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T O P I C
The Studio System
May 25th 2004, 22:07 CEST by Dumdeedum

A couple of weeks ago one of the founders of Bungie announced he was setting up his own game development company, Wideload Games.  This isn't very interesting, that sort of thing happens all the time, what's more interesting is the slimline staff plan and where he describes modern game development as "kind of broken... it's kind of antiquated - it's how they were making films in the '30s".

Now a quick history lesson for those not in the know.  The 1930's were the heyday of the Hollywood studio system.  Basically it meant the majority of films were being made by a small number of large studios who were essentially operating as assembly-line movie factories.  Everything was done in-house, actors would sign up for four or five films at a time with little say in what those films would be and formula was king.  Then television came along reducing ticket sales, various anti-trust rumblings occurred, entropy set in and things sorta fell apart.

Okay, like pretty much every other movie-game analogy it's got some holes in it, but you can see the parallels.  So is the movie method of "start with a sack of cash and hire" the future of game development?  Will everything be on a one-game basis?  Are level designers going to have to hire agents to find them work?  A side effect of the decline of the studio system was the rise of star power, so are we going to see more celebrity game designers?  Or is the industry sufficiently fragmented and working fine and therefore in no need of changing?
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#1 by Bailey
2004-05-25 22:09:22
BUH?!?

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#2 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:11:10
See also

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#3 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:24:26
www.bluh.org
I don't think it's antiquated, I think it's just stuck in an immature form that doesn't allow the industry to take a leap forward in terms of organization and production.  Until game studios start acting like real companies making real products, and not a bunch of frat boys goofing off all day long and calling it work, things will remain broken.  I don't think it is an issue with studio setup, just an issue of lack of proper organization and management in most places, as well as scheduling, and reality checks.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#4 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:27:29
About a week ago, I was talking to a developer who said something along the lines of

"I don't mind working at game developer X for 85 hours a week because I used to work at game developer Y but they were too corporate."

Haha, that guy is a shithead.

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#5 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:31:36
www.bluh.org
I can see both sides of the fence.  But I don't believe things have to be ridiculously corporate in order to work cleanly and smoothly, nor do I feel that corporate environments guarantee such.

But I know for a fact that a lot of game development is plagued by developers goofing off for the first half of the project, as well as bad magement and the rest.  

I believe that if there is a good solid design, with good management keeping things focused, and a team that works while at work (instead of sitting at your desk surfing for 10 hours and saying you are 'working'), things could be a lot better.  Honestly, there are few people who put a solid eight hours of work in to an eight hour day in this industry, and that's half the reason for a lot of problems.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#6 by Caryn
2004-05-25 22:31:39
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
In a way, hasn't the industry already moved a little bit toward the model Dumdeedum speculated about in the topic? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the topic, but in the analogy, I see the game developer as a company being the equivalent of the actor. Publishers (the movie studios) hire game developers (actors, set designers, etc.) to be the talent to execute their game (movie). The developers get paid to do this, and the publishers distribute it and make money on that. Some publishers own the game development houses, but that's not always the case.

And how does this system compare to the way games are made overseas? Does the studio system analogy apply there, too?

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#7 by Shadarr
2004-05-25 22:31:52
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
No, level designers won't need agents because they're the equivilent of costume and set designers.  The people who will need agents are the voice/motion capture talent, like Jean Reno for Onimusah 3.  Coincidentally these are the exact same people who have agents right now for making movies.
#8 by Creole Ned
2004-05-25 22:34:43
Charles, how do "real companies" deal with things like milestones, publishers (or the equivalent) and ever-shifting technology? How many companies re-invent the wheel every time they create a new product? I'm not being snarky, just trying to figure out how and if the "late game" syndrome and excessive crunch mode can ever be eliminated.

"I don't bemoan the great paste" - LPMiller
#9 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:38:26
www.bluh.org
Ned, with movement towards more and more use of licensed engine technology, prepackaged technology (XNA), and reused technology (sequels, etc), it becomes easier to predict how long a project will take.  Of course, the problem is Not Invented Here syndrome, which in some cases is valid, but in most cases ends badly.  Most companies feel that reinventing the wheel is a better idea, when it really rarely works out anymore.  

On the flipside, engines currently available tend towards being inflexible, which causes as many problems as they solve.  For instance, making a non-FPS with quake or unreal is an excersize in pain.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#10 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:41:41
In id and Epic's defense, up until fairly recently, there were good technical reasons (related to visibility algorithms, etc) for engines to be fairly focused on specific usages.  These reasons are fading away as graphics cards and CPUs get ever more powerful.  Hopefully the engines evolve to match.

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#11 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:42:24
YF gets +5 bonus points for using the word evolve

Good show!

