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GameGuy: The “Where’s
my Game?” Edition
I love to game. I love everything about
it. I love browsing through the games on the shelves, dashing home with my
new obsession, ripping the shrink wrap off (and not even taking time to throw
it away), popping in the CD, and playing. I love everything about it, but I
don't like to wait.
I bet you don't either.
Yet sometimes it seems that us gaming
types spend more time waiting for a piece of software that's missed its
release date than we do playing. How come? The answer isn't easy, it would be
nice to blame the mythical "suits" -a title development teams throw
on anyone that baths regularly and owns a tie without a little clip in the
back- but the blame is not wholly theirs. Neither -as some pundits would have
you believe- is it your fault for demanding too much bang for your bucks.
Imagine this: Joe Gamer says, "I
want a good game!" The publishing company says, "You want a GOOD
game? Well, in that case, we'll have to delay the release six months, but
remember this is your fault. After all, you're the one who asked for a GOOD
Face it, making a computer game is a
twenty-four month endeavor -sometimes more, but rarely less. That fact is
often overlooked, ignored, or impossibly hedged on by every element in the
process. The result is delays, hurt feelings and dissatisfied customers.
Frequently the problems start before (way
before) the first line of code hits a computer screen.
Day one, executive board room, John Doe
Executive One: "We have a hole in
the release schedule sixteen months from now."
Executive Two: "Well, action games
are big, let's plug in a first person shooter."
Executive One: "Done."
I'm not kidding. Certainly not all games
are birthed this way, but many are. Executives, most of which have never
pounded a line of code nor twisted a joystick in their lives, set a date
based on the company's fiscal needs. No development team, no design document,
no story-boards, just a date. A date you know will be missed.
But as I said before, the suits are often
just a convenient alibi. A game's development is fraught with time-suckers.
Perhaps the most deadly of these insidious parasites is Scope Creep. A
sponger that normally resides in the hearts of the development team, it has
also been known to infest marketeers. Although most game parameters are set
in the aboriginal design document -a hundred page missive that includes
everything from the odds of connecting with a rocket launcher to the names of
each character, weapon, and location- the designer and programmers may decide
to add fresh technology or unit capabilities in mid-stream. Hence the scope
of the game increases, and the time it takes to complete tags right along.
Often these changes are for the better -
for instance well-conceived and artfully implemented technological or
creative enhancements. Unfortunately, the creep all too frequently has little
to do with the quality of the game, and more to do with the bullets on the
back of the box. If real-time strategy game "A" has 30 levels, then
real-time strategy game "B" must have 30 levels. It doesn't matter
if "B" told an enthralling story in its 25 levels. The marketeers
want five more levels -no matter how repetitive they may be.
There is, however, one other cause for
delay that cynical gaming journalists often overlook. Perchance the software
is delayed because the development team, marketeers, publishers, art
directors, and folks that clean the building at night, want to make sure the
game is a good as it can be. Sometimes delays are merely an indication of a
team that will release no gaming wine before its time.
I'll wait for that.
I bet you will too.
© Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001
H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written
over 40 books including his recently released Medal of Honor and Wizardry 8
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