Breaking out from the usual SECRET Game Dev

Not in the sense that all source assets and code are all available to be nitpicked, but the everyday processes that are used in order to accomplish tasks and whatnot.

Public access into how a game developer 'makes their game'

Do you think this kind of approach would be beneficial or harmful to the industry?

Sure it would take extra time for someone to document it all - but at the moment, all the public gets to see at best would be a strictly moderated forum containing screenshots of how the games progressing and people submitting ideas of what they think would be 'cool'.

Do you think old hacks who have spent years of mastering their skills and grown a studio over 10 - 15 - 20 years would ever reveal the innards of their studios to the masses.... for free ?

What say you people - would you like to see a game developer open its doors in such a way ? Kind of like creating a 'Current Mortem'.

Lastly, Yes this question does bare relevance to Kalescent Studios, as we are thinking about approaching a somewhat open development relationship with the masses.

I appreciate any comments here, feel free to bombard me with your thoughts, bad and good. [:)]

mcdrewski's picture

Wow. Bold idea.

I think it'd be a fantastic resource for people trying to get into the industry, but The studio that did it would have to be supremely confident in it's work, and that it's game could be unique and stand on it's own without any 'first to market' or 'bombshell' features.

You might also find that the sheer number of feature requests you have to reject will alienate the more precious members of your audience who feel slighted. Some people find it hard to take a "no".

unknownuser2's picture

Mcdrewski: So quick! [:)]

Why do you think that the studio who does it needs to be supremely confident in their work ? or that the game be so unique and whatnot?

And I'm not so much talking about having the development open to suggestions by the masses, and building a game for them, as quite correctly it'd be impossible to satisy everyones needs, but rather exposing the methods of creation that are almost always hidden.

Just how do you go about making a paper doll system for equiping your characters with individual items of armour ?

How do you balance out the amount of EXP rewarded to the player for defeating enemies?

How do we determine how far apart should the save points be to make it challenging, but not a long hard slog.

Should their be save points in the game ?

Alot of it would be really basic information, and some questions might well be aimed directly at the public as a yes/no.

The core elements or essence of the game - should be the developers own in order to make it unique to them, but the variables, and individual aspects right on the highest level, might benefit from being public poles and oppinions - and perhaps rather than just saying " Its in the game! " provide some kind of feedback about how you went about implementing it - rather than keeping all the nitty gritty hidden and 'TOP SECRET'

I agree with helping the next generation - I think thats essentially the core of the idea - to give the next generation a resource with which they can call upon to hopefully avoid the many mistakes of the others that have gone before them.

MoonUnit's picture

Id love to see it but i can also forsee a few issues, which youve touched on. What was a really good solution was when Bungie hired a film crew to cover the entire process of making Halo 2 then released the DVD in the special edition package. It was a well documented experience and everyone loves a video as apposed to reading right? its sad in a way but true. Also it meant that this all went out after the game was over so no spoilers or any other troubles. The obvious problem is though, not everyones on a bungie budget that hires film crews. Still, one of the best insights ive seen to date

Mario's picture

quote:Originally posted by HazarD

...

Its an interesting thought, and could be beneficial to the end product. But I personally don't think it would be practical from a commercial point of view if you are talking about your average console game or PC product. Here are a few thoughts as to why assuming that is the kind of development you are talking about

- exposing the public to your game means you are exposing competitors to your game who may cherry pick your best features and content and get them to market first.

- exposing the public to detailed progress reports exposes them to corners you might be cutting or hard decisions you are making. If a certain feature is cut in front of everyone it may generate a negative impression. If they never knew it was there in the first place, then not such an issue.

- exposing the public to your general progress exposes them to your levels of effort which, while they may be considerable, will never live up to expectations of a public who wants you working 24/7 until the week before the game hits the shelves.

- the general public makes for 'good' consumers but for bad game designers. Seriously, the average game fan just does not think things through, not understanding what they actually want, what is practical, or what would drive good gameplay.

- no publisher (or publishing contract) would allow that level of openess.

