#1 mistake in game development

Gamasutra rather ingeniously decided to examine all its game postmortems over the past 3 years and actually look for common denominators. Thank goodness, since I wouldn’t have had the stamina to do it. Their study resulted in a list of 10 problems that repeatedly tripped up developers in making great games on time and on budget. What was problem number 1? You guessed it: content added too late.

We have repeatedly brought up the positive impact of bringing in writers early, and highlighted the importance of giving writers the chance to polish (problem #8).  You can say we’re biased.  I’m going to posit that Gamasutra isn’t.  Here’s a quote from Alyssa Finley, talking about the successful Bioshock:

“We had many drafts of the story over the course of development, but the final draft turned out to be an almost complete rewrite.”

“Competing demands for time and resources meant that, unfortunately, some of the important narrative details of the game weren’t created until the final rewrite, and therefore required quite a bit of work to retrofit into an existing game.”

If a successful game with strong developer and publisher backing is wishing it had more time to write, chances are every other story-driven game experiences this problem in spades.

The impact is obvious and pervasive: “Getting story and features right is difficult at the best of times, but when that content comes in just under the wire, not only does that content suffer, every element of the game that relies on that content suffers.”  Thanks, Gamasutra — we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Did you read the article?  What did you think of the other mistakes in game development?

This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.

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Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 8:40 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The article was interesting it seemed to me that most if not all the problems seemed to stem directly from a lack of clearly defined goals and project leadership.

    I can see where a clearly defined story and known objectives would definetly benefit the development process. Some people have argued that this would destroy the creative process that is essential in developing a fun and exciting game but I disagree. I would much rather have a great story with well polished game mechanics than a hodge podge of scenarios that are loosely connected.

    If a writer or project manager lays down a clear vision for the programmers to follow I think everyone benefits. You shouldn’t eliminate the creative input from all the team members but you should limit it to certain parameters. I know that is precisely the opposite of what most people think. Everyone thinks it is a great idea to think outside the box. And that is probably true during early development but unless you want to have a ten year project on your hands or a complete bust of a game or both you have to reign in the free spirits.

  2. […] about women’s issues in the game industry at DameDev. This article was originally posted at Writers Cabal Blog and is reproduced with permission. Share […]

  3. I did read the article when it came out, and definitely agree. I recently worked on a game that brought in the writing at the last possible stage; and the game before that was very similar in terms of script and recording — all of it happening after the game was supposed to be “content complete”!

  4. Oh, RE: what Brad said, I have to agree. The problem is, a lot of the middle management left with making the decisions aren’t the right people to be creative in the first place — so they need to get comfortable with keeping the number of decision-makers down, but ensuring that those people are providing the creative firepower they need. i.e. they need to look up a small number of creatives in a room, let them get on with it, and then support and agree with what they design.

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