Archive for the 'Industry Rants' Category

RTW redundancies

Posted in Industry Rants on August 21st, 2010 by MrCranky

This week’s normal blog post has been supplanted, sadly, after news broke of Realtime Worlds going down earlier in the week. I was intending to write a post anyway, after the news that 60 people were to be trimmed as a result of their Project Myworld not finding an investor, but the urgency wasn’t really there. It looked that ostensibly things were being wound down in some kind of graceful way, which, while sad, is just the nature of the beast. Everyone knew that the large team that had been ramped up to deliver APB would be unsustainable, given the absence of a large income stream from that game, or anything else signed. It was always going to stand or fall on APB’s quality, and that was apparent a couple of months ago now. But we gave them the benefit of the doubt.

That was late last week though. Come Tuesday afternoon, news surfaced that there had just been a company meeting to announce that the administrators had been called in. And not in a graceful, let’s wind things down sort of way. In an almighty, we’re all out of money, and by the way you’re not getting paid for August sort of way. While that’s not unprecedented (when VIS went down, they at least had the courtesy to do so immediately after a pay-day so no-one did any work that wasn’t going to be paid for; but DC went down with unpaid wages), I don’t think it’s ever forgivable. But the difference was, those other studios had been operating milestone to milestone for a long while, burning through their cash. RTW had their investment up front, they knew what money was coming in, and when it would stop. To go under leaving unpaid wages (and word is, a bunch of trade debt as well) is to me a massively negligent failing of those in charge.

The whole affair smacks of senior management, knowing they’d burnt through all their cash (and let’s not forget, that’s over $100m), and yet continuing to operate. APB had run over its development timescale, that was public knowledge, but if they didn’t have enough money to operate beyond its launch, this mess should have been sorted out when they realised what was going to happen. I’m sure they thought that to do so would further damage the APB launch: who would want to invest time in an MMO if it looked like the developer was going to go bust even before launch. That doesn’t excuse screwing over your employees: they chose to gamble everything on persuading new investors to save them. And since they’d already failed to show that they could deliver on the sort of projects they claimed to have expertise in, I don’t know how they thought anyone would believe them.

I’m sure there will be more details and analysis from those who saw this mess from the inside. Even last week, this RTW person let go in the MyWorld redundancies put an insightful but damning post over on Rock Paper Shotgun. I’ll come back to this one once more of the details have become clear. Sadly, even if a phoenix company does ride from the ashes (again stirring memories of DC and their similarly resurrection), it will be a dim shadow of what RTW once was. While there are still several good businesses in Dundee doing alright, the heart has been cut out of the industry, both in Dundee and in Scotland in general. We’ll lose a lot of good talented people, because there is no-where else with the capacity to pick them up. Again, Scottish development will take years to rebuild, if indeed we ever manage it.

Next time, I think, will be a rant about development budgets, and how they’re hurting us all.

Bad Digital Distribution Stores Make Kitties Cry

Posted in Industry Rants, Tales from the grind-stone on May 3rd, 2009 by MrCranky

 

Why dont you have a decent search facility WiiWare? Why?

Why don't you have a decent search facility WiiWare? Why?

It’s true. One of my biggest issues with the games industry as it stands today is with the digital distribution stores (DDS for brevity) in place on the various platforms. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon with others who have predicted the imminent death of physical retail stores; I think there’s still a large place for brick-and-mortar game shops, and they’re certainly not going away any time soon. But I think a large part of the continuing need for retailers is down to the failings of the various digital providers. Let’s list the most relevant ones:

  • Amazon
  • Steam
  • WiiWare
  • XBox Live Arcade
  • Playstation Network
  • iPhone App Store

Amazon of course isn’t really a DDS, although I believe they’re changing that. It’s really just a retailer of boxed products – the shop-front might be on-line, but the products are generally posted to you; however the problems it faces and has overcome are very much relevant to all of these services. Steam is much more relevant to the discussion here, as it’s a proper DDS, and it has learned from many of Amazon’s lessons; sadly it is let down by uncompetitive pricing and the lack of community integration.