For the most part, a game developer should be able to get good ideas and feedback based on engaging with gamers on company or public gaming forums, by approaching key individuals, and through extensive focus testing.

For a development business model outside the norm though, perhaps worthy of exploration.

mcdrewski's picture

quote:
Why do you think that the studio who does it needs to be supremely confident in their work ? or that the game be so unique and whatnot?

Confident, because I'd be surprised if any project of size was ever completed without a few fairly significant hurdles that require rethinking/rebuilding/etc. From the inside it's a necessary evil we strive to avoid, but from the outside it smells like incompetence.

The uniqueness question important since if you're solving all the problems and posting them online, then it's not unthinkable that a competitor could be first to market before you with what's effectively your own game. Not a big risk for many games, sure, but things can get cut-throat out there where there's a buck to be made.

Of course, if you ever have to make a design decision based on details of underlying technology like an NDA-bound commercial engine might also prove to be touchy.

Sounds fantastic, but because of the above, striking a balance between generalisations and details would be the challenge. Perhaps something as simple as a blog like [url="http://www.joelonsoftware.com"]Joel Spolsky does for software dev[/url] might be the sort of balance you're talking about.

unknownuser2's picture

Mario: Thanks so much for your thoughts on the topic - very valid points there, valuable [:)]

Mcdrewski: I agree completely - thanks for your thoughts on things so far!

Moony: Great idea! though we wouldnt need an entire film crew to record something - a handy cam will do, give it a more Blair Witch effect [;)]

After gathering thoughts - and re-reading what ive written, perhaps I didnt give enough examples about what i thikn should be revealed and what should still be kept 'trade secret'.

Basically the kind of information wouldnt really be valuable to the public, as Mario mentioned the average gamer isnt going to care why the save points are located in strategic positions to minimise frustration, only that they are there !!

But I think it might be valuable for the next generation of game developers even as a " Heres how we did it, take it, rework it and make it better! "

Using the save game example again. Here is what I see today on most developers forum's:

POLL QUESTION: Do you think we should have save points in our game? YES/NO

Now thats a smart approach, but, people respond willy nilly, and a bit of discussion goes on - the save points are implemented ( for the sake of this example ) and thats it, onto the next yes / no. What I'm suggesting is a small (blog perhaps - thanks Mcdrewski) writeup on how the right length between save points was determined, why its important to have that balance, and perhaps some mistakes that were made.

Because we are a small team, I think this would be alot easier to manage. I guess the other major factor is, we have nothing to hide. Of course their will be mistakes, theres almost zero chance of getting around that, but we dont fear mistakes, or being wrong, or even having someone who knows next to nothing about games or game development, point out something thats would make things better.

I guess focus testing would clear up alot of those things - but that still doesnt make any game development knowledge public, which is the point of my thoughts.

Also we wont be hampered by publishers or demands of investors and whatnot, so we feel like this might be a good opportunity to do some exploration.

More thoughts and oppinions ?

WiffleCube's picture

Pro:

By making these technologies and methodologies widely available, this could lead to more successful projects with higher levels of quality in the games industry.

Con:

One of the reasons game development staff are paid decent wages is because their skills are in demand. If the process of aquiring these skills is made available to everyone then there is a risk these jobs may be worth less.

unknownuser2's picture

Wifflecube: Really interesting...thanks for your thoughts [:)]

Maybe the people who have nestled nicely into a 'developers niche' will be more inclined to propel themselves forward in learning more about their trade and where its going, before the (former) 'unworthy masses' surpass them in skills picked up from the internet? [:O]

Mario's picture

I'll just add another thought as a cautionary note -

You need to be very careful to be aware of who you are getting feedback from and who your actual target market is.

For example, in the case of Sidhe Interactive we have been engaging with the online Rugby League fan community for a couple of years. We get great feedback and ideas, but its always important to remember that the people who are online and proactive enough to engage with the developers are typically the hardcore gamers. We have 2,000 active members on our company forums, and that represents less than 1% of our actual customer base for that game.

