ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2016 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mailvox: We didn't destroy your dream

Remper, if your dream is destroyed, the only individual responsible will be the only one with the power to do so, Chris Roberts:
1) Don't give a damn about Star Citizen for about 2 years
2) Poorly-written article in the Escapist appears
3) Don't research anything or catch up on what is happening in Star Citizen right now
4) Write a post full of concerns about Star Citizen future
5) ???
6) PROFIT

Guys, Star Citizen has the most open development process ever done for a AAA-game. Everything they did so far is perfectly reasonable and what they promise is doable. No one had a single concern about game's eventual completion before Derek Smart's posts and the Escapist article. Not because we (backers) are stupid zealots, but because every week we are given a detailed explanation on how things are going.

Keep in mind: most of the Star Citizen backers doesn't give a shit when the game will be released. This is the project that has to be done right. For now, we trust Chris Roberts with taking as much time as he needs to create the game we asked for. And for the last 2 years he hasn't done anything to cast any doubt on his decisions.

What I'm really afraid of is that baseless allegations in the game press will scare potential partnerships with other companies and the constant intake from the new backers, which will make Chris to downsize the project – that would be really a shame. So until you have actual facts about Star Citizen development going south, I would kindly ask you not to generate any additional shitstorm. Don't try to destroy our dream.
A few things. First, Star Citizen is shaping up to be the one of the most epic events in game development history one way or another. To expect professional game developers to ignore their decades of experience as well as their personal knowledge of the various parties involved and keep their mouths shut until events play out is simply not reasonable. We have observations, we have opinions, and we have platforms. Deal with it.

Second, everything they have done so far is not perfectly reasonable. Everything they are promising is not doable. Saying that "it's done when it's done" sounds great and all, but there is this little problem called "burn rate" that means Chris cannot take as much time as he needs. That's precisely why Derek Smart believes Chris is going to run out of both time and money long before the dream is realized.

Third, the allegations are far from baseless. There is a considerable amount of information that has not yet been made available to the public to which many of us in the industry are privy. It's not a massive industry and everyone is, at the very least, a friend of a friend of a friend. Unfortunately, none of it tends to indicate the Star Citizen project is in any better than the coverage by The Escapist tends to indicate.

It is important to understand that NO ONE wants to see Chris fail. That would be a bad thing for everyone, including Derek Smart. Hell, if Chris wanted my help, I would donate it pro bono. But I very much doubt that insufficient or inept design is the problem, but rather, altogether too much of it and not enough production focus.

Labels: ,

65 Comments:

Blogger maniacprovost October 14, 2015 12:18 PM  

Usually, when you're designing physical objects. all the initial stages of marketing, specifications, conceptual design are severely shortchanged. All the money and manpower is thrown at making the bad solution work for the wrong problem. Better design early on saves more effort and possibly reduces the total duration of the project. For project management in general, you could call all those activities the Planning stage. For software and systems integration projects that is the system architecture. There may be a whole sub design process for individual components later.

Software is fascinating, though, because to a large extent the design is the product. Hence the high gross margins.

So, is software more prone to go off the rails in the Big Idea conceptual stage compared to other products, due to blurred boundaries?

OpenID eidolon1109 October 14, 2015 12:36 PM  

I know from my micro view as a programmer, it's very difficult to build something whose scope changes (and "changes" always means "gets bigger"). Many solutions which are appropriate for a certain scale become inappropriate when the scope increases.

For example, their hangar thing. Okay, we have this hangar. It's pretty simple, so let's knock out a basic hangar with basic functionality; it can even be a separate module that just does the hangar. Not only do I not want to spend a lot of time on this -- I shouldn't spend a lot of time on this. It would be a waste of project resources to do so.

But what's this? Now you want other people to be able to walk around in a person's hangar? That requires network connection, you'll want to share the connection from other areas of the UI, we need decent character models possible with better animation so the other players look decent, etc. Now I have to redo the whole hangar section because I didn't expect it to need to handle all this increased scope.

So that sort of thing just cascades all over a project like this -- you build a thing, then you build another thing, then you realize now you want this area to be more complex so you have to rebuild the things you already built, but they're linked to other things which also have to be rebuilt, etc. In the end it often would've been better to simply start over, but no one wants to throw away their work.

