Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Response to EA Louse...

If you have not read the EA LOUSE letter that is making some waves in the game biz today, I highly recommend it. It's good reading. Here ya go! 


And now, here's my response:

Knowing nothing about the company, game, or people, I'm in no position to comment on how true and valid all this is vs. how much it's just a tantrum from someone who felt they should have been listened to but was not.

I will comment on two things however:

#1- EALouse- no one gives a shit if you or the animators get to express yourselves IF in expressing yourself it breaks the fiction of/immersion into the world of the game. It's not a fucking art class where everyone gets a chance to 'show what's inside them!'...it's work. I don't know much about the Warhammer world but fuck man, seems a pretty spot on comment that if the whole fiction is about some horrid, down and dirty war then mechanics and animations that allow characters to fucking DANCE are probably not going to fit into that universe. And the fact that you feel removing the dancing- which was a good creative call in my mind- served to take away some of the team's ability to express themselves does nothing but paint you as someone with out of touch, unrealistic expectations of what your job is supposed to do for you. Games SHOULD allow for self expression by members of the team- that is FANTASTIC when that happens and something management should always try to offer up- but it's gotta be within context of and in service to the product.

#2- What the fuck is it about making games where it brings out the worst, most immature, most obnoxious sides of certain types of people on a team? Everyone thinks they always know better than the people in charge. On God of War 1 I still remember a small group of hard core gamers on the team that felt we were making the game 'wrong' because there was not all this deep, deep, Street Fighter 2/Tekken style depth to the combat system. "Jaffe's out of touch!" "Jaffe doesn't 'get it!'"...never did it occur to them that we were going for something else...even tho I explained this to them over and over! But still, every few weeks I could count on this little contingency being up in the studio head's office pitching 'their' version of the game, with the goal being to have the head step in- which he never did- and shove their ideas into the title.  Fuck it annoys me!  Am I the only one in games who has experienced this? 


David 


ps. the dancing part is not in the original post but in the Q/A-Comments section of the blog post where Louse goes on to answer reader questions. 

77 comments:

Blob said...

Good points, both of them, but at the same time it is frustrating as hell to put years of your life into a project that is run into the ground by clueless producers/leads, and to end up paying the price for their failure while they get promoted.

da criminal said...

Sure that sucks. And it also sucks to have what you feel is an amazing vision for a game in your head and have some people on the team not capable of executing and adding to that vision. It goes both ways and in BOTH cases, I recommend a person in that situation either settles in for the haul and accepts it for what it is and decides they can work within those limits or gets the hell out and finds a new company (or starts their own).

Luke said...

I think you're kinda missing the point, I don't even see anywhere in that post where he talks about not having complete creative freedom to do whatever.

He's talking about the lack of direction, and he is right about that.

Warhammer Online failed, and i'm sure it's not because they took out the dancing, but because of the inexperience of the people in charge, being forced to release a game before it's done.

Luke said...

After re-reading your post, I found out the dancing part is in the comments lol, ok, now your comment makes sense :)

I agree that it's not really their decision to make, but I don't think that was like, a major gripe of his, he's not really saying the game failed because it didn't have dancing, it's just one complaint among the many.

I think your second argument has grounds, it really comes down to what audience you're targeting, what the company as a whole wants the game to be I guess. Some people take it to the extreme, I think God of War had just enough depth to keep it interesting.

I don't think 90% of people are going to care about that magical 4th realm of combat depth.

da criminal said...

I'm not missing the point: as I said in the post script, the whole creative freedom thing is in his follow up in the comments section of is blog.

The main point tho is that if he saw the writing on the wall and things were not being run to his satisfaction, get the fuck out or try to make change (and if you can't, then accept things the way they are or quit). A letter like this after the fact? Cowardly.

Also, the game got done. It shipped. In that respect it was a successful product. It also sits at 86% on metacritic. A damn good number. If it failed on the biz end, there could be a million reasons for that (how many sub based MMOs are out there doing good biz BESIDES Wow?!?)...

Just reads as sour grapes to me and a whole lot of ego bullshit 'I know best and you shoulda listened to me! I'm a man of the people! Fuck the suits!' cliche bullshit.

David

Blob said...

Yeah, it is good to have people who will either "get" what you are trying to do or at least just shut the fuck up and do what they are told without bitching and making your life difficult.

