes" rather than people trying to pass them off as new products.
      • I'm not too sure all the blame rests on investors and publishers not wanting to take risks. The reality is that it's easier for a lot of people to take what is already created and make it "better" than it is to create something wholly new. By "wholly new" I don't mean to create a new genre out of thin air, and by "better" I don't mean actually better. As an example, look to music when bands do covers or remixes.

        As a not so well known example, I'll sing along to Boulevard of Broken Dreams and give it p
      • by yanos ( 633109 )
        I'd like to add to your list

        3. Hire actual writers/scenarists. I am really feed up with great games with piss poor story, filled with pathetic video game cliché. If you're going to put a long story, might as well make it interesting.
    • by maxume ( 22995 )
      most management -> most people.
  • On-site control is an illusion, and while the camaraderie of a large office space is nice, it is also the least financially efficient way of getting production work done in an age of broadband.

    Tell that to whats-his-name who never returns my e-mails!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by IgLou ( 732042 )
      I concur! The one thing I like about folks in my office is that they are right there and I can walk over and get their attention and talk to get things done. I can communicate far more in 1 minute of face to face than 100 emails. (That and I'm lazy so when I go to someone's desk they know it's important!)
  • Here's one clue for you: "RIIIIIDGE RACER!"
    • Well, Pokemon: Burnt Sienna certainly isn't helping things.
      • Not to mention Zelda: Generic Magic Object. But that's Nintendo so it doesn't count in the minds of Wii fanboys.
        (I actually don't mind sequels and remakes the way the Slashdot crowd seems to hate them. I liked the Matrix sequels more than the original. I just could never get into Zelda. Let Zelda Die.)
  • by aleksiel ( 678251 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:09PM (#16457811)
    it really depends on the situation.

    team-based on-site coding does improve productivity. its much easier to shout over at someone to find out information or get something done, instead of exchanging emails or ims. emails and ims are easy, but not the fastest or most efficient way of doing things.
    • by Mongoose ( 8480 )
      Also you get "little miricles" sometimes. You'll be doing a test for some animation system or the like, and someone walks in and goes 'OMG WTF THAT IS AWESOME'. Then instead of a test you can end up with a new feature in the game, or in the extreme case of Devil May Cry -- an entire series can be born. It also helps with welding subsystems to have the 'owners' of each peice sit down and plan out wtf to do with them. Then there is the dreaded time when you can't see a problem, and all you might need is
  • Buzzwords (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 2008 ( 900939 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:16PM (#16457949) Journal
    An article that complains about buzzword compliance yet finishes with the phrase:

    "Welcome to the games industry, version 2.0."

    I was almost fooled for a minute...
  • Negative Weight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:20PM (#16458025) Homepage Journal
    Developers don't know what to do with staff once a project winds down because the nature of the industry is such that nobody can guarantee constant work. When working in a low-cost market such as 16-bit development, this problem existed as it does today, but the negative weight of it was relatively insignificant. Yet as costs and contract issues and the seriousness of the industry has grown, the problems of having fifty or a hundred people doing nothing for an extended period of time have multiplied that negative weight, to the point that it kills companies.

    Sounds like many game companies need to learn a newfangled idea (not really) known as "pipelining". You have various projects happening concurrently, with each project bubbling to the top as the necessary parts of the previous one are completed.

    This would require good management, more normal working hours, and game development on a more normal schedule in order to happen. These things have been an antithesis to game companies, who have always struggled under tight timetables to get the game out while it's still technologically impressive. One is forced to wonder, though, is the technological death march really worth it? If your company's very existance is dependent on producing blockbuster after blockbuster, then you may be in a pretty bad position. No one can maintain a permanent streak, which is why you're probably only employed as far as the next game.

    As much as I dislike EA, they do understand. (To a certain degree.) They have tons of projects in parallel, assuring that resources can be used and transferred as necessary. There's no "negative weight" holding the company down, save for post-launch vacations. If they would smooth out the development process, they could let everyone have lives so that they wouldn't need the post-launch vacations. Then their negative weight would reach pretty close to zero.

    Games just aren't getting that much more impressive as time goes on. We're reaching areas of dimishing returns to where we can probably slow the pace in exchange for focusing on making good games that are fun, and have been properly QAed. There's no need for these last-minute additions or patches. Especially as the market revolts, and moves more and more toward console gaming. (Where proper QA is a requirement.)