Really though, my irritation comes from the remaining 4 DDS – each of which is the only means of buying product for their respective closed platforms (Wii, X360, PS3, iPhone). All 4 suffer from the same problems, all of which have known solutions as demonstrated by Amazon, Steam and others. And the 4, together or separately, represent a massive market of game-hungry users, with cash to spare, who just want to find the good games and ignore the crap.

Here are the main problems, in order of importance to me (the user):

  1. Navigation: How do I find games that I want to buy
  2. Selection: How do I choose when I’ve found those games
  3. Purchasing: How hard is it for me to buy the games once I’ve chosen them

Navigation is the real fundamental problem here. All 4 providers suffer from the same issue: their services are popular, so developers make many titles; users are then swamped with choices. Without any external information (reviews, friends’ recommentations), all products look mostly identical, with only a superficial information (title, image, etc.) to distinguish them – assuming the user wants to read through every title’s description in the hope of finding something they like. If the average quality of titles is low (i.e. shovelware), then great titles are lost in the noise of rubbish, and customers are forced to take a punt on titles when they have little idea of their quality. Once they get burned once, they’re reticent to come back, and likely to dismiss the entire shop as shovelware.

All 4 holders recognise this as a problem, but take varying strategies to get around the issue:

  • Top X lists (sales based): Popular products are easy to find. Great. New products have little chance to generate sales because the titles in the top X list keep selling (because they’re the only ones the user can readily find).
  • Title searching: Allow the user to search for a keyword in the title or description. Great. As long as the user knows what product they want in advance. Little to no chance of discovering relevant products.
  • Limit the number of titles in the system: The console DDS do this more than the iPhone, simply by maintaining high barriers to entry (requiring approval prior to development, enforced QA standards, etc.). But at best this delays the problem from becoming serious. XBLA recently wanted to implement a policy of culling poorly reviewed/low selling titles which was a clear attempt to tackle this issue, they’ve since backtracked on this in favour of better searching (yay!)
  • Highlight particular titles: XBLA prefers this approach – titles get a week of being featured prominently on the front page. Great. Now you have to make enough sales during that crucial week to build enough momentum to get onto the top X list. Miss your week, and you’re shafted. Better hope you’re not featured during the same week that GTA4 comes out, eh?

The approach of limiting the amount of titles in the system is pure short-termist madness. Maybe it is just a short-term fix until a proper storefront system can be made, but XBLA has had what, 3 years now to mature their navigation systems? The solution is one already demonstrated by Amazon. Navigation is the key issue. Searching is only one potential fix. Products need to be categorised into groups so that users can find the set of products they like by interest. Products need to cross link to each other: “Liked this title? Why not try X and Y, also from this developer?” “Customers who looked at product X ended up buying product Y and Z.” “Customers who viewed these titles,” etc.

Random title prominence: this is so underrated. Sure, the front of your store is prime real-estate, and you probably want to sell it, but you can come up with a system which allows games to be featured if they’ve paid, or if the users have rated it worthy.

I can see the DDS people’s defence: “that’s too complicated a UI to put on a console, it needs to be kept simple”. Well maybe you’re right. That brings us straight to point 3: ease of purchase. Why is the game store only on the console (or phone)? It needs to have a properly integrated equivalent on the web. Customers like shopping on the web. They prefer it. They’re used to it, it’s more flexible, and it supports a much more pleasant experience. Ever tried to enter your credit card number using a joy-pad? It’s not fun. Why are you making me do it? I want to be able to browse a game-store on my PC that gives me as much functionality as Amazon, purchase my game, and then press two buttons (Shop, Download Purchased Titles) on my console to get that game downloaded.

Sure, some times it’s nice to be able to buy direct from the console, but it’s not my first choice. Keep it there as a more limited option and I’d be fine with that, as long as the web-store was nice. But as a developer, I want to be able to publish links to my game on a web-store, so they can get straight to our games, and get them onto their console in minutes.