However, sometimes the minions are right, and one quality a good game designer must possess is realizing when someone else has a good idea and using it. You know that already, I am sure.

I actually agree that the whole dark angry constant war style (which precluded dancing animations) is not good for an MMO that is designed to be played for many hours at a time. These games become almost an alternate life (OK, no "almost" about it) for some people. Being surrounded by those negative vibes for extended periods of time will definitely influence people's mood and thus, their desire to continue playing your game. For a short-session or single player type of game, that's fine, but for a long-haul, big-budget game, there needs to be more mass-market appeal and less removal of all happy things.

da criminal said...

Blob- yes, no doubt. The 'minions' (your words, not mine! :)..) are right A LOT of the time and part of a lead design/design director/game director's job is knowing which ideas to entertain that could improve the original vision and which to say 'thank you, much appreciated, but that won't work for what we're trying to do' to.

Luke said...

It's most definately a rant, no denying that. I've played Warhammer, and it does lack that polish that I generally associate with high budget games.

This could've been due to the artists inability to execute, could've been due to higher ups making promises they can't keep

"looking at you Peter Molenuex"

Sometimes it's hard to just up and leave though, when you aren't a big name person, when companies will actively seek *you* out instead of you seeking them.

Also it's *really* hard to get a job in the game development market right now, unless you have some truly astonishing art work to show.

We don't really know his life story, it's hard all over the place, i'm sure if he had another job he could've taken he would've.

Blob said...

Also, fuck Metacritic. IT's a crappy metric, only adopted as gospel because nerds and bean-counters love to have SOME metric.

So many game reviews are just bullshit lifted from another review. Civ V is a recent example of the kind of horseshit on there. AI is fucking broken, game has taken several steps backwards from IV, network code is shit, and it's getting scores in the 90s from reviewers who don't know jack about strategy games except that Sid Meier is famous and that this series is supposed to get good ratings.

MMOs are especially problematic, because you have these day 1 (or at least week 1) reviews of a game that takes weeks to properly evaluate.

The real indicator of an MMO's quality is not Metacritic, but how many people keep playing it for any appreciable length of time. Obviously, 70% of your customers walking away from their $50 (or more, for collector's ed.) investment in the game after their free month is stupendously bad.

I played it. It was mostly shitty and derivative. Had a few good ideas. 60/100 from me. And I'm infinitely more qualified to review games than just about any of the "journalists" on Metacritic. So there.

da criminal said...

Luke- of course. Things ARE hard all over and it's MUCH easier said than done to just leave a job and get a new one. I am sympathetic to that. But that's life in the big city: you either make a change (i.e. quit or try to effect change at the current job) or you shut up. This sort of 'cling to the job, cash the checks, then when you get tossed you go on a rant' thing is bullshit.

Luke said...

Yeah, I agree, if it's upsetting enough to publish on the internet I think you may wanna make a career change, or look for another company.

It *is* slightly ridiculous they brought on a guy from customer service as a design lead lol

On a side note, i'm glad you communicate with us, I think it's really cool we get sorta an inside look into the mind of Jaffe, really excited for Twisted Metal :)

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

And this is why to this day the God of War series is mired in clunky, poorly automated combat (dodge on the right analog stick lol) and anyone with a clue considers Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, or Ninja Gaiden to have far superior controls and combat mechanics.

Mark said...

look at little big planet, sometimes game/code developers do know what's better than producers/directors.

those guys actually came from Lionhead, imagine if Peter actually listened to those people! fable 2 would have been a much, much better game.
Microsoft is too stuck on their custom version of renderware, because all the games they made with it so far, well blows!

Luke said...

Mathew is a tool.

Name calling aside, dodge on the right analog stick was actually a really intuitive setup for me.

I was actually even more impressed how they ported the controls over to PSP and lost basically nothing in the translation, somehow dodge worked equally well.

Very impressed.

Tyler Dodge said...

I'm a software developer (not in video games) and I absolutely agree about the second point. When you're in a position to implement decisions that other people have made, it's really easy to be critical of those decisions. Oftentimes, it's not the way you would do things if you were calling the shots, but you're not, so you bite your lip and do it the way your boss says.

Then s*** hits the fan, sales aren't what you all hoped, and suddenly, your thoughts on how to do things are mentally validated as the right way.