    Gamers want good games. Technology is only a canvas on which games are painted. It should not be the be-all-to-end-all of the game. If companies can reorganize around making high-quality games on more reasonable schedules, then I don't doubt that costs would lower and the products would improve.

    My 2 pennies, anyway. :)
    • Console gaming historically has required proper QA, but I wonder if this will change as patches can be provided to console players just as they have been to PC players.

      I think one problem is you see a lot of games built from scratch, at least in the smaller shops. EA produces so many games I bet they have several underlying engines to support different types of games, and they improve upon these engines over the years while each game takes a version and builds something closer to a mod than a full game. W
      • Console gaming historically has required proper QA, but I wonder if this will change as patches can be provided to console players just as they have been to PC players.

        To a certain degree, I think you're already seeing the PSP gamers revolt. Quite a few of them have moved on to the Nintendo DS, which does NOT send out large system patches to fix "system issues". Especially when most of those "issues" are attempts to plug holes homebrewers are using.
        • This is why I'm glad I've stuck with my GBA SP. I was originally thinking of getting a PSP, but now the DS Lite looks attractive as it's getting closer to the same size as my GBA.
        • That's not an issue with handheld consoles. They don't have the multi-GB hard drives of the next-gen consoles. Hard drive storage is really what makes binary patches practical. Hope this doesn't lead to console games getting rushed out the door half baked because they could patch it later.
    • Games just aren't getting that much more impressive as time goes on. We're reaching areas of dimishing returns to where we can probably slow the pace in exchange for focusing on making good games that are fun, and have been properly QAed. There's no need for these last-minute additions or patches. Especially as the market revolts, and moves more and more toward console gaming. (Where proper QA is a requirement.)

      Gamers want good games. Technology is only a canvas on which games are painted. It should not
    • by 6 ( 22657 )
      I think a better analogy is to the death of the studio system in movies. We are just at the tail end in games. Currently films are made by a large number of companies, some as small as individuals, who come together for a single project. Groups not well represented by corporations tend to band together into guilds. A project then becomes a negotiation between various service providing guilds and companies, a few stars, and the funding agency.

      I suspect this is what game production will look like in the f
      • by 6 ( 22657 )
        Or more precisely. Game production is no longer really a problem in engineering management and thus the solutions don't reside in the techniques of engr management. Instead it is a large group creative production and the solutions almost certainly will come from that field of endeavor.
  • One Reson: (Score:2, Insightful)

    The gaming industry has lost it's imagination. Innovation is gone, instead companies are trying things like making crappy games for simultaneous releases with movies, or perhaps banking on previous successes...Doom 4 anybody??? No takers?? really??
  • It's not just this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gnostic Ronin ( 980129 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:34PM (#16458277)
    I think the biggest problem has nothing to do with the structure of the company, it has to do with the content of the games themselves.

    First off, you have a lot of copycatting going on. Everybody wants in on the big trend, so they're trying to recreate the big game of the year. There aren't many that aren't essentially clones of some other game. Ico, DDR, Katamari, Okami and Gitar Hero are new games. Most of the rest are pretty generic, to the point where if you've played one game in the genre, the rest are rentals -- because other than the graphic art, they play identically. And that's not even counting the sequels of the generic games.

    Secondly, especially for TV/movie games, most franchise games are made with very little understanding of what made the series good to begin with. http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/strategy/startrekl egacy/screenindex.html?part=rss&subj=6152227 [gamespot.com] This is just one example. I don't know how you could watch a show where 90% of the time, they negotiate their way out of danger and decide that the best thing to make with the franchise is a shooting game. I won't even bother bringing up Anime franchises.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:34PM (#16458279) Homepage Journal
    Do you remember the scene where the workers trudge into the factory doors, who fade into the mouth of a giant monster devouring them?

    This is what's wrong with the game industry: It eats people up, chews them out, and then hires the next batch of fresh, ready-for-overtime young talent.
    • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) * on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:55PM (#16458609) Homepage Journal
      This is any large business. After my 20 or so years of experience working at companies of all sizes I would plot a chart like this:

      Number of employees vs. Efficiency of the company as a whole

      1 employee - 100%

      4 employees - 95%

      10 employees - 90%

      100 employees - 50%

      1000 employees - 25%

      10000 employees - 10%

      The U.S. Government - 3%

      We simply do not have the collective wisdom to manage large groups of people. Maybe that's the next breakthrough that will allow us to make quantum leaps in productivity in the 21st century. Or maybe we'll just invent robots to do it all for us.