Back to point 2 though – choosing products. I don’t trust reviewers as to what games are good. I certainly don’t trust the platform holders, since they have a financial interest in the products doing well. I trust the customers. Not individuals, because there are clearly nut-cases out there that rate highly or lowly depending on whether they took their medication this morning, but aggregate ratings over time.

Tell me what games sold big in the last week, or month (doesn’t have to include numbers). Tell me the average rating in the last week or month, and how many people rated it. Publish customer reviews, and professional reviews, and metacritic scores. Put all of the rating functionality into the search system, so you can find titles that rated over 4 stars in the last month in the flight simulator genre. Show me the all-time classic RPGs, based on ratings since the store first open. Maybe I’ve a hankering for high quality old-style adventure games, let me find those.

None of this is crazy blue sky thinking. It’s all been done, it’s all been shown to have worked. Build a better DDS, and you’ll sell more products, we’ll sell more games, the customer gets more games, and they get better games so they come back and buy more. I can’t think of any good reason why they wouldn’t want to fix their stores, other than to make little kittens cry.

Working Hours and the IGDA (Part 2/2)

Posted in Industry Rants on April 28th, 2009 by MrCranky

(…continued from part 1)

First off, this implication that number of hours you work has absolutely zero relation to the level of talent you possess. I’ve worked with talentless hacks that “worked” 60-80 hour weeks and still achieved less than everyone else. I’ve worked with amazing people who worked bang on 9-5 Monday to Friday and were some of the most able and committed developers. Of course there are extreme cases – talented folks who love their job so much and are willing and eager to work extra hours, just as there are people who are so apathetic about their work that they don’t even want to do their contracted hours, and coast at every opportunity. Talent and the number of hours worked are independent variables. To try to connect them is not only foolish, it’s selling your employees short.

The coasters need to be sacked, plain and simple. Those who work extra hours but aren’t very good should be given the chance and help to improve, but if they can’t they need to go too. Those who work the 40 hour week and produce are the core of your business, and need to be treated like the stars they are: not only are they good at producing, they are sensible enough to do it in a sustainable way. Those who are great and want to work all hours can be gems, but only if they are managed properly. Try to keep them to a sensible working week, and they’ll stay gems for longer; if you don’t they’ll last a while, and then burn out.

Burning out

Burning out

We’ve all seen it, many times. Constrain their hours and they’ll find other ways to excel; they’ll cram the same amount of work into the time they have, or they’ll go away and enjoy their evenings, eager to come back in the morning, brimming over with good ideas that they’ve been thinking up while they were away from work. But most importantly they’ll have had a life outside of the work, and that will make them happier with their lives and happier with their jobs. If you let them work those crazy hours, you are both taking advantage of their generosity, and setting an unreasonable precedent that other individuals on the team should be doing the same. No matter how much you tell your employees that 9 to 5 is fine, they’ll look at the long hours those few are putting in, and feel that by not doing those hours they aren’t pulling their weight.

Most of all I detest the idea that making games is special, and that somehow by getting to make games we forfeit some of our rights because we get to do work that we enjoy. Screw that. I make games for a living because I love it. I’ve already sacrificed the higher salary I could get in the regular software world. I’ve sacrificed the stability you get outside the games industry. Now you’re trying to tell me I should sacrifice my quality of life as well? And to top it all off, I should be thankful to those who pay my salary for the priviledge of doing my job? No thank you.

When I’m making games, I’m doing a job. I deserve to be paid for the job I do. You want me to sacrifice quality of life, you pay me for the priviledge. My love for what I do comes out in the quality of the products I make, and that’s the only outlet there should be for it. Making games needs passion because the games themselves need love to make them good. By asking for ridiculous working hours or low wages, you are asking me to be less passionate about my job because to do it I need to accept being screwed on pay and conditions.