The truth is, with selling a software product, there are a million little decisions that get made and it's really hard to pinpoint which ones caused the big problems.

da criminal said...

Matheww, you miss the point. We were not trying to go head to head with those games. ANYONE can see the pure technique involved in those games- or games like Bayonetta- blows the doors off GOD OF WAR. They are SUPPOSED to! In GOD OF WAR our goal was to get the player to feel like they were on an adventure that was easy to play, had cool scenarios, puzzles, platforming,etc.

The goal was NEVER to be some amazing combat simulator. Your reaction proves my point: you may not LIKE GOD OF WAR but you don't even stop to think that perhaps there are other goals and ways of doing things, not JUST the ones you like.

And if you look at the GOD OF WAR sales compared to those games you mention, clearly- at least from a sales standpoint- we did something right.

Luke said...

Of course, then people accuse you of selling out hardcore gamers, or going main stream. Finding the middle ground that appeals to both is probably the hardest part.

My dream game has always been one that as you up the difficulty level, the gameplay changes, enemies don't just get extra health, and you less health, and they block all of your attacks.

Like, adding entire moves, and strategies that enemies employ, that are entirely different and add a new level of challenge to the single player. Even adding in different boss's for different difficulties.

Doing this however, I would assume would take a lot of development time and cost a crap ton of money, so I see why it's not done, but i've always wanted it.

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

>easy to play, had cool scenarios, puzzles, platforming,etc.

Nothing about God of War is enhanced by making Kratos control like a drunken elephant. Even the auto-aiming is terrible. It's completely illogical to claim that clunky, badly designed controls mean a game is 'easy to play'. Poor controls and 'cool scenarios, puzzles, platforming,etc' are not mutually exclusive.

From my review:

The controls are too stiff for fluid switching between offense and defense. It's like comparing the stiff no-strafing controls of an old Resident Evil title to a modern shooter. One reason for this is the fact that dodge is tied to the right analog stick. There no way around the clunkiness of this control - either you take your left thumb off the left stick, or your right thumb off the front buttons. There are also some attacks that are impossible to dodge cancel out of (any of the L1+button moves), adding to the combat stiffness. Both dodging and blocking have a start up and recovery delay so you need to anticipate when to go on the defensive ahead of time. It's amusing how they give you a L1+X shortcut for weapon switching instead of using the D-pad, but don't give you a dodge shortcut that would dodge in the direction Kratos is currently facing. The games poor auto-aiming will cause Kratos to attack a target that neither he nor your analog stick is facing towards, just because it happens to be closer to him.

deejrandom said...

I'll be honest...I've played most of the God of war games. I never thought they were hard to control or clunky.

What I thought, as a gamer, is it was different then other systems that were put in place in other games.

SO why whine about it? OMGosh you don't like a game? Big flippin' deal. And adding a review? Sheez we all know that reviews are opinion pieces. Heck I could show you reviews I've written...so what? Doesn't mean everyone agrees with them.

I think you are just looking for an ego boost and attention there, kid.

Gin Pang said...

Come on, Mr. Jaffe. You should've at least been prescient enough to sow enough seeds of BRILLIANCE in the first two God of War games to top 2009's Bayonetta, let alone REMOTELY direct the third one to pure excellence.

But let's be fair: anyone with a clue would consider Super Street Fighter 4 to have far superior controls and combat mechanics.

da criminal said...

Matt- I hear and respect your view. I am also glad that you are clearly in the teeny-tiny minority on these issues :)

Blob said...

I don't get the complaints about GoW's combat system. It's designed for approachable entertainment, not complexity and technique. Might as well criticize Bejeweled for not being a Rubik's Cube, or Twisted Metal for not being Forza.

Part of being an excellent designer is understanding what is important to your (potential) audience. For GoW, it was all about taking down epic beasts in brutal fashion, not about perfecting the timing of your counters or other such. It worked-- it appealed to a wide audience, and it didn't need an overblown, highly technical combat system to do so. In fact, such a combat system may have caused some people to put the game down instead of finishing it, telling their friends to play it, and then eagerly buying the sequels.

Naatan said...

I hardly think ealouse' main point is his disagreement with some of the game design choices that were made. Having read his blog post I find the part that pisses me off the most is the gross incompetence of his bosses and the fact that they seem to have no connection to the community not their employees.