#12 by TheTrunkDr.
2004-05-25 22:45:11
Game development is a mess when compared to other industries. No standard contracts, job descriptions, methodologies, QA, etc. The industry could really use some sort of standardization body to regulate a few of these issues, I think it would do a great service to the industry and all the people working in it.

I kid cause I care.
#13 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:46:43
I agree with Trunk.  I've personally seen too many creative people and their lives disrupted and fucked over by greedy assholes who have positions of power and use their power for evil.

#14 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:47:39
www.bluh.org
re:  #10 by YF

This is true, and I also know that Epic is working on making Unreal Engine 3.0 a little more friendly for multiple purposes.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#15 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:49:36
Wasn't ther previous version of Unreal supposedly "more friendly" for multiple purposes?

Not saying that it wasn't, but there's always that carrot at the end of the stick.

#16 by Ergo
2004-05-25 22:49:39
#12 TheTrunkDr.
Game development is a mess when compared to other industries. No standard contracts, job descriptions, methodologies, QA, etc. The industry could really use some sort of standardization body to regulate a few of these issues, I think it would do a great service to the industry and all the people working in it.

UNION! UNION!

Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!
DVDs
#17 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:50:48
We're too smart to unionize.

BTW: I'm dominating the Crap today.  I'm all over the place.  I'm so fast, you can't see me.


Word Life!

#18 by TheTrunkDr.
2004-05-25 22:51:37
UNION! UNION!

Not exactly what I meant, but I wouldn't be opposed to it.

I kid cause I care.
#19 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:52:23
Okay Trunk, each month send me $69 bucks and anytime you have an issue with your employer, have them call me and I'll send you a free picket sign.  Done deal.

#20 by Caryn
2004-05-25 22:52:59
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
My previous questions were answered by YF's BookofHook.com link. That's some interesting reading there.

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#21 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:58:10
I agree, it is pretty interesting.  Brian Hook is a pretty smart guy, and from what I understand isn't nearly as much of an asshole as he used to be.

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#22 by Ergo
2004-05-25 23:06:08
#19 Sgt Hulka
Okay Trunk, each month send me $69 bucks and anytime you have an issue with your employer, have them call me and I'll send you a free picket sign.  Done deal.

Yes, because virtually all unions are like this!

Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!
DVDs
#23 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 23:14:20
Watch it buddy or I'll do my Sally Field impression for you!

#24 by Ergo
2004-05-25 23:24:00
#23 Sgt Hulka
Watch it buddy or I'll do my Sally Field impression for you!

Dammit, I'd almost pay to see that. Almost.

Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!
DVDs
#25 by LPMiller
2004-05-25 23:26:20
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I agree, it is pretty interesting.  Brian Hook is a pretty smart guy, and from what I understand isn't nearly as much of an asshole as he used to be.


He never really was. Real friendly guy, upfront, knows his shit and calls it like it is.

Patriots don't need grammar or spellings for rid the world and tyranny. - Leslie Nassar, 3/28/2004
#26 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 23:32:54
Naw, he used to be an asshole.

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#27 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:51:37
www.bluh.org
This part of the Hook article is the golden truth:

Ideally all scheduling and budgeting is also done at this time, but as a rule this tends to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions where the final cost and timeline will look nothing like what people expect. It is accepted, and even expected, that a game's development process will be unpredictable, which hurts both parties -- the publisher is comfortable asking for features and changes at almost any time, thinking "it's just software" and assuming that any impact on the schedule will be minimal.  A movie studio would rarely introduce a key new character half way through principal photography, yet the equivalent happens nearly almost all the time in games.  This fluidity also acts as a crutch for the developer: when the game starts to slip, they will often rationalize that this is expected, and thus will give extremely optimistic (or blatantly false) projections to the publisher in an effort to secure the deal, and then will summarily ignore the terms they promised, on the assumption that the publishers are locked in at that point.


(accidently posted in the wrong thread, so I reposted in the right one!  HAR!)

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#28 by Dumdeedum
2004-05-26 00:04:24
http://www.dumdeedum.com
Caryn
In a way, hasn't the industry already moved a little bit toward the model Dumdeedum speculated about in the topic?

I should probably have explained the analogy a little more, basically I was leaving the publisher/developer split out and focusing on development houses.  Take Valve for example, they have assorted programmers, sound engineers, graphic artists, level designers, network security specialists and so on.  These are employees, so once they've finished Half-Life 2 they're still going to have a job doing whatever Valve decides to do next.  In the world of movies all these people would be hired on a per-film basis, admittedly it's often via third parties, ie. you'd hire ILM to do FX rather than hiring individual graphics people, but it's still a one-off thing.

