New model army

There’s two fairly high profile games coming out soon that were developed using a different approach than what’s used for most games.

One is Bad Day LA, designed by American McGee, developed by Enlight in Hong Kong, and with concept art by the great Kozyndan. This interview with McGee goes a little into the approach used to develop it, including how the IP is handled.

It’s been much speculated that adopting a Hollywood model in games production would go towards fixing many problems in the industry. It seems you were one of the first to try it out. Did you deliberately depart from the traditional model of game production?

I think that the “traditional model” is quite broken. It is good for doing what it currently does, but if we’re ever going to truly evolve the way that games are conceived, produced, marketed, and distributed then the whole system is going to have to change. This sort of change is not generally brought on from within. It starts when smaller “David” companies hit on innovative new ways to create and sell games in a market where their competition is a “Goliath” like EA or Activision. These days, as much as focusing on innovative, provocative, or original game ideas, I’m also focusing a lot of thought on alternate ways to distribute and market games, and ways to tie all these elements together for the end consumer.

It seems that there is room for change in the size of game development companies, their structure, and their pipeline. Outsourcing is just one possibility.

Outsourcing can lead to a more organic development ecosystem. It can make everyone more efficient – in theory, it solves the ‘what is my army of content creators going to do while we’re doing pre-production or finishing up a game?’ question. They just work on another game, for another company. This was an oft-discussed issue at Kalisto, a previous employer. One idea was to use a kind of internal outsourcing system inside a big studio (Kalisto’s Bordeaux studio had 250 people working there). You would have art teams moving from game project to game project, rather than staying on for the duration of the project. It’s a logical extension of the matrix structure, in a way.

Whether it’s done internally or externally, outsourcing is challenging. You need more art direction, more technical artists, more management and coordination. You have to know what you’re doing. The extra layers and steps and distance can reduce quality; this must be countered. And it can be hard to graft onto a ‘traditional’ studio, which is why it’s adoption is relatively slow.

Another high profile game using a similar model is Wideload Games’ Stubbs the Zombie. Whenever I read interviews with Alex Seropian, like this one or this one (not to mention his blog at 1UP), I just get the feeling that this is the way to do it. Small company, lots of outsourcing, a fun and creative setting, what looks like good execution. And there’s going to be a Mac version! What’s not to like?

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