Seems to me like you are reacting to some of the side issues and ignoring the main issues he is trying to address.

Gary Loftus said...

I'm sorry but a guy who has tried to do his job when he can see the company is being run really badly, probably can't get another job in the current market and is now losing his job is entitled to a 'rant' (his own words).
A game designer, on the other hand, who rants all the time is a bit of a hypocrite if he gets angry that someone else does it. Especially when that designer admits he knows nothing about the workings inside the company that is criticised!

His rant didn't irritate me in the slightest. It confirmed my suspicions about SW:TOR from videos I have seen and previews I have read. It also shows the reasons behind the main criticisms of Warhammer Online (too similar to WoW, lack of polish, etc).

Your rant and complete lack of sympathy however just shows an egotist who should occasionally keep his mouth shut.

Tim said...

I completely agree on both points.

I've been on both sides of the equation. I've complained about decisions that I didn't agree with. I've had people go behind my back to try to override my decisions that they didn't agree with.

Over time I came to respect the developers who simply did the best job they could in the circumstances. They didn't like the game's direction? They'd argue their case, and then keep working to the best of their ability, maybe influencing some change where they could. When they were on a project that they loved.. wow, there was no stopping them. That's the type of developer I've aspired to be ever since.

This complaining about internal issues in a public way? In my opinion it's just as unprofessional as the issues that caused it in the first place.

Chainsaw said...

So fucking correct. I was just telling a friend what a crybaby this dude was and how working at RAD on God Of War taught me as i said it, " God of War taught me how not to be a niche nerd, design wise. we called it NASCAR designing".

When I worked on wow, the team functioned as if Blizzard was the client and everything had to bow down to the needs of the IP, wow has dancing cause Warcraft always had wacky humor. Honestly, people need to nut up or shut up.

Jason "Shirts" de Heras said...

Matthew said:

"Both dodging and blocking have a start up and recovery delay so you need to anticipate when to go on the defensive ahead of time."

I'll just say you are grossly wrong on this.

For the rest, read this:

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17215

c0dec said...

Haha, when David mentioned the SF/Tekken mutiny crew, I immediately thought "shirts"! Maybe not.

- SRK lurker.

polygrafix said...

Well Said David!

Maik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

>I think you are just looking for an ego boost and attention there, kid.

I think you are just bad at video games there, kid.

>I'll just say you are grossly wrong on this.

The article you linked to discusses cancels and has nothing to do with startup/recovery animation delays. Way to fail linking to an article you probably don't even understand.

It appears the posters here can't tell the difference between the complexity of a combat system and basic issues such as responsiveness (kratos controls slow and clunky), targeting (bad auto-select coding), and ease of control (right analog stick dodge). Even if the developers attempted to add combat system depth, it would still fail.

Flipao said...

God forbid a developer speaks out his mind, gets ideas of his own or bites the hand that feeds him.

I guess we can't have that.

Warhammer is a fucking trainwreck, it's not popular, it's not fun and as we can see, at least one of the people who made it hates it.

EA is money sucking corporation that has had legal trouble in the past due to its working conditions, it also has the rather unhealthy practice of purchasing succesful studios and promptly shutting them down.

Jason "Shirts" de Heras said...

Matthew wrote:

"The article you linked to discusses cancels and has nothing to do with startup/recovery animation delays. Way to fail linking to an article you probably don't even understand."

Wow. Canceling animations has everything to do with "recovery animation delays." As far as startup, I would say Block and Evade is pretty much instant in terms of feel and invulnerability in relation to other casual hardcore action game.

Did you even read the entire article?

Matthew wrote again:

"Way to fail linking to an article you probably don't even understand."

I'd say I understand the article for the following reasons:

1) The person who wrote the "Combat Cancelled" Article (Eric Williams) was the Lead Combat/Systems Designer for God of War 1 and 2. He also happens to be my mentor.

2) I'm a combat designer at SCEA Santa Monica so I'm obviously familiar with the combat and animation system.

edward_moffet said...

Matthew, why has the game never felt slow or clunky to me then? I've never hit an unintentional target, or felt cheated by the controls in anyway, dodge on the right stick felt really good to me. What you're talking about here is pure opinion on your part, not fact.

Filip said...