These gamers will typically be the ones pushing for advanced features, harder gameplay, less training and easy levels, more "simulation and less "arcade", and things that add only minutely to the gameplay but require a mammoth development effort. Their feedback is from one extreme end of what is likely to be a much larger audience. Them are some real gems of ideas and infomration in there, but its easy to be mislead if you aren't careful.

So just make sure when you are engaging in that sort of conversation with (potential) consumers remember to filter their feedback appropriately, and remember there are a bunch of other gamers who you aren't talking to.

Hope that helps :)

rezn0r's picture

How very communist!

I always like your ideas Troy. As Drew says, very bold.

Though I can see your way wracked with pain, I think it would be an interesting experiment, and sounds like the Kalescent waytm.

You would have no qualms for example, about releasing the details of your business model as you make your money using your skills, not your idea. Even as competition rises, your skills will always be in demand. Add to this the fact that you transfer the bulk of your outsourcing fees to whoever did the work, and it becomes much more lucrative to join your ranks than to compete.

"Lets all get rich and famous together."

I do agree with Wiffles post somewhat... we earn what we earn because our skills are in high demand. A lot of people would be made VERY uncomfortable when their "corporate jewels" are exposed and they're no longer considered specially skilled. What is an IT degree worth these days now that every man and his dog have three?

You could argue that this encourages the cream to rise to the top, and you'd be right.

If your methods become accepted practices, then you may also become the authority on the subject (to your benifit, as well as that of the greater community).

One danger you may face as Drew mentioned is looking the fool when you make blatant errors (as you always do), which old hands will see coming. I'd also be reluctant to share milestone dates et cetera, as these never work out as planned.

You may distance this endeavor from your outsourcing work to ensure that your professional reputation doesn't take a hit if you fail to deliver on your own project.

I've had terrible troubles coordinating projects with a distributed team, which I could go into at length (and might do later on). I don't believe it's a great way to get things done, and you'll lose your hair and some years off your life keeping those wheels turning. That said, plenty of people do make it work.

I wouldn't be overly concerned about people using your ideas and running your product out of business. People may take bits and pieces of your ideas and processes (which is the goal of this after all), but would have to match and exceed your work level to make a carbon copy. That said, a copy is never as good as the original which has been built by the people who came up with the good ideas (something is always lost in the translation).

Personally, I think detailing your PROCESSES will be infintely more useful than talking about the nuts and bolts. Sharing a great method for managing a portion of this project would be much more useful than knowing that a sucessful hit in the game is a result of a "D6+strength+(-4 against tree monsters)".

I'll watch this one closely.

Scott.

J I Styles's picture

Just a quick note, Just Add Monsters (come ninja theory) where doing a good dev diary of their next-gen title heavenly sword in edge magazine -- go to http://www.ninjatheory.com to check out the ones posted online under the 'features' section. It's probably the closest I've really seen in this vein. Along with the diary, they released their pitch video they used to secure funding, and have released a few work in progress shots along the way. It's still not to the extent of openness we're talking about here, but the fact they're also very willing to talk about stuff in general one-on-one is cool.

unknownuser2's picture

Mario: Again thanks alot for that comment [:)] - very true I'd definately have to keep that in check, and yes its definately all helping give a clearer picture.

rezn0r: Cheers for the encouragement! Lots of valid points in there, a few give me more incentive to simply jump in! The 'lets all get rich and famous together' notion is both jovial and relative!!

I also agree that for many companies this idea would be uncomfortable, as the more complex the project the more scope the 'openess' really has, and yes many would probably contain skeletons that are better locked in the closet.

As far as milestone data goes and whatnot - I have to agree with you on that one.

But looking the fool is a fact of life, and we are the type of people to get up, dust off and have a laugh at ourselves, but learn from it, rather than quickly hop up and look around, do our darndest to make sure nobody ever knows what really happened and while hastily focusing on the cover up, forget why the problem happened in the first place. ( experience talking here [:I] )

So its to be expected that there will be some errors - although at the same time I can understand what you mean with regards to the professional side of the studio and whatnot. Good point there.

Sorry to hear your projects didnt go as smoothly as planned with distributed team members etc, I wont say for a second it was easy, but like most things, some repetition to iron out all the kinks will go along way.

