"Uncharted" Creative Director: AAA Development "Just Doesn't Feel Sustainable"

Discussion in 'HardForum Tech News' started by Megalith, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. Megalith

    Megalith 24-bit/48kHz Staff Member

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    Video game director and script writer Amy Hennig, who recently earned a Lifetime Achievement Award for hits such as Soul Reaver 2 and the Uncharted franchise, believes the industry’s shift to outsourcing will be inevitable due to recent lapses in big-budget development, such as massive layoffs. Financial benefits aside, she also suggests the transition to the film industry and video effects model could be beneficial for creativity’s sake, as smaller teams should brew less conflict.

    Hennig looks to the TV and film industries as a model that makes some sense, as it relies less on in-house production and more on heavy use of external contractors. "Obviously that would require a big sea change in the industry -- probably towards unionization, too -- but you would have a lot more external partners or freelance developers as part of a team, do more things as distributed development rather than have everything in-house," Hennig says. "It would allow for a lot more flexibility rather than feeling that constant pressure, that churn of salaries.
     
  2. BloodyIron

    BloodyIron 2[H]4U

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    I would argue people are getting sick of paying $80+ for game quality gambles, when they can pay $20-$40ish and get much more satisfaction.
     
  3. SamuraiInBlack

    SamuraiInBlack [H]ardness Supreme

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    You mean, making people pay $60 for a base game, then charging people for DAY ONE DLC content, or making them pony up for a season pass (which by the way, does not guarantee there will ever be enough DLC content to warrant its price) isn't sustainable? Because those same people will just wait for the inevitable GOTY edition which gives them all of that at $30 or less, and also when the game will have most of its bugs and bullshit patched?

    My goodness, how COULDN'T it be sustainable!? /s
     
  4. MMitch

    MMitch Gawd

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    I would argue also how many money is spent stupidly ? Example: bribe, CEO, too many managers, expenses from higher-ups etc...
     
  5. Lakados

    Lakados [H]ard|Gawd

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    Well more and more programmers are looking to unionize, the game dev cycle is atrocious. There was a sympathy strike from the voice actors guild a while back over their work conditions a year or so ago but I don't know if anything came from it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  6. Twisted Kidney

    Twisted Kidney 2[H]4U

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    The eternal pursuit of more for less is going to crush the AAA industry.
     
  7. PenGunn

    PenGunn Limp Gawd

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    It appears AAA games are in trouble. Bethesda rolls out a really great game, with attendant Bethesda bugs and gets shit on by everyone. A game you buy once and will be updated with DLC and other content as long as people play it. The only money they get after that is voluntary and is for cosmetic items only. My house is nicer with my Atom purchased Light Wood Laminate floors. ;) The Atoms generate fairly well and no one has to spend money. I certainly won't. I have almost 1600 now as I save for data mined PA skins. A couple are awesome.

    At this point many of the youtube assholes are changing their tune as crappy game after crappy game comes out. Now Fallout 76 is almost OK by them. This is why the stupid churn is so heavy. Sheep following youtube assholes is a big part of it. Only they benefit, the rest of us suffer.
     
  8. rudedog

    rudedog Gawd

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    Have you ever looked at the credits of a AAA game?

    Then there is, lets send our art department (everyone) across the world to get texture maps and weapon sounds for the same weapons we spent god knows how much on the first version of the game.
     
  9. LightningEagle7

    LightningEagle7 n00b

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    AAA games aren't in trouble. Just look at the great games being published by the good folks in Japan: Nier, Xenoblade, Monster Hunter, Ace Combat, etc... They're all great AAA games. The problem with AAA games in the west is their chosen monitization scheme. Your nickle and dimed for piece meal content that should have been in at launch, bombarded with microtransactions and a super grindy unlock progression system, and half the time they're broken at launch. And not to mention, developers seem more concernced about political pandering than actually making a good game. It seems, at least to me, that all these greedy and anti consumer practices are starting to finally bite them in the ass. Deservidly so.
     
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  10. zehoo

    zehoo Limp Gawd

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    When you alienate your core audience by continuously trying to woo the 50% of the population that traditionally has minimal to no interest in your product, don't be surprised when sales tank.
     