Software works a lot like other things, like building a car, say -- you have components, which you build to spec, then assemble into a whole. But unlike mechanical projects where the parts are laid out and completely designed ahead of time, people often change their minds about what they want software to do as it's being written, which is about as convenient and efficient as changing the number of cylinders in the engine or the overall width of the car while they're working on machining the parts and assembling it.

OpenID aegis-1080 October 14, 2015 12:39 PM  

Did nobody bothered to explain to Roberts that even if he's right, posting all that butthurt actually hurts his case? It seems kind of obvious.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer October 14, 2015 12:41 PM  

But unlike mechanical projects where the parts are laid out and completely designed ahead of time, people often change their minds about what they want software to do as it's being written, which is about as convenient and efficient as changing the number of cylinders in the engine or the overall width of the car while they're working on machining the parts and assembling it.

Scope creep.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 12:43 PM  

Wing Commander III was an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

Star Citizen sounds like a phantom menace.

OpenID eidolon1109 October 14, 2015 12:43 PM  

Also note: Star Citizen is too big for a few developers to save it by making a huge, heroic effort. This happens on software projects which are having problems sometimes -- a few people really want to see the project succeed and go on a crusade to ensure that it works out. This actually causes problems for future projects sometimes because management rarely understands that this isn't a phenomenon that can be relied on and that it isn't attributable to good management. It also tends to lead to burned out developers and possible losses of good people to other companies.

At any rate the project is far too large for several good developers to band together and work 80-100 hour weeks for months to save it, which means that it absolutely must have good management in order to succeed. It's not in any individual or small group's power to save it in spite of itself.

That's why there's so much speculation, I think; people want to see it work out, but it absolutely cannot do so without a solid plan and the ability to manage scope creep.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 12:48 PM  

But software will creep by design. You aren't making a car. You are accomplishing something that can be planned but not predicted.

Simple things, like being told to implement factors that take advantage of other tech under development is one reason. Finding out that the compiler can do X for a test set of actions, but not true MMO actions is another.

Think of it as designing cars without knowing for sure if the tires will be made of rubber or not until you put them on.

Blogger ZhukovG October 14, 2015 12:54 PM  

Star Citizen sounds like the 'Prosperity Gospel' of gaming.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 12:55 PM  

Think about wing commander. It was Asteroids with cutscenes.

It was awesome.

It should not take 90 million to launch asteroids with cutscenes redux.

OpenID genericviews October 14, 2015 12:56 PM  

"...and the constant intake from the new backers..."

Why does this sound like a Ponzi scheme? Old backers want to get their payoff before the new backers figure it out.

OpenID Steve October 14, 2015 1:00 PM  

Keep in mind: most of the Star Citizen backers doesn't give a shit when the game will be released

I imagine most care if it is done by the time they die of old age or when the gold equivalent value of a $2,500 ship made of pixels today will actually cover the cost of going into space.

Don't try to destroy our dream. His dream is to have the surgery to become a trans-ship, just like the unsinkable Molly Brown

Hell, if Chris wanted my help, I would donate it pro bono.

BigGaySteve's Services is willing to give a bulk discount on bitch slapping services.

Blogger Josh October 14, 2015 1:04 PM  

Keep in mind: most of the Star Citizen backers doesn't give a shit when the game will be released. This is the project that has to be done right. For now, we trust Chris Roberts with taking as much time as he needs to create the game we asked for. And for the last 2 years he hasn't done anything to cast any doubt on his decisions.

Stockholm Syndrome?

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery October 14, 2015 1:11 PM  

I've been infused with a sort of morbid curiosity about Star Citizen since Derek Smart started banging on about it.

Having never played a Chris Roberts or Derek Smart game in my life (I'm more of an Elite fan) I don't have a dog in this fight. But it seems to me that Mr Smart is substantially correct.

What I find really striking about the whole SC phenomenon is:

* How aggressively they've monetised their fans. People are spending hundreds, thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands on a game that doesn't exist yet. SC isn't currently selling a game, it's selling dreams. In 30 years of gaming I've never seen the like.

* SC's response to Smart and The Escapist has been worrying. Chris Roberts' multi-thousand-word rant just made it look like he was losing it. Also, I watched Sandi Gardiner's opening speech to the Star Citizen convention last weekend. It was an appalling display of EMOTION, more suited to a funeral oration or a faith healer meeting than a computer game gathering.

