Amy Hennig on AAA development

This puts the demands of gamers for numerous modes and lengthy playtime into a whole new light. I’m in agreement with Henning that a six hour game with no additional modes is just fine, but it seems that the industry is unwilling to accept these shorter games, even if the price is a bit lower. It doesn’t help that game reviewers often hold a short length against a game.

I read another article recently about how Ken Levine (BioShock creator) decided to quit AAA development after making Infinite because it taking too much of toll on his health.

After reading articles such as this, I’m glad I didn’t choose a career in the games industry.

That’s an interesting read. It’s a shame the situation isn’t improving, at least on the AAA side of gaming development. I’m not sure however, that the industry is unwilling to accept cheaper or shorter games. Or games with less modes. If anything, AAA games have lost considerable ground over the years to cheaper and shorter games, and are dwindling in number as fewer companies can afford to make them.

I think more people like Hennig need to step forward and reveal what’s going on in other companies as well. Otherwise, things won’t change.

I can’t think of many games that fit into the category in between indie and AAA. Maybe I just aren’t playing the right games?

I remember a while ago reading about the development of L.A Noire regarding the working environment in the studio. This coupled with what was considered (due to former staff complaints) a questionable managerial style and crunch time pressure resulted in many people leaving video game development in it’s entirety.

Unfortunately stories such as this and the one originality posted are now becoming all too common.

While advances in technology have made video games more realistic and “immersive” (I really dislike that term) than ever it has also exponentially created more work and effort from the people involved to utilise said technology and create the hi-definition worlds people take for granted today.

People who have found passion in video game development and work for the “big” studios now find themselves trapped between shareholders and publishers looking for as much possible return on the obsecene amounts of money poured into projects and a gaming public who are always eager to point out the tiniest percieved flaw.

To quote Drowning Pool - “Something’s gotta give”

It seems that the issue has been going on for a while, but it is getting worse in recent years. I remember reading about the stress-related suicide of a Team Andromeda member during Panzer Dragoon Saga’s production. You have to ask whether it is worth virtually, and sometimes literally, destroying people’s lives just to create entertainment.

I’ve wondered about this for a while, I think you can find some parallel in other creative fields, like popular musicians and to a lesser extent other screen stars who’s lives become badly or barely managed stress and drama festivals.

But the videogame industry seems somewhat unique, in how willing and even eager the grunt workers are to slave away, to a degree at stark odds with the relative compensation in the given social context. Then again you could probably find more parallel in the burgeoning days of cinema and the recording industry, when the sheer excitement of the scene is just that attractive, and people are tripping over each other to be a part of it.

What is distinct is that it’s not like everyone in Hollywood hoping to be a movie star, or starting a garage band expecting to become a rock star and get all the chicks. Videogames are almost anti-narcissistic by contrast, for at least a couple decades there was never anything ‘cool’ about being a gamer, much less with the laydees…

The pure escapism of gaming, there is a selfless component, it’s about sharing an idea and a creation I think. Videogames are the new virtual monuments, of an abstract religion indeed - or like an abstraction of an abstraction. It is the heartless and soulless capitalism side of the equation, implacably exploiting something which is mostly all heart and soul; that is the tension reaching a breaking point now I think. I have little sympathy to give for any face of the industry as a collective though, even the creatives. As individuals yes I feel for their plight, but as individuals each has also chosen to give in to the seduction of this beast, diving willingly into its gullet. Naughty Dog is a freaking poster boy dev for the mainstreamification trajectory as well, exemplifying style over substance since the start imo - which is not to say their games have no substance per se, but if you are going to give them (deserved) credit for always pushing technological and production boundaries, then this seems rather an instance of being hoist by their own petard to me. ND forged it’s own climate of expectation if any dev has.

I think the process of creating an escapist reality can be seen as an act of self interest, at least to some extent. To give rise to a new world can be reward in of itself. Tolkien dedicated a lifetime to constructing his legendarium, in large part due to his love of languages and a personal desire to construct a mythology. But unlike the games industry, his creation didn’t require 80 hour weeks; he was above to chip away to it over a number of years.

Perhaps the games industry needs to move closer to more traditional forms of art where there is more of an option for the artist to go at their own pace. This may become more possible as tools continue to make it easier to develop a full game with less manpower. If games reach a point where being technically superior and conceptually broader are less important that other aspects - story, gameplay, art, etc - there might just be a chance.