  11. naib

    naib [H]ard|Gawd

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  12. MBTP

    MBTP n00b

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    I think this woman is mad because she does not work anymore on a big team.
    Really, AAA games are to me only reason to still play games. We don;t need generic garbage...
    Blizzard and Activision was a red flag for the new direction the company took...
    Instead of focusing on the key public, they are focusing on the wrong one, and you simply can't make something that everybody likes and still be deep and relevant enough.
    Im sure here that many like me loved The Lord of The Rings "Movie" trilogy, how but it surely was not trying hard to be woke. It was just really great story with a conservative view.
    And lets be real AAA Sony first party studios will be relevant for a long time, unless someone sabotages it.
     
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  13. oldmanbal

    oldmanbal 2[H]4U

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    After Activision and Bungie parted ways, Activision made it clear that bungie wasn't remotely close to having the man power to produce content on their own. Activision had to use several in house developers to work on bungie's destiny franchise just to keep the game up to a mid level tier of content releases. It was costing them an arm and a leg and not making enough money to offset all the man power they were devoting to it. The recent seasonal DLC surrounding the drifter couldn't be any emptier content wise than anything Destiny has ever seen released. They pretty much shipped a modified version of current multiplayer and will be releasing some small maps with reused assets to accompany it over the next few weeks. It's almost comical how little content they are calling an entire season of the game. If this is what those not quite AAA game studios like Bungie (without the backup of other studios) are going to be capable of, I would say her comments are spot on. We are either going to see one of two scenarios. Games are going to be middling rehashes of what's laying around (far cry new dawn), or rushed wonky messes already over budget and under cooked. The games that do get it right will be more impactful, and have longer shelf lives. How many trillion dollars has GTA V made on pc? Not enough apparently.
     
  14. velusip

    velusip [H]ard|Gawd

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    She's talking about interpersonal relationships at scale in the office. Not financial feasibility or market analysis.

    It seems to be quite a narrow view as well considering the number of asset haus studios churning out textures, models, sounds, and other assets for use in games for the past 15+ years.

    No news here, just lack of project focus or management skill.
     
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  15. seanreisk

    seanreisk Gawd

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    She's not talking about ending AAA titles, she's talking about ending the monolithic structure in game companies, where a triple-A title is developed in house from start to finish. In the 30's and 40's movie studios were monolithic, they employed set builders, cameramen, soundmen, even orchestras, and they kept all those people on the payroll. Nobody does that with movies any more, people come to the project, finish their portion, and they move on.

    In the 90's / 00's the game industry tried this model of laying off staff when certain milestones were completed, but it didn't work as well - a lot of the staff wasn't appropriately compensated (i.e., 'paid enough') in order to absorb being laid off when their part of the project finished, and a lot of people left the industry during the layoffs when they found better paying jobs with less stress. It didn't help that game companies were located in tech-savvy regions where the cost of living was high. It created a situation where a company developing a title might hire as much as 50% inexperienced people, creating a slowdown as the new hires became acquainted with their tasks.

    She's trying to condense a big idea into a few sentences - I can see what she's talking about, though, she's trying to envision a different game development environment where smaller companies act as contractors and take on distinct portions of each title.
     
  16. SixFootDuo

    SixFootDuo [H]ardness Supreme

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    Triple AAA titles are going to go instinct for the simple fact they can make a much easier to code / dev game with 90% less people much sooner. The trade off? It's gonna look shitty like Apex.
     
  17. steakman1971

    steakman1971 2[H]4U

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    I typically like games made by indies or smaller development shops. These usually have much smaller teams and don't have as much management-crap to get in the way. However, I'm sure these teams can be stressful trying to make payroll at times.
     
  18. theBrownLlama

    theBrownLlama Gawd

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    so she wants to screw american and european creative arts workers too by outsourcing.

    like how the manufacturers did.

    Who is supporting her again?
     
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  19. gamerk2

    gamerk2 [H]ard|Gawd

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    This isn't shocking; all corporations beyond a certain side are really just financial companies that happen to make some other product. Once you get the finance people making product decisions, you are doomed to long-term failure.

    I've seen this happen time and time again. All you need to do is look at what percentage of a company is dedicated for finance and management. Once it reaches 40%, you as a company are done.
     
  20. Ironchef3500

    Ironchef3500 [H]Lite

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    Worked great for Andromeda......
     