I’m not some idealistic student, I know that it’s not as simple as just clicking your fingers and suddenly we’re all working standard hours for good wages. The business needs are always going to come first. Sometimes the deadline will loom, or things will go wrong, and we’ll have to work long hours to put it right. We are dedicated people, and exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures. But right now, the individuals working in games development are being regularly asked to subsidise their employer’s costs by means of their own time and effort. Worse than that, many of those employers think this is fine and right and just the way things are. Wrong. The sooner we accept that abusing our staff is unprofitable in the long term the better off we will be as businesses. The sooner we accept that the 40 hour working week is the norm, and everything we do should be trying to get us closer to that norm, the better off we will be.

Working Hours and the IGDA (Part 1/2)

Posted in Industry Rants on April 22nd, 2009 by MrCranky

And so the perennial topic of working hours comes back to us again, this time as a result of some spirited discussion from the IGDA. The exact nature of the discussion has been covered well elsewhere, but suffice to say that an IGDA board member (Mike Capps of Epic) has been lambasted by the game developer community in general for his statement that Epic doesn’t want to hire the sort of people who just work 40-hour weeks.

 

Slaves to the Grind

Slaves to the Grind

There are two parts to this issue really, the first fairly obviously is the problems that this has raised in the IGDA itself. Rather than take what seems to me the obvious route (make a public statement that Epic, while being free to run their studio any way they see fit, is choosing to operate in a way at odds with the IGDA’s stand on quality of life for developers), when pushed on the matter, the rest of the IGDA board has essentially folded, almost entirely on their QoL position.

Now for an organisation that has put QoL very high up on its list of priorities, this is a real problem. The developer community (or at least, that part of it that I hear from and talk to) has always struggled to see the value in an IGDA membership; it doesn’t provide much in the way of tangible benefits, and the social and networking aspect varies massively based on the activity of the local chapter in your area. Certainly the IGDA doesn’t provide anything like the benefits that a union would, as it’s specifically written into its constitution that it cannot become a union or anything like one. But the IGDA’s advocation on quality of life issues has always been one of the big pluses for it in my book – it occupied a niche in that it is placed to represent the best interests of its member developers in campaigning for a better industry for us all. To take away that advocacy position seems to me removes the biggest reason to support or recommend membership to others.

The furore surrounding both the original statement by Mike Capps, and the subsequent IGDA refusal to condemn his stance on general principle is what confounds me though. There is no reason why individual members of the IGDA, even board members, have to work for studios that slavishly follow ever policy that the IGDA might recommend. And with that in mind, it’s perfectly acceptable for Mike Capps to remain a board member, even when his employer’s position conflicts with the recommendations of the IGDA. The next time the elections come around, the IGDA membership will think long and hard about whether or not it’s a good thing to have a board member whose personal policies conflict with such a high profile policy of the organisation. Great. That’s democracy in action.

No, what bothers me is that the other IGDA board members have steadfastly reversed their own organisations positions rather than criticise another board member. They even seem to have gone so far as to implicitely defend Epic’s policy. What, exactly, is the point of saying “all studios should aim for a 40 hour week, because it’s better for everyone involved”, if you then follow it up by saying “oh, unless you’re an IGDA member already; in that case you can run your studio however you like, and I’m sure Epic have a good reason for preferring a longer work week, they do seem to be quite successful and all.” The whole discussion on the IGDA forums has been flabbergastingly forthright in its defence of the over-working of individuals in games development.

The board members, and other senior figures in the IGDA, all seem to be quite surprised at the vehemence with which they’re being attacked. They don’t seem to see their own stance as hypocritical, but attempts to get them to justify their position have resulted in only anger and latterly heavy-handed moderation to quell the continuing argument on their own forums. More recently they have come out with public statements to clarify their position, and to attempt to re-assert their original position on QoL issues, but it all smacks of too-little-too-late unfortunately. The board’s own defence (both implicit and explicit) of Epic’s practices have in my opinion exposed their stance on QoL as nothing more than lip-service towards the ideal, despite the obvious importance the issue has with their (non-management) membership. If that membership hasn’t already voted with their feet and left by the next elections, I hope they show their dissapproval and vote out the incumbent board members in favour of some who actually believe in the policies the IGDA publicly endorse.