Detailing processes is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about also not so much of the nitty gritty but the 'hows' followed by the 'whys' the trick is like many have mentioned is finding that balance between how open to be.

Definately food for thought - thanks for your comments [:)]

JI: That article along with a few others + some views of certain game designers have ultimately been the fuel to these thoughts about a somewhat open development. Really good reading, and my personal oppinion is that the more of these we have, the better off in industry is, whether it be from a gigantic company making hit after hit or a small indy guy like ourselves.

Alot to consider, keep it coming [:)]

lorien's picture

HazarD, what you are talking about to me seems a bit like the philosophies that the the open source movement embrace. Have a read of http://opensource.org/advocacy/faq.php

The Open Source Initiative are a lot less rabid than the GNU people.

Red 5's picture

quote:Originally posted by Mario

its always important to remember that the people who are online and proactive enough to engage with the developers are typically the hardcore gamers. We have 2,000 active members on our company forums, and that represents less than 1% of our actual customer base for that game.

Very true... I read an interesting report from Microsoft a few years ago which was the result of quite an extensive study into their target market for various games, and as such they design their games accordingly.

One aspect concerning sporting games was to design a game to suit somebody who is vaguely interested in a particular sport... a "fringe" fan so-to-speak, the type of person who will sometimes watch the sport on TV, but typically won't go out of their way to attend a live match... according to the report, this is where the market is.

Daemin's picture

How about a Game Development Mock-u-mentary? Sort of do a comedy/documentary showing the making of a game in a very stereotypical studio. I'm sure some people here would be able to share some real life war stories that could form the base of the script. You could actually film the damn thing and make a decent movie out of it? Anyways, that's just an idea that popped into my head.

Mario's picture

quote:Originally posted by Daemin

How about a Game Development Mock-u-mentary? Sort of do a comedy/documentary showing the making of a game in a very stereotypical studio. I'm sure some people here would be able to share some real life war stories that could form the base of the script. You could actually film the damn thing and make a decent movie out of it? Anyways, that's just an idea that popped into my head.

Heh, I saw a treatment a few years back for a short comedy TV series about a fledgling game studio trying to get off the ground.

Never got the green light as far as I know.

CynicalFan's picture

I?m going to put my ?disclaimer? forward right off the bat of this post, and say that I was too buggered from a marathon gaming session of ?Knights of the Old Republic 2? on the XBOX to really read this thread properly. So apologizes in advance for having gone off track with the post, but this is what I think:

It has been more or less said the same way in numerous places, one of which is a notorious sci-fi / action flick, but here goes: ?Knowing the path is not the same as walking the path.? Or something like that.

Basically what I mean is, that sure, you could document all these processes or ?concepts,? but, knowledge is only as useful to you as far as you know how to make use of it, and how much talent you show in using it. So, an average developer, given the ?holy-grail? of AAA commercial game development, the oracle of success, will still only churn out average / mediocre titles. On the other hand a talented developer, of which they only comprise a very small percentage of the development community, given this knowledge, this power, this freedom? will create works of great crafted art, that each will be gold for them and for everyone else ? even the consumers / gamers. Now, give such life-path changing knowledge, to a poor-wretch of a developer, a complete utter cretin of a developer, they will still only produce time-wasting piles of steaming crap ? that no one buys (much of), and everyone ends up forgetting.

They simply do not ?understand? the concepts, do not know how to ?implement? the concepts due to lack of experience, nor do they comprehend why the concepts are ?needed.? Somewhere, out there, you have some guy who honestly thinks that a GUI for a FPS is a waste of time and that it could all be better done with a command-prompt ? and no amount you confronting them with the truth is going to change their mind, period!

It in a similar fashion, is why I don?t see much worth in game development ?academia,? in that they lack the practical experience to really know what the hell they are talking about and how to go about it ? hence the rubbish that comes out of them for the most part ;). Practical real-world experience adds depth of meaning to the theory that you learn, and the experiences of others you might read about, because you truly understand where they are coming from, and why it is all so important and how to go about making use of it.