      By the way, those numbers are flexible. I once worked in a division of 80 - 100 people who achieved about 5% efficiency for over a year thanks to exceptionally clueless management. By the same token, I would imagine Google doesn't quite fit this scale either.

      • Number of employees vs. Efficiency of the company as a whole [...]
        We simply do not have the collective wisdom to manage large groups of people.


        Perhaps, but that's not really what I meant...

        I mean that the game industry has "crunch time" as a planned phase of development, a period in which the employees are supposed to work for 60+ (70+, etc) hours a week, for weeks, for each project.

        This is expected of their employees, if you don't like it? Get out of game development, we have PLENTY of young people who are
        • You've got a point, but if the game development companies could manage their projects in a way that lets the employees work normal jobs without an unreasonable amount of overtime and still deliver in a reasonably timely manner, don't you think they would?

          More to the point, if they thought they could do it, wouldn't they try? I don't doubt that it's possible, but there are few people capable of managing such a project. Of course, this also assumes something that American management is no longer willing to
          • if the game development companies could manage their projects in a way that lets the employees work normal jobs without an unreasonable amount of overtime and still deliver in a reasonably timely manner, don't you think they would?

            Well...

            Of course, this also assumes something that American management is no longer willing to accept: Employees aren't commodities to be used up and thrown out.

            You kind of answered for me there :)
            I'm affraid they've been making too much money working like this to change their way
            • The problem is that unions, as they generally are implemented, function on exactly the same premise. "Collective bargaining" also treats people as commodities, even with the byzantine rules of seniority and other bizarre ideas unions come up with (for instance, the case I heard of where the union refused to allow the company to grant salary adjustments based on geography for people living in expensive urban or suburban areas compared to people living in inexpensive rural areas).

              I don't know what the real s
              • Personally, I find the idea of belonging to a union much more distasteful than working for an employee that doesn't recognize my individual merits

                That is one of the most bizarre statements I've read in a long time. A union is nothing more than a bunch of workers getting together and asking for something as a group instead of as individuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's nothing like extortion.

                Clearly, there are unions which do stupid crap, but finding "the idea of belonging to a unio

            • I'm afraid they've been making too much money working like this to change their ways.

              Well, the problem is slightly more complicated than that. They are making too much money today and they don't care about 5 years from now. The biggest problem is ultimately sacrificing the long-term for short-term gains. When companies come and go on a month-to-month basis, one's view becomes a little narrow compared to a company that's been around 20, 50 or even 100 years. People who understand the long-term view will
      • by Khuffie ( 818093 )
        I just have to say...I LOL'd at the US Government.
        • I would hazard a guess that U.S. government really isn't that inefficient, except for the grotesque level of duplication of efforts, not to mention the bald-faced extortion or robbery committed by many contractors, especially in the defense industry.

          The net effect is the same though.

    • By the way, that's an excellent movie. Although the story (and acting in particular) are somewhat melodramatic, the visuals are some of the best ever captured on celluloid (or CCD)... and have remained so for 80 years.

      • by 7Prime ( 871679 )

        Although the story (and acting in particular) are somewhat melodramatic

        Just to point out, that was really the style of the time. Film was just finding it's way around (in the dark) narrative, and had basically been just transplanted from the theatre (of which mellodrama is much more of a requirement, due to suspension of disbelief issues). Fritz was one of the first guys to begin to realize film as something more than recorded theatre, but he was still very naive. Also, the lack of sound required actors t

        • You're correct about the "melodrama" aspect of the movies of the time. But more specifically, films like "Metropolis", "Nosferatu", and "Cabinet" owe as much to the zeitgeist of German culture at the time as to the state of the art of cinematography or their very creative directors. Despite those flaws related largely to the movies being silent and still a novel art form in any case, these movies hold up extremely well. I can't imagine any movie released this decade that will be so highly regarded in 209
          • by 7Prime ( 871679 )
            I'm going to have to dissagree about the quality of recent films, this seemed to be a typical "grass is greener" response. I love a lot of classics, but for every remembered classic there were a few dozen real crappers that have long since been forgotten. Meanwhile, especially recently, there have been a number of really really good films. Capote and Good Night & Good Luck... both released the same year, are up for movies of the decade in my book. Both show a certain subtlety that may very well go above
    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      Well, it is a criticism of the Industrial Revolution era working practices, coincidentally those are very close to the game industry's working practices. I guess any industry goes through such a phase in its infancy until they realize that 40 hour weeks simply are the most efficient way of working your employees.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well, it is a criticism of the Industrial Revolution era working practices, coincidentally those are very close to the game industry's working practices.