All that said, I’m not an IGDA member, and with all of this, I have no intention of becoming one now. No, what worries more is the attitude shown originally by Mike Capps, and latterly people on the IGDA forums. That somehow a person who only wants to work a 40-hour week is just a jobsworth, there marking time and collecting a pay-cheque but with no real passion or involvement with the work they do. That somehow the number of hours you work is linked to your talent. That somehow the fact that the job is making games makes it special, and exempt from all of the normal moral implications of taking advantage of your staff. 

(continued in part 2…)

Library documentation

Posted in Industry Rants on December 21st, 2008 by MrCranky

Okay, note to library developers. When you’re providing documentation for your class library, a bunch of pages like:

SomeObject::GetID method

Gets the ID for the object

Does not mean that you have thorough documentation. Seriously. That is all.

Fixed working hours

Posted in Industry Rants on November 25th, 2008 by MrCranky

I posted this in a discussion on TheChaosEngine forums, but it sums up my position on overtime/fixed-working-hours quite succinctly, so I thought I’d re-post it out here in the real world. For reference, our team tries to work office hours of 9-5, rather than a flexi-time arrangement. This is, it seems, quite unusual in the games world, and there was a spirited discussion on TCE about whether or not it stifled creativity and/or leads to making the unpaid overtime situation worse.

[in reply to the implication that really good employees are the ones who work extra and late to deliver over and above expectations]

While I heartily acknowledge that it’s daft to just up sticks and leave at some arbitrary time and break your flow, I think that its still going to be the exception rather than the rule. You don’t always hit your peak productivity at 4:30 only to have to leave at 5. Certainly there are some days when I’m just getting going when I really should be going home – I find a good point to shelve it and go home. And when I come back in the morning, I’ve had a whole night to ponder the work and generally do a better job of finishing it up than had I just forged ahead.

That said, I don’t want my team feeling like more hours = better work. The only way I want to see productivity improved is for people to work smarter and harder for those 8 hours. I want people to go home feeling like they achieved lots, but still get home at a sensible time that leaves them free to enjoy their own time. I want people to come in and focus, so we’re all in that intense zone of getting s&*^ done at roughly the same time.

We all spend time during the day surfing the web, emailing others, etc., and it eats productivity, and doesn’t necessarily improve the creative atmosphere. I don’t want people staying late to get their stuff done because they have only done 5 hours of effective work in the 9-5 period. Then they end up getting home late, and blame the job for sucking up all their free time.

I want a team that burns bright during their work day, and finds that balance between producing volume, and feeling the creative spark that gets them producing quality. If the only way I can improve the team’s productivity or quality is to increase the hours worked, then I’ve failed. If we’re really at our peak productivity in that 8 hour day, then I’m due to hire someone else. I’m pretty damn sure that if we every got even close to that zone we’d be one of the most effective devs around.

Fustian Future

Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web on October 12th, 2008 by MrCranky

Funnily enough, whenever I come back to the blog to write up a new post, one of the first things that jumps out at me is the monthly archives posts over on the right which I have to scroll past to reach the ‘site admin’ button. Whilst in my head I know fine well that we’ve been going for three and a half years now, it is another thing entirely to see all those months collecting up in the sidebar. Going back to some of the early posts still makes me laugh, as we’ve certainly come a long way since then.

It’s with that in mind though that I’m throwing up a link to Fustian Future, a relatively new (3 months or so) indie developer whom I know via The Chaos Engine (hang out for games industry folks from all over). Yacine Salmi, the one man team behind Fustian, is of course far more dedicated to updating his blog than I wasam, so there’s a lot more to read over there. He’s mixing up the regular indie developer chat with some interesting stuff on new and potential technologies, and more general games industry stuff. In particular I’d point you to this post on a GDC talk/round-table on unions in the games industry that sadly won’t come to pass. It’s certainly raised some interest on the Chaos Engine forums as it’s a contentious subject; however pretty much everyone is open to more discussion on the issues, so it’s sad to note that it won’t go ahead. GDC organisers take note – this is one more voice suggesting that you do the talk next year!