I'm not questioning her sincerity, because it doesn't matter if she was genuinely on the verge of tears or not. What matters is SC delivering a game to justify their $90m dollars of funding. Whoever thought it was a good idea to kick off the most important public event in the project's history with a barely-not-crying woman ought to be garrotted.

* The fanbase has turned into a cult. Not the bad kind of cult, where they cut off their own balls and drink barbituates. But not the good kind of cult, like the Blue Oyster Cult, either. SC's partisans are somewhere between deluded sports fans who keep chanting "BELIEVE!" as their team slips down the league table, and guys who keep putting money into their multi-level marketing franchise because they just know they're going to strike it rich, any day now. You'll see.

* Looks to me as if the worst thing that ever happened to Star Citizen was getting a lot more Kickstarter money than they asked for. If they hadn't been showered with riches, the project wouldn't have become so bloated and delayed. Chris Roberts is a smart and creative man, but creative people usually need limits and deadlines imposed on them to get them to produce.

Blogger Danby October 14, 2015 1:34 PM  

"....the Star Citizen convention last weekend. "
WTFFF?? A convention for a game that doesn't exist? That's weapons-grade delusional there.

Things these people need to know.
1) most large software projects fail to deliver what was promised.
2) most software project failures are due to scope creep
3) scope creep is due to being unable to say a loud and very firm "no" to feature requests
4) successful large software projects start as small software projects that are built to scale up.

This is not new territory. Brooks was writing about this in the 1970s.

Blogger LP999/S.I.G. Burnin' Up! October 14, 2015 1:35 PM  

I encourage Chris, carry on, maybe scale back the costs and review what costs can be reduced, altered.

Here is to the success of Star Citizen.

Love Escapist, their reviews on a few console games are just epic, also there is a video there covering one's sense of agency. At least, I hope I'm correct on that.

Either way, I want gaming and the designers to succeed just as I hope the same for CH. Same formats, different designs - those designs will make it and that is my hope.

Blogger Brad Andrews October 14, 2015 1:47 PM  

I know agile principles are not high on the list here, but it sounds like they would have significantly benefited by following some of them.

Get something working and build on it rather than try to build the entire theme park at once. Have a basic plan, but develop one ride at a time or even part of a ride.

Blogger Anthony October 14, 2015 1:49 PM  

(delurk)

I admit my own biases: I back Star Citizen and played the hell out of Wing Commander I - IV. Wing Commander II was really super engrossing.

Stepping out of the fray, I play Star Citizen now. I don't play it every day because it's in the alpha stage missing most of the content, but I play it once a week:

The ships are amazing even in their alpha, non-optimized semi-broken flight model state. They behave like ships in space. Nothing like doing a burn to escape a missile and then realizing that no amount of acceleration/deceleration and maneuvering will prevent you from going squish on the rapidly approaching asteroid in front of you.

I also race. The race tracks are good (not great), but they are a test of skill because even if you don't have a racer you can load up a non-racing ship and try to keep good times.

Then I simply walk around the environments. Even in their non-optimized state they are interesting to look at and have a distinctive, sci-fi vibe. I'll load up different hangar types and look each. I'll wander around the first ArcCorp and admire the vistas and what's in front of my virtual nose.

Then there is the glorious web-front end to the new star map. Holy crap. I've spend several hours in the star map already, looking at systems, jump points, system data and trying to make sense of the 3D territorial lines. You can't do anything int he star map except explore and read. The star map will find its way into the game, and then it's just going t be wow.

I am cringing at the length of this comment, but I wanted to provide context: Cloud Imperium Games is the king, the absolute master, in creating pre-selection bias. Here's what they do:

1) They talk about major feature development at least three times a week.
2) Then they start showing what it's going to look like
3) They start talking about when this feature is going to come online
4) They release the major feature to the wild (usually late)

It's like a drug, man, a DRUG, because what they release, even if it is late, works and looks pretty. Actually, it looks awesome compared to the usual drek of console ports to the PC.

Once this feature is out int he wild, they then ask for feedback. If they boofed it (like the first flight model), they circle back and try again.

This is the "enthusiasm train" model the CIG has been using for several years now and it works. The risk in this model is if they deliver crap, it all comes crashing down. It's pretty obvious that CIG knows not to deliver crap and to make each major release build upon the next.