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  21. Ironchef3500

    Ironchef3500 [H]Lite

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    EXACTLY
     
  22. lostin3d

    lostin3d [H]ard|Gawd

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    Article should read "Top heavy admin salaries are unsustainable in AAA game development"
     
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  23. zamardii12

    zamardii12 2[H]4U

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    I submit this crushes every industry.
     
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  24. viivo

    viivo [H]ard|Gawd

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    Tell publishers to stop backing every survival_crafting_online_game003428287796 on Steam and invest more wisely.
     
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  25. Armenius

    Armenius I Drive Myself to the [H]ospital

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    Maybe companies should focus on getting their budgets under control, first. It should not be taking $200 million to $500 million to make and market a video game. The closer the industry moves toward the movie model, the faster it will collapse.
     
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  26. Delicieuxz

    Delicieuxz Gawd

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    Yup. A lot of AAA games are stupidly profitable. But, the mega profit probably goes to all the execs and shareholders.

    The great many sellout developers that sold their companies to thuggish corporations have themselves to blame. All developers were eager to sell their studio to a large publisher in the 90s, and it certainly hasn't worked out well for gamers, and I bet for many, maybe most of the studios it didn't work out well for them, either.
     
  27. __hollywood|meow

    __hollywood|meow [H]ard|Gawd

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    shes upset because she was screwed by EAs bumbling of her cancelled star wars game, & who wouldnt be? however, shes completely misattributing the nature of the issue & applying a somewhat logical extrapolation of a solution ~to her mistake~

    the issue is western AAA publishers are wildly corrupt & bogged down by layers of bureaucratic redundancy that are ironically put in place to maximize profits. the industry was quite literally built by people who incidentally became executives out of necessity. who created their games, IPs, & entire companies directly from their passion for gaming. those people have been replaced by blood-sucking businessmen & ruthless parent corporations who serve shareholders. gaming became popular enough for other random people to take notice, & now its being actively exploited.

    nintendo is doing well. sony is doing just great. capcom is destroying everything in the best way possible. id still has enough marketability to retain their autonomy, & dev teams like CDPR & larian studios are hard at work crafting entire worlds out of their love of the industry & passion for the art itself. studios that arent being suffocated by short-sighted exploitative monetization schemes are doing fine. they dont need to outsource to create full, polished, successful works that also finance the company itself in perpetuity.

    no real offense to her intended, but amy hennig & other genuinely creative people who are currently mired in AAA gaming development need to do more than take a step backwards to get a bigger picture - they need to catch a helicopter to get a 10,000 foot view.
     
  28. J3RK

    J3RK [H]ardForum Junkie

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    You know, I think I'm ok with graphical tech for AAA from 2016ish, provided the game is decent. I think it costs less to put money into decent game-play than to keep pushing assets, hire ridiculously large casts of actors, etc. I like to see the next big shiny thing just like anyone else, but there are ways to make games better that won't push budgets into the heliosphere.

    Also I agree with the above. id and CDPR are doing it right for bigger studios.
     
  29. raz-0

    raz-0 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Did you actually read the article?

    She's saying that the scale of AAA title development today is so big there's a huge barrier to entry, and also so big that when something goes wrong, the odds of it destroying one of the few groups that can play at that level is high. And that there is a reckoning coming because of that. And that one way it the business of AAA titles may move forward is if they can manage to modularize and outsource more of the development. That doesn't necessarily mean send jobs to china or india. It does mean that that she thinks behaving like movies do with special effects might be an answer to the problem of keeping team sizes manageable and employed consistently.
     
  30. J3RK

    J3RK [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, if you could just send your concept art over to an object development house, and get back textured models to plug into your game, that would save time and money. If you're using an existing industry standard game engine, that would be pretty easy. Having effects coded by a company that specializes in shader effects coding might be handy. Then the main studio can focus on the story, integrating all of these components, etc.
     
  31. theBrownLlama

    theBrownLlama Gawd

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    i have long learned to filter out bullshit corporate talk.

    all the work that these 3rd party companies can be done by 100% by American and European companies

    what she means by outsourcing is offshoring BUT still maintaining American contract prices for creative accounting

    and to correlate movie making with game making is a mistake. In movies, there's a huge human and physical element while in game making it's nearly all digital assets .
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019