Development dinos

Game development is on a new tipping point. Some people think it’s about social gaming. Some people think it’s about the Console vs. PC war. Some people think it’s about high salaries. But it’s not, we can’t execute, we are large and slow. We are dinosaurs.

All of these problems are interesting to discuss but they are not really arguments. Social gaming is just a new facet, a twist. Consoles and PCs will always dance around Moore’s Law. Salaries are high, but so is the cost of living and they are within the normal range for software development for each city.

No I think the problem is much more personal, something that we all have to look within ourselves to fix.

Last week I attended the FullIndie meet up. It’s taken me the week to put my feelings into perspective. The presentations were really just simple demos of games in development, six in total, half nearing release. You can read a review here

These games were not really spectacular, but I did enjoy the presentation by Daniel Troung about Pixel Blocked. It was fun, and fresh. The game has simple mechanics, but they build together into complex rules, leading to varied game-play.

The rest of the games were fun but they didn’t tweak my interest enough.

Now I’m not here to review the presenters, I want to point out one thing about how they approached development. They just went at it, as individuals, they didn’t feel that they were being held back. And at anytime if they thought they couldn’t get on a platform, or find the fun, or came up with a new concept the developers would just move.

When these developers wanted to finish work each would reach out to a global community and quickly build a team, finish the project, then disband. I’m sure there are problems with this model, but since they can run through so many iterations faster than a AAA game company they will probably find the sweet spot faster. Evolution favours the shorter life time.

Couple this fast turn around with the small development cost and the current low barrier to entry and We (mainstream AAA developers) are in real trouble. We can’t keep up, social problems within a 100 person development team keep us from truly being fearless. You can’t try new ideas without running it up the flag pole first and the people at the top have their own butts to cover.

This is a problem that I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about. I do think it’s possible to have a large corporate structure that will do this, but few of the current ones will make that switch. We’ve seen several companies fail in the past few years, I think we will see several more go until the evolution cycle completes, until the next family of big companies form from the seeds being sown now. The corporations that do survive will do so by taking on the DNA of smaller development teams.

It’s a hard time for developers like me, we will face lean years living within large companies that keep reducing scope as markets close around them. We will either evolve ourselves into new people or be stuck in a niche world.

And this is the real problem. It’s personal, and you need to answer it for yourself. Are you a Maker or are you a console developer?

The answer may just mean your job.

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