Star Citizen is so successful in their engagement with fans that the cynical part of me wonders if the Smart brouhaha is a collusion. The more crazy-ass he gets (and his twitter feed during the last CitizenCon was pretty crazy), the more money and backers CIG obtains. Like a 1-to-1 ratio of Crazy-Bursts to Million raised.

But I've rambled enough. If you're a sci-fi fan, a PC game fan, or a project manager/producer, it would be a good idea to back Star Citizen just to watch it all unfold. And the game is pretty fun, too, even at this stage.

Blogger maniacprovost October 14, 2015 2:02 PM  

unlike mechanical projects where the parts are laid out and completely designed ahead of time, people often change their minds about what they want software to do as it's being written

Detailed design can and does add complexity halfway through a mechanical product... and people can and do change their minds about what a piece of equipment is supposed to do. When you realize, "Hey, if we add one little piece it could also..." Saying the design of a car is all laid out ahead of time is like saying that Skyrim was all completed ahead of time, before they made the Blu-Ray disks.

But software will creep by design. .... Finding out that the compiler can do X for a test set of actions, but not true MMO actions is another.

There's a difference between technical challenges that crop up and cost extra money, versus scope creep.

Blogger VD October 14, 2015 2:02 PM  

This is the "enthusiasm train" model the CIG has been using for several years now and it works. The risk in this model is if they deliver crap, it all comes crashing down. It's pretty obvious that CIG knows not to deliver crap and to make each major release build upon the next.

True. The problem is when the burn rate catches up.

Blogger Cail Corishev October 14, 2015 3:34 PM  

People are spending hundreds, thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands on a game that doesn't exist yet.

A question: these people who have kicked in thousands of dollars, are they buying stock in a company or something? Gambling, I can understand, even a bad bet. But I've never heard what they expect to get out of it, except a game that would have been produced anyway without their personal contribution.

Blogger Cail Corishev October 14, 2015 3:38 PM  

If you're a sci-fi fan, a PC game fan, or a project manager/producer, it would be a good idea to back Star Citizen just to watch it all unfold.

See, right there, that's what I don't get. I can "watch it all unfold" for free. Why do I need to back it? My cash sure isn't gonna make or break a $90M project, so what's the advantage to me of pitching in, except the feels of being part of the drama in some meaningless way? Do I at least get a T-shirt?

Blogger Rye Bread October 14, 2015 3:45 PM  

Speaking of burn rate, I read somewhere that CIG still has rough 250 employees left and 9 mil in cash. My calculations assuming a burden rate of $125 an hour (which may or may not be in the ballpark) says CIG is burning 5 mil per month.

I am predicting a massive layoff in November, and a long an indeterminate death of the project sometime 2nd or 3rd qtr in 2016.

Blogger Phelps October 14, 2015 4:23 PM  

Three words: Duke. Nukem. Forever.

Blogger Red Jack October 14, 2015 4:38 PM  

@18 I agree. People saying "Non software development is all laid out ahead of time, and simple to manage!" Have never done it.

Now, I am NOT a programmer. I AM a guy who builds and remods processing plants. What is going on in the programming industry sounds a lot like what happened in the chemical processing industry 30 or so years ago.

The end game was someone came a long, actually started using project management skills, and blew up the guys who said "You can't do that! A distillation plant isn't like a car plant!" Well it isn't, but using PM skills isn't just for cars.

Someone will start implementing project management in games. From what little I have seen, EA does that already

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery October 14, 2015 5:01 PM  

Cail - They're spending thousands of dollars on stuff like this.

Note, these are some of the lower end ships. The Javelin Destroyer recently went on sale at $2500 each... and if you want weapons for them, that costs extra.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 5:05 PM  

PM is NOT the place for game development. You aren't building ANYTHING. You are processing a program to interface with a human in an attempt to entertain. EA is not the model to look at if you are looking to develop games.

Babysit them until they dry up? Maybe. PMs could do that to game software.

They would be counterproductive for someone trying to innovate a new game that's fun to play and moves units. Chemical processing has measurable results outside of units sold.

Asteroids outsold Dragon's Lair. Project manage that.