That being said, I’m always torn on the unionising issue. It’s been done to death on the TCE forums, and very little new gets said about it. There are a few (quite vocal) advocates of unions as a serious answer to the issues of overworking, crunch and general poor employee rights that plague some of the larger (and not so large) studios. There are others who a) don’t see the value in a union, b) don’t trust any of the existing unions to properly represent our issues, and c) don’t think that game-developers on the whole are the sort of people who would organise into a union.

But there is a definite chicken and egg problem, which the discussions we have make readily apparent. Most game-developers have little to no knowledge of unions, so their objections are rarely based on informed choice. There is no union which caters specifically for games developers, although several of the more general ones would happily expand to cover the industry (BECTU being the most obvious choice). By and large though, not enough employees at games studios are members for the union to actually properly represent them, so no-one can relate stories of how being a union member was obviously advantageous. Because there is no anecdotal evidence that being in a union is useful, not enough employees join. And so on.

At this point in the discussions, the cry is usually “why don’t you just join and start the ball rolling”, which for me is equally frustrating. Of course, I am in fact management, and not just an employee. So it doesn’t make sense for me to be a union member. And my team, not being generally mistreated, feels no need to join a union either. Many of the voices on the TCE forums echo similar stories. Those employees who might actually benefit are the ones that need to be persuaded by the discussions, and for some reason they are absent from the debate. So while I’m still ambivalent about the idea of unions in general, I’m keen to see the idea discussed more widely and openly amongst developers, so the people who could benefit may consider it an option, or discount it as unsuitable once they know the facts!

Other smart people

Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on July 1st, 2008 by MrCranky

They say that your opinion of someone elses intelligence is pretty much solely based on how much they agree with your views. Well if that’s the case, then Clinton Keith over at Agile Game Development must be pretty damned smart. This post covers pretty much exactly what I’ve said previously about the rising cost vs. stagnant demand for big-budget games, except with pretty graphs and actual numbers. Psshaw – who needs statistics when you have hunches and rhetoric.

Nothing that I’ve seen in the last 2 years has shifted my views on the likely fate of big-budget retail titles, although we haven’t seen a wholesale collapse in that sector of the market, so its likely things aren’t all that bad. Down here at the shallow end of the pond though it is small affordable to develop (and buy) titles all the way. We’re getting ever closer to getting our prototypes up and running on the console kit, but I won’t be happy until I can start tinkering properly and see the results on the television. Our story-board is shifting nicely over to the ‘done’ column though, so it will soon be time to re-fill the board with more significant and less engine-related stories.

Note to self though – follow up our post on the one true handed-ness with one on the one true endian-ness. Big endian is not our friend!

My name is Inigo Montoya…

Posted in Games, Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web on February 12th, 2008 by MrCranky

Well, someone must have been taking pity on my and my excruciatingly long train journey filled day yesterday, because I found this little gem on my morning news trawl. I’ve been a Princess Bride fan since the first time I saw it, years ago, so it’s a bit of a no brainer that I would happily shell out cash to play a game version, so the pre-order went in about 5 minutes after finding the site. Looking at the trailers and concept art, I think I’ll be pleased with the end result – definitely looking forward to the release date later in the year.

On an unrelated note, my train journey down to our client’s site yesterday was capped by a mother and her kids joining me at my table, a boy of around 6 and a girl probably 9 or 10. The boy had a PSP and was playing away, engrossed, but he would keep banging my laptop in his efforts to show this or that to his mother. So I asked what he was playing, and he replied “Grand Theft Auto”.

“Hmm,” I said, “Liberty City Stories?”.

“Uh-huh”, with an eager nod.

“That would be the 18 rated Liberty City Stories then?”, which I accompanied by a look for his mother which I hope conveyed the level of my disgust and disappointment in her parenting skills.

