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Globalizing Production for the Future
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Globalizing Production for the Future

September 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next

Similar Production Models

There are many other industries which use a diverse production model where many people from all over the world and at different companies work together to make a much better product than they could do on their own.

The Computer Model

At most levels, game development and software development in general is no different than manufacturing a car, electronic device or many other complex items which have a lot of parts. A computer is something which has a myriad of complex components which must all work together seamlessly and be the best possible all around in order to be competitive.

If one or several components are inferior, it can either frustrate consumers so that they don't buy your product, or it can lead to a variety of other unforeseen issues. If you go and buy an Apple Computer, you are likely to get a CPU made by Intel, a hard drive by Fujitsu, a screen made by Samsung, memory by Hynix, and so on.

A single manufacturer cannot design and build an entire computer on its own. Apple learned this the hard way. But now, Apple can use some custom and some off-the-shelf solutions to find the best compromise of price, performance and features to make an incredible product.

The Hollywood Model

Hollywood has had its own production model for years -- it's both very similar to, and yet impossibly different than, game development at the same time. In Hollywood, most blockbuster movies are funded by a major studio (similar to the large game publishers like Activision). The studio is responsible for vetting the idea, helping make it better (having the script re-written) and then greenlighting it for full production (just like in games).

However, in most cases, the company who creates the movie is often a separate corporation which is established just for the creation of that one movie. This company is run by a senior executive team, which are usually managed by the creative and business leaders of the project. These leaders either then hire people (who usually work for unions as contractors) just for the one "show".

Then, the production studio will hire any number of different companies from all around the world to do many different aspects of the movie. You might have part of a movie filmed in several different countries, with maybe only a director or producer even being involved and on location for both. You might have dozens of different companies doing special effects, props and other aspects of the movie. In the end, it all comes together seamlessly and cohesively.

Aircraft Construction

Another analogy you can use is one of building an aircraft. Yes, a single company can employ everyone needed to build a plane, but they usually don't. Every aspect of building a plane requires a different specialist, and few people can do it all.

You need people to design the plane, design the frame, weld it, do the electrical, engine, painting, interior work, windows, heating, maybe weapons and much more. Each of these jobs has specialized parts and tools it needs, as well as specialists who know how to do it well. A plane construction process is generally run by a large general contractor (like Boeing), who finds all of the sub-contractors to do the work on the plane and ensures it comes together correctly and optimally.

Video Game Production

A video game is really no different to develop than these other industries, but we seem to treat it like it is highly unique, and therefore because of that we can do whatever we feel like. The game industry is beginning to learn that making games is hard, and that the process involved in making games is now often as important as or more important than the ideas themselves.

Game developers, like these other more mature industries, need to learn that distributing their workload and partnering with other companies to create a better product is not only okay to do, but actually the best possible solution.

Identifying Production Outsourcing Issues

Many people that I talk to have had a major problem with outsourcing their artwork. They usually find or claim that the quality just isn't the same, and that the hassles with outsourcing chew up any cost savings. A lot of this is due to their teams ultimately causing the problems, even though they won't admit it or don't realize it.

For example, if you are doing a Create-a-Player (CAP) system, and you want a team to create some shoes for you, don't get upset when you tell them to make you 10 pairs of shoes, and they deliver 10 shoes that you didn't want. With any team or person you hire, you either need to give them explicit instructions, be willing to pay for revisions or live with what you get.

If you want 10 specific pairs of shoes, send them pictures. If you want the shoes perfectly photo-real, send them the 10 pairs you want modeled and not some lousy, fuzzy image from only one angle. Their quality will usually only be as good as what you ask for. And, before you turn them loose on 10 pairs of shoes, make sure they do one to perfection, get your signoff, and then do the rest. So, in this case, your quality is only going to be as good as the source material and directions given.

So, what are some common problems to look out for?

  • The management team changing their minds.
  • Inability to make decisions.
  • Unavailability to review material and comment on it.
  • Unclear feedback and instructions.
  • Lack of documentation and relevant information.
  • Constantly changing specifications.
  • Asking for too many revisions or changes.
  • Changing technology, tools or pipelines.
  • Poor development tools and process which doesn't scale to larger teams.
  • Unrealistic schedules or delays in the schedules which affect the other teams.
  • Lack of communication.
  • No central team or project leader and point of contact who is "managing" them.
  • Differences of opinions as to how things should work.
  • Creative's who will change things because "they know better".
  • And possibly many others...

In the end, there is compromise to having an extremely experienced management team who can understand and leverage the differences between the global talent, along with a well established and documented production process and pipelines.

If your management team hires the wrong people or teams, makes bad decisions, is inexperienced, or keeps interfering with the production in detrimental ways, your project will be doomed to fail. If you have no process or pipelines, your products will suffer tremendously.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next

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