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery October 14, 2015 5:13 PM  

Danby - A convention for a game that doesn't exist? That's weapons-grade delusional there.

It's not even the first one they've held.

The last game I can think of that had anything approaching this level of pre-release hype was Daikatana.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 14, 2015 5:27 PM  

@2 eidolon1109

We always called that scope creep. That's why the requirements needed to be signed off on before you start working on it.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 14, 2015 5:29 PM  

@6 eidolon1109

Are you sure we haven't worked together at some of the places :P

Blogger Were-Puppy October 14, 2015 5:31 PM  

@7 Daniel
But software will creep by design. You aren't making a car. You are accomplishing something that can be planned but not predicted.

Simple things, like being told to implement factors that take advantage of other tech under development is one reason. Finding out that the compiler can do X for a test set of actions, but not true MMO actions is another.

Think of it as designing cars without knowing for sure if the tires will be made of rubber or not until you put them on.
---

I would hate to work on this project, unless you are purely discussing a proof of concept.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 14, 2015 5:38 PM  

@16 Brad Andrews
I know agile principles are not high on the list here, but it sounds like they would have significantly benefited by following some of them.

Get something working and build on it rather than try to build the entire theme park at once. Have a basic plan, but develop one ride at a time or even part of a ride.\
---

The only times I have been involved in Agile it was a massive bunch of meetings and no actual work getting done.

OpenID Steve October 14, 2015 5:40 PM  

"the Star Citizen convention last weekend. "WTFFF?? A convention for a game that doesn't exist? That's weapons-grade delusional there

BigGaySteve's Services is offering a buy 200 bitchslaps back to reality, get 20 free sale. Satisfaction guarantied, well mine anyway.

@20 question: these people who have kicked in thousands of dollars, are they buying stock in a company or something? Gambling, I can understand, even a bad bet

They are basically buying in game advantages for a game they have to wait to play. Instead of earning a destroyer in game you can spend $2500 to start the game with one. They are paying to twink their accounts. Eventually you will be able to buy death stars but not be able to play with them. It would be like a 1st level D&D mage having a staff of the magi

I play Star Citizen now. I don't play it every day because it's in the alpha stage missing most of the content, but I play it once a week

That sounds sadder than not having a game at all. I wonder if all the my little ponies had a defect where they fell apart, if people would still play with them.

Blogger B.J. October 14, 2015 5:54 PM  

I like how, in the event Star Citizen fails, they are already laying the foundation for the argument that it's Derek Smart's fault.

Blogger Red Jack October 14, 2015 6:13 PM  

@ 26 PM is NOT the place for game development. You aren't building ANYTHING. You are processing a program to interface with a human in an attempt to entertain. EA is not the model to look at if you are looking to develop games.

Babysit them until they dry up? Maybe. PMs could do that to game software.


Actually this is a perfect application for PM. Why? They are burning through $90 million dollars with no end date, little to show for it, and little really accomplished. Every single industry says THE SAME THING. We are special little snow flakes, and you CAN'T manage us like THAT! Well, to a point you are right. Each industry has differences, but if you are giving $90 million+, you had better deliver close to what the customer is expecting.
Is EA doing it right? I honestly don't have a clue. But the products they churn out and the complaints I have heard from those who work with them suggest that they are trying to do it.
And yes, a lot of project management, just like every management, is babysitting. Set gates and timelines. Push to see why they haven't been met. Make sure that your deliverables actually meet your timeline. In every industry I have played in (and it has been a long varied path so far), PM ends up being used. And the first guy that figures it out leads the industry for a few cycles.
Star Citizen is a classic case of why you need it. No scope at the start, lots of creep, and a ton of money with no person or controlling body being able to demand results. It is a pyramid scheme without the guy on the top remembering to skip town.

Blogger Markku October 14, 2015 6:24 PM  

I like how, in the event Star Citizen fails, they are already laying the foundation for the argument that it's Derek Smart's fault.

That's the beauty of Ponzi schemes. They WILL provide the bad guy. In the first stage, people will have faith in the scheme, and money pours in. Then, at some point, it starts falling apart. Now, obviously someone is going to be the first to point this out. He becomes the bad guy. All future negative information is just machinations of the bad guy.