But yes, I think there is a fair amount of fragmentation going on, especially as we're seeing a wider separation between games and game tools (various engines, Bink, Havoc, etc).

#29 by Charles
2004-05-26 00:08:00
www.bluh.org
I would absolutely love to see companies spring up who have teams that are dedicated to one thing.  Hire an art team to do your art.  Hire a programming team to do your programming, etc.

Raises some interesting possibilities, not the least of which is the ability to hire on a well oiled team who already knows how to work together, and can provide proof as to how good they are, so you know what you are getting.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#30 by McBain
2004-05-26 04:19:37
If I ever meet Brian Hook I'd thank him.  Way back in like 1996 or 97, he recommended the movie reviews of Paul Tatara in his .plan file.  I started reading Tatara's reviews and loved them, he influenced my own writing of movie reviews as well.  Over the years, I started to build a friendship via email with Paul until he left CNN.com.  So in a weird way, Brian Hook introduced me to someone who I really value as friend and mentor.

Fighting the war on weapons of mass destruction-related program activity.
#31 by Gabe
2004-05-26 04:35:11
http://www.dartpublishing.com
My favorite memory of Brian Hook was watching a video of some presentation he was giving during his id Software days. Carmack had fixed a shadowing issue they were having and Brian's commentary while presenting the engine was something like "Oh, it looks like he fixed it. I'm not sure what he did. Story of my life." I laughed and laughed.
#32 by yotsuya
2004-05-26 06:31:49
My favorite memory of Brian Hook is..... well, I guess I don't have one.

That's a beautiful way to go. Shot by Yot. In more ways than one. -mgns
I wear my sunglasses at night.
The NEW Official PCMLB League Page
#33 by Bailey
2004-05-26 06:42:26
Who's Brian Hook?

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#34 by Bailey
2004-05-26 06:42:36
Coming to theatres this summer.

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#35 by yotsuya
2004-05-26 06:48:53
Isn't he the bassist for New Order?

That's a beautiful way to go. Shot by Yot. In more ways than one. -mgns
I wear my sunglasses at night.
The NEW Official PCMLB League Page
#36 by Bailey
2004-05-26 07:11:43
Those fags from Joy Division?

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#37 by yotsuya
2004-05-26 07:19:35
Fuck you, Uncle Fester. I love New Order/Joy Division.

That's a beautiful way to go. Shot by Yot. In more ways than one. -mgns
I wear my sunglasses at night.
The NEW Official PCMLB League Page
#38 by Bailey
2004-05-26 07:39:59
I bet you like The Cure, too.

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#39 by LPMiller
2004-05-26 09:28:21
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
Not even people who like the Cure really, really like the Cure.

Patriots don't need grammar or spellings for rid the world and tyranny. - Leslie Nassar, 3/28/2004
#40 by yotsuya
2004-05-26 09:33:34
I do like The Cure, but like LP said, I don't really, really like The Cure.

That's a beautiful way to go. Shot by Yot. In more ways than one. -mgns
I wear my sunglasses at night.
The NEW Official PCMLB League Page
#41 by Eyegore
2004-05-26 15:01:36
http://home.cfl.rr.com/eyegore/gallery.htm
And there goes the topic down the toilet
#42 by Bailey
2004-05-26 17:13:56
There was a topic?

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#43 by UncleJeet
2004-05-26 17:43:19
There was a toilet?

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#44 by Dumdeedum
2004-05-26 22:06:12
http://www.dumdeedum.com
Flushable?

#45 by E-ph0nk
2004-05-27 09:08:18
http://www.electrophonk.be
Dumdeedum

"Get A Move On" is indeed a good track, but try to track down the original, "Bird's Lament" by moondog.
Damn I love Jazz.

#46 by Dumdeedum
2004-05-27 20:08:26
http://www.dumdeedum.com
Thanks, I've added it to my download list.  I do find Get A Move On to be a little repetitive, but I suppose it's supposed to be a mood piece.  Still good though.

#47 by E-ph0nk
2004-05-27 20:26:28
http://www.electrophonk.be
The track is just based around two loops of the original... It's a nice jazz tune from '68...

#48 by E-ph0nk
2004-05-27 22:19:02
http://www.electrophonk.be
This thread seems quite dead, so maybe a good place to put a link to my new set.

It contains tracks by Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Christian Vogel, Matthew Herbert and many more...

#49 by CheesyPoof
2004-05-27 22:31:53
...many more people that I haven't heard of?
#50 by MCorleone
2004-05-27 22:33:43
needs more James Iha.

As your attorney I advise you to take a hit out of the little brown bottle in my shaving kit.  You won't need much, just a tiny taste.
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