About the GOW discussion:

I got to say that as a huge fan of the games mentioned I understand what Mathew is complaining about, but also as someone who enjoyed GOW I am very glad to hear what David is saying. That is exactly how I experienced GOW. When I started playing I immediately released that the combat is not what I expected and the game is definitely not another DMC or NG. But somehow the game grabbed my attention and very soon I started enjoying the game on a different level. I got immersed in the game's world. I felt badass controlling Kratos. It was a fun experience going through the game. I was very satisfied in the end.

I think that combat mechanics in GOW are good and easy accessible, do have some dept to them, but are not the main focus of the game (and certainly not the only focus of the game). For me GOW is more action/adventure than hack and slash. It's not in the same genre as DMC and NG. You just interact with the game's world through combat mechanics in all three, other than that they are completely different games, completely different experiences. Just like Bioshock and Call of Duty, or Uncharted and Gears of War...

When we start a new game we do have some expectations based on the previous games that we liked. But great designers are capable of making us kinda expend our horizons by offering something different, something we didn't expect but ended up liking in the end.. I appreciate that even more than a great sequel...

(sorry if my english is bad)

Sidepocket said...

"What the fuck is it about making games where it brings out the worst, most immature, most obnoxious sides of certain types of people on a team? Everyone thinks they always know better than the people in charge."

*holds mirror to you and Calling all Cars*

PhilosopherKing said...

Games are about interactivity, and those guys david (street fighter 2/tekken guys) may have been correct but what they didn't understand is as a game developer you have limited resources to allocate.

And I agree with those outspoken devs, God of war could have used more moves and interactivity, GoW 2 and 3 were repeats of God of war 1 with very little added.

Games are fundamentally about interactivity, so the less moves and stuff in the environment to interact with makes the game less interesting. This is one of the reasons Civilization is so addictive compared to most other games - depth.

But getting the balance right is hard. I think you as a game developer can agree with that.

Otimus said...

Frankly, I've never understood the attitude of people like Matthew. Because something he considers really good exists, all other things are suddenly null? That's silly logic. It's like all the people who act like Killzone on the PS2 was the seventh layer of crap simply because better shooters exist. Something better existing doesn't instantly rule out the existence of other things. Otherwise, most of us would only play one game. God of War is fine for what it does. Bayonetta is fine for what it does. As gamers, we should be exceptionally happy to have so many choices!

Barom said...

It's very interesting to see both sides of the story. Even though it's not specifically the same story, they're close enough.

Personally I think I do agree with Jaffe. I feel it was up to EALouse or other employees to take the initiative and make a change if that was what they wanted.

Kion said...

Dude, your response doesn't make any fucking sense. It's as if you're addressing Louse but not touching any of the issues he did. If you're whoring for attention, I'm sure you'll make some new friends with 12 y/o gamers, other than that...

Son, I am dissapoint.

eric williams said...

Dear Matthew,

Please go out and make a game that is as "tight" control wise much like the Japanese games you talked about and does the sales of God of War then come talk to me.

I'm glad you like those games but be fair when you bash the ones you don't like. You are insulting guys/gals who worked more hours than you can imagine working out frame data on thousands of animations to create a solid and engaging combat experience which might I add had never really been done before by an american team. So if you don't like, fine but step up and do it better otherwise continue to babble about things you do not fully understand on the internet.

I would also like to add that several japanese devs working on the games you love have been chasing and admiring the God of War formula because they cannot figure out how to make a game that appeals to such a broad audience. I have had the pleasure to sit and chat with many of then and while talking to them we came to the realization that they would rather hone one piece of the puzzle than flesh out all the parts so it appealed to more people.

Unfortunately this mentality is killing the japanese game industry because the sales cannot support the financial costs to develop the titles.

Dave and the rest of the God of War directors have always put the whole experience first instead of one piece and the appeal and sales have allowed the franchise to become the crown jewel of internal development. I'm glad Dave had the vision to figure out how to allow 2 million people in the US alone to experience my "clunky elephant" while the rest of the genre competitors were scratching their heads wondering how the first game in a franchise out sold them 4-1 and scored critically just as high.

thanks,
eric williams

p.s. Let me know when your game is done as I'd love to see how you do... it's all friendly competition right?

boffee said...

dsquared men's

shoes

dsquared
moncler.com
moncler
polo moncler
moncler
moncler jacket
moncler online shop
moncler kid
moncler jackets

keepthinking said...