The Finnish Ponzi guy, after the WinCapita farce, has already put up a new scheme. With the same template. Because, you see, last time it failed because the police were colluding with banksters, and caused people to lose faith in the project. That was the only reason it failed (despite Kailajärvi having confessed it was fraud from the beginning during interrogation). This time he will not allow that to happen. This time he is wiser. This time it will be different.

OpenID Steve October 14, 2015 6:33 PM  

I like how, in the event Star Citizen fails, they are already laying the foundation for the argument that it's Derek Smart's fault.

It seemed like a lot of the MF global coverage blamed Clemente for trying to cash out more than Corzine for actually committing fraud.

Blogger Quadko October 14, 2015 6:37 PM  

I love the way the fan's description of Star Citizen is basically "Destiny + EVE Online + WOW but times like a million!"

I was hoping for a new Wing Commander, but since that won't happen, maybe we could get a reasonable Crusader: No Remorse sequel? [sigh] '90s games on '80s action movies were so much fun sometimes.

Blogger Markku October 14, 2015 6:39 PM  

Derek wielded the ultimate doomsday weapon of a few blog posts. How can you fight THAT with mere ninety million bucks?!

Blogger FP October 14, 2015 6:43 PM  

@33

The best would be if we get video of Roberts attacking a Coke machine.

It seemed to good to be true and they just kept adding on to the wish list. All they had to do is just start with squadron 42 and build it up from there. But hey, at least they all have a convention to go to. Next up, $500 for simulated hookers and blow on your private pleasure yacht along with a free towel. Towel hanger for your hangar extra.

Blogger RCR_Chris October 14, 2015 7:23 PM  

@39
Next up, $500 for simulated hookers and blow on your private pleasure yacht along with a free towel. Towel hanger for your hangar extra.

They already have a towel and rack in the hangar, and they also have a "private pleasure yacht."

890 JUMP

No word on the hookers and blow though. Might have been on the "stretch goal" (aka - "feature creep") list before they put that on indefinite hold.

Blogger Anthony October 14, 2015 7:25 PM  

@21. You can play the game now, and so compare the hype to reality. Watching what people say and then actually seeing it on your PC in unto itself is pretty fascinating from a game development point of view. At least for me.

RE: Agile. Some commentary here does not match reality. CIG is following, almost to the letter, the classic growing pains of a "scrum-fall" or "water-scrum" shop transitioning to full agile Kool-aid drinkers. The footprints of agile growing pains are everywhere, as are the improvements.

I find Star Citizen very interesting from a technical perspective. From the 64-bit position system in Crytech to how their ships are built of actual (virtual) components. How they use the tech is also fascinating. For example, Squadron 42 (the single-player Wing Commander-like part of the game) won't have any pre-rendered cut-scenes. Everything will be shoved through the engine in real-time.

I guess if I was to explain the hype (for good or bad) this technical sophistication has a huge impact on their fan outreach. For example, CIG releases stuff like is in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10TAH5LVCow), every week, for several years now. And stuff like the super explosions finds its way to the alpha builds.

Blogger EF October 14, 2015 7:33 PM  

I remember they were selling a ship that was designed as a space yacht you could take wealthy NPCs out on tours with. Fun. Who the hell wants to play a game where your ship is designed for one thing only--escort missions? I think they were in excess of $300 too.

Blogger EF October 14, 2015 7:33 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

OpenID Steve October 14, 2015 8:01 PM  

If you run your $2500 MyLittleStarShip into an asteroid in the game is it destroyed forever or does it respawn? It would suck if it actually was created and people destroyed all $20k+ of the critics ships before he gets to play them all.-bgs

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 9:42 PM  

Red Jack, PM is great in document management software, but not games. It is simply the wrong tool. You CAN put all the components of a game in excel and gannt chart the hell out of it. You can scrum and agilify a game until the cows come home.

But if you are this big and don't have a producer who is making the game of the developer's vision into the game that can be, you are gambling, and the PM will only be there to count the chips no matter where they fall.

The PM can make sure the tasks keep moving, sure. That doesn't appear to be Star Citizen's problem.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 9:45 PM  

And my point about EA is tha PM is working for them...but they are reproducing games...not producing them.

Blogger maniacprovost October 14, 2015 9:48 PM  

The space yacht could eventually be its own Space Yacht Tycoon style subgame.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 10:08 PM  

Yes, an fps Space Yacht Tycoon using VR with real goods, such as sexbots and hoverboards.

