Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Crunching In Gameland

It is 9:00pm on a tuesday night and myself and some 30+ members of my team are crunching. For some tonight is one of the first nights they've had to work overtime on the project so far. For others it is just one more in a long chain of late nights.

Next week I'll take a small team with me to France to meet the executive management of Ubisoft and show them what we've spent the last 22 months working on. The meeting is called an 'FPP' (or First Playable Prototype) and is meant to showcase a 'vertical slice' of the final game. Final graphics, sound, gameplay, etc. It is the single most important intermediary milestone in a project's production (second only to the Gold Master) and has consumed my team for months.

I know I'm supposed to look at the fact that we're still here so late as a failure of planning or of improper management. There is an increasing number of developers who will say that making a AAA game doesn't require overtime crunch but rather an intelligent management of internal and external expectations coupled with smart (agile) project management at every level. I don't debate the truth of this, and yet when I look out at my team, joking together while they sprint towards the 'final' finish line of this important milestone, I can't help but feel pride. Pride in them and pride in what we're working towards.

I honestly feel like the demo we'll take to France next week will make us all proud, rekindle some waining passions within the team and serve to maintain the respect that my team and my studio have worked so hard to earn within the company and the industry as a whole.

Is that wrong?

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Blogger Patrick said...

It sounds like you're trying to convince yourself so you can continue to serve as a beacon for your team.

I think the real question you should ask yourself is: "is our game worth making?"

If the answer is maybe, throw back some scotch with your lead designer while playing the 1st playable and subconsciously invent a rationalization that this game is the best ever. Then everything will fall into place. Often our beliefs compose themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies.

I totally know where you're coming from, you get a sense of family working with a team for a while, and its great.

10:42 PM  
Blogger The Zombie said...

Congratulations, Ben. Exciting times for you and your team. Looking forward to the next update. Good luck the rest of the way.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Steve Chiavelli said...

22 months working up to your first playable??? Dear god man, if that isn't the very definition of AAA, I don't know what is.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Dmitry Linkov said...

It's all fine!

Good luck to you! Couldn't wait to see the result!

4:31 AM  
Blogger Ben Mattes said...


Yes, 22 months! Yes AAA (here's hoping we earn the acronym).

One thing to note, though, is that our first playable was actually much earlier this year (around May). This FPP is a full vertical slice of the game, with all assets at a production level quality (at least, that was the goal).

Hope things are well with you!


8:05 PM  
Anonymous Darien Ford said...

Sorry I'm a little late to the game on this (no pun intended).

As much as I would like this not to be the case, I doubt crunch time will ever leave the industry.
I think it will be as pervasive as ever; unless something drastic changes, like the different unions in the entertainment industry, people will continue to be taken advantage of.

I guess the real question is, if the person putting in all the time considers it worth it, does that constitute being taken advantage of? I'm sure we can all agree, games are akin to art, and for many who believe in the art they are creating, every second is worth it.

So how did the FPP go?

2:24 PM  

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