        That would be my point, yes :)

        40 hour weeks simply are the most efficient way of working your employees.

        Hmmm, I guess that's a matter of perspective. From a manager's point of view, I guess that's true. But from an employee's point of view, I don't think that's quite right.
        40 hours a week is the most you can systematically sqeeze out of them without burning
  • easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <aaaaa@SPAM.ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:34PM (#16458281) Journal
    " What's Wrong with the Games Industry? "

    Sony
  • Bunch of fluff (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lazerf4rt ( 969888 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @04:37PM (#16458315)

    This article is a bunch of high-concept fluff. I work in the games industry and to me, the only problem is a productivity problem. We waste a lot of time, not because we're lazy bastards, but simply because:

    • We wait for the compiler.
    • We wait for our machines to synchronize with the latest network data.
    • We wait for out machines to convert the latest game data to the target platform.
    • We wait for the editor and tools to launch.
    • We waste time manually loading and manipulating the game to get to the area we are testing/working on.
    • We rarely use crash dumps correctly. When a rare crash is reported, we go back to our computers and waste time trying to reproduce it in the debugger.

    I'm sure small projects are better than large ones. But I'm always amazed when people totally overlook the time wasted on all of the above.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slcdb ( 317433 )
      • We wait for the compiler.

      Been there.

      • We wait for our machines to synchronize with the latest network data.

      Done that.

      • We wait for out machines to convert the latest game data to the target platform.

      Check.

      • We wait for the editor and tools to launch.

      Yep.

      • We waste time manually loading and manipulating the game to get to the area we are testing/working on.

      Sounds familiar.

      • We rarely use crash dumps correctly. When a rare crash is reported, we go back to our computers and waste time trying to re
      • Sounds just like where I work. Except I'm not in the gaming industry. These are problems that are prevalent throughout the entire software engineering world.

        Waiting for the primer to dry before we can put on the first layer of paint, boss...
        What job doesn't have it's technical downtime?
    • Mod parent up. Completely on the mark.
  • Simple, EA (Score:2, Informative)

    by SkoZombie ( 562582 )
    EA is creating a gaming monoculture. The 'risky' (read: innovative) games are killed off in case they offend, and it's all about churning out high yield, low quality products. EA doesn't care about extending a game's life, they just care about making a sequel.
    • EA is creating a gaming monoculture. The 'risky' (read: innovative) games are killed off in case they offend, and it's all about churning out high yield, low quality products. EA doesn't care about extending a game's life, they just care about making a sequel.

      Innovative games are out there, they just don't have the widespread appeal of mainstream games, hence they are lost in the noise.
      Customers don't necessarily want innovation, they want fun, and EA makes games that are fun for the masses.
      There's plenty

  • ... to do their jobs at home.

    This will never happen since there's no trust in the video game industry to allow this to happen. When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari for six years, it got to point where people weren't trusted to do their jobs at the office. As a lead tester, I spent so much time documenting that everyone working on my project was doing work for every minute, that I barely saw the games that I was supposed to be testing. Before I left, management was talking about replacing the cubes
  • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:02PM (#16458755)
    One amazing fact that has yet to permeate the strata of the industry is that most of their employees have the equipment that they need to do their jobs at home. One example is freelance audio engineers, who do most of their work off site and mail the files in. However, for code, design and art there are still large levels of resistance to the idea that you can effectively export work off site and maintain control.

    "Hey, we were able to cut costs by not hiring a salaried Audio Designer or building a decent sound studio onsite -- turns out there's a hundred suckers willing to pay for all the equipment themselves in exchange for no job security. I wonder if this system for taking advantage of creative professionals can be used against any of the other seats on the development team...?"
    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      ... turns out there's a hundred suckers willing to pay for all the equipment themselves in exchange for no job security.