At this rate the Cubs may win the World Series in Star Citizen for a $110 million stretch goal reward.

Blogger Daniel October 14, 2015 10:18 PM  

Imagine if I am developing Pac Man, and my exclusives to backers are free moving ghosts that change colors (no pacman interaction) for 50 bucks, edible dots in a hallway environment (no corners or teleports) for $100 and a "raceable" pacman scenario (with no objectives but course completion) at $250.

Aren't you going to feel just a little gypped when I finally release the game, and some dumb kid can come up and play the entire integrated adventure, with high scores...for a quarter?

Blogger Anthony October 15, 2015 1:02 AM  

@44 ships come with insurance in case of loss. There are other types of insurance, like for the cargo or components you add to the ship that weren't on there when you bought it.

Theoretically, if you didn't have lifetime insurance and your insurance lapsed and the game was live and you crashed it and blew it up... just like in real life, you'd probably be screwed. I have not seen an expensive ship though that didn't come with insurance.

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 15, 2015 2:42 AM  

I've worked in IT for 30 years & currently work as a PM for a high end workflow product. Some customers prefer the classic SDLC approach, some go Agile, some go hybrid, some go ToC. Some prefer PMP, some Prince2. I no longer believe any of it matters.

It matters that you HAVE a system, far more than it matters what system you have.
It matters that your specific people can work your specific system, to complete a project within some reasonable margin of your time/cost/quality constraints.
The ONLY, the SOLE, valid metric of which is better is which one you can use, and that comes down largely to discipline, smart people selection, and ruthlessly unsentimental decision making. These will, of course, make ANY system work.

All the rest might as well be a religious bun fight between a moonie and a scientologist for all the connection it has to reality.


I.E. Not much.

Blogger Athor Pel October 15, 2015 9:23 AM  

You guys have been making stabs at describing what is different about game development. Here's mine.

Yes you can use project managment in game development. But it will not insure a successful project with success being ultimately measured by how many units you sell. And how many you sell is tied to how fun your game is.

Yes you can make an application that has the user moving tanks or soldiers or aliens around on a battlefield but you cannot insure that it's any fun by using project management.

Game development isn't just building some parts and putting those parts together in the form of a game. That's because it may not actually BE a game in that it might not be any fun to play.

You can't physics or engineer your way to a fun game like you can engineer a chemical plant to produce certain chemicals.

Having an idea for a game and having that idea be fun to play are two different things. This is true even if all you are doing is iterating on a proven game type like FPS or RTS or MMO.

Capturing fun gameplay is a pretty elusive goal. All of the game development stories I've read or heard had the development team iterating their way to a fun game with smaller or larger chunks of rebuilding going on. You can't plan for something you cannot predict.

We know or think we know what makes a player keep playing a game. Games are skinner boxes. Intermittent rewards, interesting choices, sense of progress, all these things tend to keep the player playing. But I still haven't seen anybody claim to know what makes a game fun. We just know it when we see it and the most frustrating part is that the fun is subjective. What is fun for one person may not be fun for another.

Blogger maniacprovost October 15, 2015 9:58 AM  

So, creating a 3D physics engine is a creative endeavor that can't be planned or budgeted?

Blogger Markku October 15, 2015 10:31 AM  

Pretty sure they already have a 3D physics engine. Those are a dime a dozen these days. Nobody rolls their own anymore. All that kind of footwork stuff comes from plugins and frameworks now. Only the actual creative part of it all remains.

Blogger maniacprovost October 15, 2015 1:07 PM  

So, creating 1200 fetch quests for the single player campaign is a creative endeavor that can't be planned or budgeted?

Most of the creativity that has an unpredictable duration should be done now. Art assets and level design require creativity but I don't think the completion time is unpredictable. Even if it is, if it takes 10% longer to make the character models due to Create!, then you cut 10% of the planned characters. It's not rocket science.

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 15, 2015 2:00 PM  

"It's not rocket science."

It's not rocket surgery.

But you're right, the implication, that game production cannot benefit from disciplined methodology application because game design is art, is absurd.

Blogger Markku October 15, 2015 2:10 PM  

So, creating 1200 fetch quests for the single player campaign is a creative endeavor that can't be planned or budgeted?