“Oh, ” she says, a bit flustered, “is it?”

“Yeah”

And with that the conversation died, thankfully. Anything else I could have said would have boiled down to “you’re really just a bad parent”. Really though, come on: you wouldn’t let your five year old watch The Exorcist, or Goodfellas, what on earth makes you think that letting them play an 18 rated game is okay?

The government is apparently planning to ‘clamp down’ on unsuitable video games. If I believed that it was anything other than a cynical vote-grabbing ploy to pander to Daily Mail readers I would heartily endorse this, as I’ve always been in favour of proper age regulation on games content, just as there is for films and television. Thing is, it’s already there. The games industry gets a BBFC/PEGI age rating on pretty much every title that goes out there. The console platform holders (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo) insist on it as part of the publishing process. Big publishers would never think about not getting their game rated, it’s just part of making games. All in all, we’ve got a great record of self regulation – we are open and up front about the content of games, and we’re not trying to sneak games into the hands of younger gamers.

None of that makes a blind bit of difference though, as long as irresponsible parents refuse to accept that games deserve the same level of care as films. So you’ve found your 14 year old playing Manhunt, or GTA with the Hot Coffee mod – you think it’s outrageous that the developers can make such games. Well here’s a newsflash – we didn’t make those games for your 14 year old. We didn’t sell them to your 14 year old (high street retailers thankfully do pay attention to age ratings). But if their gran bought them the game for Christmas and you said “Oh, that’s nice, now go play” without ever actually checking what the game was like, then I’m afraid that the blame for your child’s emotional scarring lies firmly and squarely with you, the responsible adult. Stop trying to blame others for your actions.

Morning of the walking dead

Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on January 28th, 2008 by MrCranky

Or so it feels – I can barely keep my eyes open. A combination of a very long couple of weeks and a cat who my girlfriend has somehow trained into believing that scratching on our bedroom door from 3:30 am onwards is a good way to get food has left me more than a bit bleary. And today was the day that I was supposed to try out some decaffeinated filter coffee in the machine. Yes, I realise it’s breaking the cardinal rule of programming, but I can’t seem to get the balance right between coffee that’s so strong it makes my teeth jump by mid-afternoon and weak watery rubbish that tastes of nothing. Anyway, I just can’t see that happening, so it’ll be the regular coffee today, at least until I can perk up a bit.

We kick off on the second of our work for hire jobs this morning, so now we are splitting our time between jobs. Not many details to share as yet because I haven’t cleared it with our clients, but I hope to rectify that soon and have something to say here about it. Still not heard back from our licensed developer application yet, but I’m putting that down to applying over the holiday season introducing an extra delay. Admittedly, we’d have little time to do any solid work on it right now, but I’m hoping that things will settle into a more forgiving routine soon.

Interesting piece here with quotes from Jon Hare (ex Sensible Software) that popped up in the Google Alerts for my name (yes I know, how vain is it to be searching for myself, but it throws up the ‘other’ Chris Chapman as well). Two major points I agree with:

1) the quality of programming has dropped with the move to larger teams; I think that is somewhat inevitable though, you just can’t sustain the same team dynamics that you get with less than a dozen team members. Personally I think the approach of scaling up not by having a larger team, but by using multiple small (<12) teams has merit. Of course, the ability to do that hinges on being able to break up the development effort into tangible pieces that can be tackled by the teams.

2) British developers are continually being forced to ‘globalise’ (i.e. Americanise) their products in order to try and maximise sales in the North American market. But to do that, I think we are selling ourselves short – not just in terms of making the most of the British sense of humour, but also the culture we have here. There are a lot of stories to be told, and game ideas which could only come from a British team – but I think they are being passed over because the publishers think that they won’t sell in the broader marketplace. I’m very hopeful that reduced barriers to market from downloadable content will help the balance shift back towards interesting titles (and not just be an excuse for more shovel-ware)


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Last modified: May 28 2017.