It's fairly well known that, as a whole, the game industry is prety immature on several levels. Jason Della Rocca discusses how immature production practices and poor quality of life are bankrupting the game industry.
Good article. I like when they're constructive rantings. :)
I've read a couple of postmorterms and people reporting cases where they did manage to avoid burdening and staff-killing crunches, but sadly, can't remember which studios were concerned, and globally, these were rare.
Sure, there are always events and unsuspected turns that even super management precognition skills could not prevent, but I do think that a lot of preplanning, prework and already sniffing most possible and obvious problems helps a lot.
I've experienced a couple of grave effects that certain bad decisions could generate regarding the construction of a game. Some of the most atrocious ones concerned changes of the gameplay's core, which for example, ended with the whole branch of the studio I worked in, having to return into formerly completed and marketable data, and redo between 30% and 60% of what we had finished.
A grave mistake that could have been easily avoided by, for example, segmenting a bit more the work and focusing on those core elements and getting them right before moving on.
Well, some of these studios collapsed anyway.
Additionally, the game industry is so in the dark when it comes to project management, many really can't imagine that another way exists. ("You mean we don't have to crunch from day one?") Indeed, some developers have flatly stated that they had no idea such process improvement tools and techniques - which have been used for years elsewhere in software development - even existed.
Is it possible to get tips about two things in particular?
1. Advice on easy to use software tools, for example to enhance information exchange between the branches of a studio through a server (planning, check who's done what, like if the graphists have done this, then we can start having a coder do that, etc.), or to efficiently track bugtesting? Or any software you think could be appropriate when applied to sectors of development people don't think would have needed such tools, like say, correlative teamwork between game design and music?
2. If we're looking for an experienced manager who's been working outside of the video game industry, what other industries would be most appropriate to pick from, to make a transfer to ours?
You speak of software dev. It's still quite close to game dev I'd say, compared to some other industries. Isn't there any other more "distant" domain that would also fit, even if it has near to nothing to do with computers? I believe that sometimes, every different horizons can actually enhanced the pool of opportunities and perspectives, to think out of the box.
A related problem is the fact that the game industry has had much success under the current regime, and no one is willing to gamble their career on killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Well, some are, but they are in the minority...
On a more practical level, a major challenge to widespread adoption of such improvements is that much of the production research and knowledge about their benefits is not directly from the game industry. For one, this means developers are too ready to dismiss the research as irrelevant (certainly, some of it is). But, more pragmatically, they don't have the time or ability to "translate" and apply lessons from other types of projects to games. Moreover, the game industry has an ongoing and rather serious case of xenophobia, manifested in an unwillingness to adopt or in many cases even examine ideas from the "outside." This behavior is less likely the result of arrogance, than from hacker ethic roots and of caution bred by constant battery from outside forces.
I could see several factors explaining that imho.
- Arts and economics don't mix well. Making games is cool. Nerds make games. Nerds don't do human ressources management or calculations about revenue percentages, coz this is just so uncool.
- Do NOT think of money when you make games, you filthy creature.
- We are gamers, and we do games, so we don't want to be bothered by people who don't know what video games are. Especially considering the amount of smack video games get in media. So leave us alone.
- Garage games... that's stuff of legend, son. It's been leading men for more than two decades. Oh yeah. I tell you, I'm going to be my very own self made man, and I have a good idea of how getting that done - even if I have very little experience in that domain, actually.
- I don't care about my staff or such things as "internal relations". I'm not there to nurture them and grow a family.
- All's fine, I do my game at the pace I deem necessary. All the planning's in my head, no need to rush, we'll correct any problem that pokes its ugly head when... it will poke its ugly head. Thinking of problems ahead of their hypothetical appearance is just a waste of time.
- Let's recruit on a model of short-term job oportunities, yay! We pretend we form people, to give them some *rewarding experience*, but we ditch them a couple of months later on, once the game's nearly complete. Target of choice: school undergraduates/graduates. We don't pay them much, or nothing at all. Hey, don't complain. You work in the video game industry! AMAZING!!