That can be, but the fun can't. Fun is an elusive thing. If your designer was very competent, you may find that the fun emerged from his design. But you can't know that until you try the first functional code. And at that point, you will learn how much more you have to invest to make it fun.

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 15, 2015 3:00 PM  

Markku

Aren't you involved in Castalia House?

You're talking about writing the books, while some of us are talking about producing the books.

Both are necessary, and neither one is more or less necessary than the other.

Blogger Markku October 15, 2015 5:07 PM  

Producing, yes, but I'm talking about the difference between a game, and these other examples. The latest one, a 3d physics engine, is a well-defined problem. The closer it approximatex real worlds physics, the better it is. You can always answer, mathematically, the question "how close is this engine to real-world physics".

But you can not answer the question "how fun is this game?" That is an art, not a science. It involves a complication that none of the other examples do.

Blogger Markku October 15, 2015 5:28 PM  

I'm not defending Star Citizen, obviously. I'm just saying that if a game goes over budget or deadline, it is not necessarily a management mistake equal to some of these other projects doing so. A game is so much more of an art. There is no science as to what is fun, or has good controls. You just have to keep working on it, until you see that happen.

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 16, 2015 12:34 AM  

I get your point, I'm just not convinced game production is as special a case as is being claimed.

How fun is this book? That is, as you say,, a question of art. But I have next to my bed this book, "Writing the breakout novel", a publishers analysis of hundreds of best-sellers, distilling the essential features that contribute to a positive answer to that question. In the abstract, of course, but even so there ARE fixed principles of writing an entertaining story. I suspect there are also fixed principles of designing a fun game. It may well be they are less fully apprehended as such, given the relative immaturity of the industry, but look at any systematic review of games. Do they not seek to identify these principles (replayability, storyline, etc) and rank the games' adherence to them? To introduce some science to the art? Just as this book does for novel writing.

I am not denying the art - no, I explicitly acknowledged it already - but I'm far from convinced that we can deny the science "because art".

That strikes me as a claim with very weak foundation.

I also acknowledge the reverse is also true; as Hollywood regularly demonstrates, you can follow the formula rigidly and still produce a dud. Rocky 7, for example. But let the artist loose without any restraint and you get Waterworld.

Blogger Markku October 16, 2015 8:23 AM  

How fun is this book?

Not incidentally, we reject about 95% of submissions. If you want to use THAT as the analogue, then Star Citizen had about 5% chance of success.

Blogger Markku October 16, 2015 8:38 AM  

Also in this analogue, the project has already failed in the art stage of it all if it doesn't get accepted. The methodical part of the project kicks in only after the art part has proven exceptionally successful.

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 16, 2015 10:01 AM  

Yes, I accept they're not the same thing. Hence two terms, book production and game production.

If the analogy doesn't hold because it isn't perfect, then no analogy is ever of any use. That doesn't prove this one is valid, but your argument doesn't prove it is not.

The bit about timing is interesting though. I think that is probably the strongest argument yet. But there remain questions. For example, Raymond E Feist took something like 15 years to write Magician. He polished and perfected it and it was rejected many times before being finally published. If you recall the sequel, A Darkness At Sethanon, written in a rush because the publisher signed him to a multi-book deal, you'll recall the vast gulf in art and science of story-telling, between the two.

Or Harry Potter, which was rejected many (17, iirc) times before its eventual enormous success. Where was the failure?

The point of the book I am reading, recommended to me by Mrs Lamplighter-Wright, btw, is that the science begins at the same moment as the art, in the very creation of the story, not merely in its production. That suggests to me a strong correlation between game creation and book creation.

I'm not saying you're wrong. You probably know more about both industries than I do. My point is that the arguments thus far are not strong.

Blogger Markku October 16, 2015 5:42 PM  

Or Harry Potter, which was rejected many (17, iirc) times before its eventual enormous success. Where was the failure?

There was no failure. You are picking from the successful 5%. You are not picking a random book.

However, where was the science? Where was the production? Didn't exist, until after it got picked. Had it not been picked, it wouldn't even have gone to that stage. It would have failed at the stage where it's purely an artistic endeavor. Like the overwhelming majority of manuscripts.

And the overwhelming majority of game projects.

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog
Please do not comment as "Anonymous". Comments by "Anonymous" will be spammed.

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts