Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
July 20, 2019
arrowPress Releases

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

GDC: Gears of War 2 Producer Fergusson Talks "Necessary Crunch"

GDC: Gears of War 2 Producer Fergusson Talks "Necessary Crunch"

March 26, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield

March 26, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield
More: Console/PC, GDC

In a talk that a producer friend described as Along with Rich Vogels talk, the two best hours of production talks ever at GDC, Rod Fergusson, executive producer of Epic Games spoke about his methodology for producing Gears of War 2.

His most salient point was that producers should work with the team to fix a release date early, once its possible to have a vision for the project scope, and then stick to that date, barring extreme circumstances.

In the traditional iron triangle of important elements of production, theres schedule, scope, and resources. Fergusson paraphrased Jim McCarthy, author of The Dynamics of Software Development in saying, In software there are thousands of variable. Every project has risks and issues. But what if you could take just one of those variables, and fix it? Just lock it. Hold it to a certain value, and let that help you gauge your other problems.

For Fergusson, that variable is the schedule, but of course you need a belief that the ship date is both realistic and unchangeable. One of the great things is it creates a clear goal for the team, he says. It proves theres an actual light at the end of the tunnel. They say you need constraints to have creativity and prioritization.

To supplement this, at the beginning of Gears 2s development, 16 project areas were asked what they thought were the five most important things to push forward in the next game, compared to the first, and they used that list to define the actual feature scope and schedule.

These main points then should be grouped to form the pillars of the game, according to Fergusson. This is essentially something like engaging co-op experience, which is supported by things like individual difficulty levels in co-op. Pillars are good talking points for the press, and also help determine whats going on the back of the box. If you cant talk to the press about here are the four most important things about the new game, youre kind of lost, he says.

Pillars also help when it comes time to cut or add features. The question is does it support a pillar? If someone comes and says I really like open-world ideas, were going to say well thats great, but thats not one of our pillars, he says. But if theres something to add that really will support a pillar, hes all for it.

Cut early, cut often is a mantra for many, and Fergusson believes this is necessary when managing scope. At the same, time, dont completely throw it away. He gave an anecdote about an artist spending 45 days modeling an Uber Reaver for Gears 1, but they realized they didnt have the time or resources to animate something that would only be in the game once. However, they saved the model for the second game, and the work didnt go to waste.

Fergusson reminded attendees to always keep test burden in mind, as well. What a programmer may call a one-line change isnt the only cost. Its also its four weeks of five testers doing this test plan, reminds Fergusson.

I am a believer that if youre going to make a great game, and there is that caveat, I believe that crunch is necessary, Fergusson says. I believe its important because it means your ambition is greater than what you scheduled out. Going in with that idea that crunch is necessary means you can plan for it. It shouldnt be a surprise. Crunch should be driven by the ambition of the team, and not the inaccuracy of the schedule.

But he cautions that crunch should be managed by milestones, or some other regular method. Its a marathon, not a sprint, he says, though realistically Its a marathon for a really long time, then at the end it is a sprint.

He also believes in empathetic crunches. If were going to crunch early for something, we made them teamwide. Everything can benefit from getting more done. If the artists were on schedule, then they crunched and they got ahead. This sometimes led to more being added to the game, or simply more human resources later on. At the end of the project though, they keep crunches as small as possible, because having fewer hands on the project later helps polish.

He cautions though, that people have limits. Working later than 2 am is a net loss. The productivity of the person whos doing that to themselves ultimately ends us costing them at the end of that week, he says. Epic has put a go home law in the company handbook as a result.

Every crunch is different for every team, he says. If youre not doing it because of mistakes in the schedule, but through planning, its much easier to go to your team and ask them how they want to crunch. If they have that light at the end of the tunnel, in terms of a fixed launch date, crunch becomes much more manageable.

Related Jobs

Sucker Punch Productions
Sucker Punch Productions — Bellevue, Washington, United States

QA Manager
Sony PlayStation
Sony PlayStation — San Mateo , California, United States

Global Partner Marketing Manager
Hi-Rez Studios
Hi-Rez Studios — Alpharetta, Georgia, United States

Senior Technical Artist
Hi-Rez Studios
Hi-Rez Studios — Alpharetta, Georgia, United States

Senior Sound Designer

Loading Comments

loader image