Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Delayed Game is Better

Over the past two console generations, developers have been delaying games more and more from when they announced that they would launch the title. However, on the other hand we have also been seeing more and more developers rushing games out to market in hopes that they can patch it to save it. Are either of these approaches good or are there other ways to handle it?

Before diving into this discussion, I highly recommend watching Extra Credits "The Pre-Production Problem". It is a great episode and covers a lot of the challenges this industry faces. A lot of it falls on to planning. I cover a little about this in "Questions for Being a Producer".

When it comes to producing a game, a lot can go wrong. In my opinion a lot of these failures fall into one of three major categories, technology, scope and/or planning. Technology failure happens when it is taking too long to establish the tech, ramping engineers up on the technology, the technical debt is never addressed, or, my personal favorite, bugs slow everything down. Scope is when the company starts adding more and more features to the point the game will never be completed. Scope creep is one of those monsters that needs to be stomped early. Now don't get me wrong, adding needed functionality is important at times. It just needs to be managed. Lastly, scheduling is a beast in of itself. When companies schedule everything down to the letter, yes I am still hearing reports of this, milestones will be missed and unneeded pressure is added to the team.

Regardless of which of these issues happen, it is in how the company handles it. Some companies are known for delaying the game because they want to rewrite the game engine all over again. Take for example the game Grand Turismo 5. It was announced in 2005 at E3 but then it didn't come out until the end of 2010. It is also well known that Japanese developers love to scrap an engine that was used for their last project to rebuild it from scratch all over again. These practices cost a lot of money and burn a lot of unneeded hours. In these cases, iterate on the tech and push forward.

But the delays are not the issue here. It is all in how the company handles the delay. Some companies like to tout a specific date way before the game/platform is launched. Why they still do this, I do not know. It is better to not even announce a launch date until one can be decided on as the project gets closer to launching. Now sometimes publishers have a say in the matter but the leadership should be able to push back when it makes since to push back.

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