      Not an uncommon situation in Silicon Valley. One company I know about was bullied by the I.T. department to provide equipment to the contract programmers since the virus outbreaks were started by the contractors plugging in their own computers into the network.
      • by Khuffie ( 818093 )
        Programmer contractors had viruses on their machines? And the company still trusted them to program their application? You'd think they'd know better...
  • Seriously, we seem to have a slashdot article about what's wrong with the gaming industry posted once every month...
  • It'd be very simple. All you'd need to do would be to go to EA's head office, wherever that is, and shoot everyone in the building. ;-) Then lather, rinse, repeat for every other large "publishing" company (Vivendi, Activision, etc) in existence.

    These companies are the game industry's sole problem, IMHO...and for as long as they exist, things are going to stay broken. Think about it...every single megahit game that's ever been released (with the possible exception of The Sims) has been released entirely
  • by CherniyVolk ( 513591 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:28PM (#16459195)

    I work for a large defense contractor (think Raytheon, Boeing etc.). Most of what I do, I can practically do from anywhere be it the office, home or a coffee shop. Well, the coffee shop would be problematic, I do handle classified and controlled information so passerbys might not feel comfortable thinking any moment Secret Service will jump in and erase their memories.

    OK. So, aside from having to handle sensitive information or hardware. My more mundane activities can very well be handled at home or where ever I may connect to the internet.

    For some reason, this is the way most corporate work places operate. Joe walks in, plays like he's a well brainwashed representative of society and socializes with co-workers while smoking, drinking coffee etc. Then he walks over and turns on his computer, and checks his email where for another hour to three hours he's pretty much doing the same thing for distant co-workers or on-site co-workers also playing with their emails. Then, he does some actual work, maybe an hour, may four at most. We are at 6 hours now. Then he spends another two hours away from "production" interests, to handle things that will sadly have more an impact for upcoming review. He asserts his politics and opinions on the new name tags to be issued. He sends out a memo essentially complaining about the coffee maker being a mess everyday. He sends his opinions down to maintenance becuase he thinks the power outlets need to be verified or checked.

    This is a "busy" work day.

    An average day... he might do one hour of "production" work, and BS for the rest of the day. For managers that joke about this "horror" to themselves... Managers are even worse than the workers. Managers typically do nothing of their inherent model suggests, this isn't being said jokingly either. Mangers really do nothing, even when they think they are doing something.

    It's the feel that something is getting done. It's why we have meetings and all the sort. The last time a Meeting ever amounted to something, was when this one nobody held a meeting in the back of a German beer pub, later to wreck havoc across Europe. Ironically, even that meeting resulted in disastor and mayhem.

    Just like Meetings make us feel like something is getting done... the same feeling is derived with actually seeing other people gather. Really, reporting to work, for most people who use a Computer, is a huge big-picture meeting! We get up, endure the assanine daily routines of office politics and becuase of this, that's work.

    Personally, my best work comes within the first hour of waking up, and the wee hours of the night when I'm fully relaxed and able to focus becuase there is no distractions. I can listen to music, without fear of someone taking offense. I can chose to go sit outside and ponder something without fear of someone thinking I'm not doing anything. I can take as many breaks as I want, I can lounge in the comfort and safety of my own home. I enjoy the food at my own home. I enjoy the 50 dollar couch I have over the 150 dollar chair at work. I can wear something comfortable at home (Any man who says slacks, a tie, and a collared cotten shirt is "comfortable" is either very ignorant or out right lieing to your face. Even if it might be physically tolerable, it's still mentally uncomfortable to have to dress that way and worry about spilling coffee on it.). Sweats pants and a t-shirt, now you can't get more comfortable than that. I want to be at home anyways!

    And if there's any better real life example of how much more people are willing to work when at home, we only need to ponder the speed, effectiveness, quality of OSS software development over proprietary counterparts 'minus exceptions of proprietary protocols etc.'). At home, I'm much more willing to work much more, becuase a great deal of it won't even be considered "work".

    But, try to tell your boss that! That's the tricky part. He'd rather pay you for less product, just to see you once a day abide by ru
    • I can wear something comfortable at home (Any man who says slacks, a tie, and a collared cotten shirt is "comfortable" is either very ignorant or out right lieing to your face. Even if it might be physically tolerable, it's still mentally uncomfortable to have to dress that way and worry about spilling coffee on it.).

      Slacks, a tie, and a collared cotten shirt are comfortable.

      And I'm not lying.

      Maybe you should try a looser cut for your pants & a wider collar on your shirts (less starch if that's a proble

      • Slacks, a tie, and a collared cotten shirt are comfortable.

        And I'm not lying.

        Maybe you should try a looser cut for your pants & a wider collar on your shirts (less starch if that's a problem). If coffee on your tie is a problem, unbutton your shirt 3 or 5 buttons down, stick your tie into the resulting hole and rebutton the gap. Oh, and Scotchgard everything.

        Your problem is more along the lines of "conformity bothers me & I hate my boss" than "ties are uncomfortable". Your post pretty much spells th

    • The effectiveness of the OSS development has very little to do with the fact that the work is done at home or at some office. The real difference is the interest/passion in the specific task. A task that someone is very interested in and feels empowered with motivates much better than any external motivation. (At least cheaper and less damaging, though a gun to the head or "must ship or be fired" probably do a decent job in short term.)

      One good example recently was when a co-worker felt that he came up with
  • What I read into the article is that corporate business (executives, support staff, milestones, promises, etc.) has no place in the game industry. THAT'S what's wrong is that numerous small companies that produced quality products were consumed or closed by big inudstry monsters (read EA).

    Throughout the entire article, I kept seeing two names being implied even though only one was explicitly mentioned: negative, game industry = EA; positive, game production company = Blizzard. (You can extrapolate that Bli

  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:43PM (#16459501)
    Excuse me Stephen Ford, can I get some credentials? Do you work at EA? do you work at my company? Have you worked at a real company? How many? How many dev cycles? Finding your name on a Flash development site makes me wonder a bit. Or are you Steven Ford who talks about online gambling as an Analyst for Collins Stewart

    I'm sorry I'm sick of listening to Gamesutra guys because most of them either don't know anything, or just have skewed ideas with only their personal experiences to go on, and usually those experiences suck or are non applicable to normal companies.

    My company keeps a game project going at a time as well as one in flux. Most people find the office easier to work at than home, and it helps communication greatly, it keeps people focused, and while it costs 5K, that money is made up in wasted time. 5K per person isn't bad when you have a multi million dollar team.

    Why not maintain a code-base, guess what? You don't sell them to make a profit. A good engine can work for every game you make not just the first one. Company at which I works uses the same engine and tweaks it every game, that works wonders especially when you consider we work on similar systems every time. It's true our first 360 game needed a lot of time (4 years dev cycle not fun) but we're running two products based on that engine now, we consolidate the similar stuff, and branch the non similar stuff. Money saved? 3 engines for the price of 1, you figure it out. And if something is bad in project 2 and great in project 3 we can bring the great system over to project 2. If it's something similar.

    My company works, if yours doesn't that's fine but why tell us what's wrong with the "game industry" when there's not much wrong with the industry. The particular companies are the ones who have problems. His complaints sounds like a whiny guy who wants to program what he's working on, not constantly get bothered, and not get different scope changes. His only good advise is to blame management, but maybe his company sucks. Mine doesn't. If you don't like the company, change companies. If you don't like the industry, change industries. Just because this doesn't jib with you, doesn't mean it's a problem with everyone or everywhere.
    • A good engine can work for every game you make not just the first one. Company at which I works uses the same engine and tweaks it every game, that works wonders especially when you consider we work on similar systems every time.

      And the result of re-using that engine is that every game you guys put out feels pretty much the same. This can be a good thing; familiarity equals comfort, after all. Or, it can be a bad thing; there's no sense of progress, of growth, of innovation.

      Let's not pretend this is a rec
      • Depends on how much you'll tailor the game to your project as well as how the engine is written. The company I'm working at has been in a space sim, RPG, Action, and FPS genres with a core engine. Obviously a good amount needs rewriting each time but the graphics and everything can be about the same.

        The best way to go about it is to have a robust engine but not be afraid to change it to your evolving standards. If you keep everything the same, yes you get the Street fighter/Mega man syndrome.

        The time you
  • In the beginning, there was fewer game devs, the skills was not as common, nowadays there's schools that teach just what you need to code games. Thus, employers have a larger assortment to choose from and thus can place higher demands on the employee. As the company wants to increase it's profits it works to improve the profit margin by increasing productivity, and the typical company hive mind and the company execs usually does just this by introducing elements of taylorism or fordism and thus the industri

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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