Morale of the story? Well from reading the posts of successful developers; games are not art, and there is little room for sophistication and risk taking - its a business with lots of money involved and what matters is deadlines and budgets and crushing your competition!

You're welcome for the translation without all the ego strutting :)

PhilosopherKing said...

Dave did an excellent job on God of War 1, also remember the models that didn't make it on the GoW disc? Jaffe pointed to failed monster and kratos models that didn't make it into the game.

It's proof that you just can't let anyone on your team suggest stuff that doesn't fit in the game. Too many people get into game development to express their own ideas THEY think are cool, instead of focusing on what GAMERS want - the audience. The consistency and awesomeness of the experience.

You have to have to have someone maintain the artistic vision for the game or you get mediocrity, or immersion gets broken...

The boss of Mass effect 2 was so immersion breaking, I wonder who it was on the team that thought it would be "oh so awesome" to make a skeleton reaper, it was the most lamest shit in gaming. It's proof that you have to cull bad ideas that break believability in the game universe.

Talk about cheeze.

Ernest Adams said...

"Contingent," please, not "contingency." A contingent is a subgroup of people. A contingency is a possible but unlikely future event. The people in the boss's office were a contingent.

-- The Usage Nazi

Matthias said...

"da criminal said...
The goal was NEVER to be some amazing combat simulator."

But would it be to much to ask that the combat that is present actually WORKS? It seems clear that you haven't played Warhammer at all, so you obviously do not see the VAST problems the game had at release, and problems it STILL has despite countless unanswered feedback threads from the subscribers. How much time is actually being spent trying to fix problems that has been present since closed beta/early alpha? The only thing that has actually been fixed is the horrible lag, and that was fixed by removing the single most important aspect of the game, namely the forts. Paul promised the remaining cities would be implemented, that never happened. Paul also promised that the level restrictions on fort sieges were to be removed, that never happened either, instead you completely removed fort sieges with a promise that they would come back, but we all know that won't happen either.

da criminal said...

Eric- so great to see you on the blog! :)

By the way- not that I imagine you were wondering- but I've gotten a few emails from members of the combat team asking if THEY were the ones that went to Allan wanting changes in the first GOD OF WAR.

For the record, NO :) It was NO ONE on the combat team...the combat team seemed to get what we were going for from the very start. Probably because they were so well versed in the more complex fighters like SF2 that they KNEW if we wanted to hit the mainstream target we'd have to dial things back a bit.

Great seeing you at Arsenal a few weeks back- hope you are doing well.

David

da criminal said...

Matthaias- I was talking about GOD OF WAR, not WARHAMMER.

da criminal said...

Eric- so great to see you on the blog! :)

By the way- not that I imagine you were wondering- but I've gotten a few emails from members of the combat team asking if THEY were the ones that went to Allan wanting changes in the first GOD OF WAR.

For the record, NO :) It was NO ONE on the combat team...the combat team seemed to get what we were going for from the very start. Probably because they were so well versed in the more complex fighters like SF2 that they KNEW if we wanted to hit the mainstream target we'd have to dial things back a bit.

Great seeing you at Arsenal a few weeks back- hope you are doing well.

David

da criminal said...

Earnest- yes, you are right of course. I was an English major and actually do know the difference. I just type blogs fast and furious and rarely have the time or even interest to go back and proof. But you got me- I do know the difference but now I feel so stupid having made that mistake! Thanks for pointing it out tho! :)

No twinkie for me I take it?!? :)

Hope all is well!

David

Aujang said...

David:

While it may be underhanded, I actually think people like EA Louse serve a very effective purpose for the industry. I just recently finished directing/producing a game. Looking back on the process, if in the future I was managing a suite of games and one of my teams was this dysfunctional, I would want to know.

The gaming industry is mired with executive teams who simply don't know what's going on with their employees. A number of my close friends--all very talented developers, artists, etc. in the industry--often lament to me that their leadership has no idea what actually happens in their dev teams. I don't think this is unique to our industry at all, but considering the incredibly capital-intensive nature of our business, if we've got bad apples we should be culling them as fast as possible. At the very least, there should be a consistent and repeated message from management to the employees about what is and is not important. Silence from upper executives, coupled with what EA Louse believes to be cronyism, is incredibly damaging for morale.

There is of course an element of cowardice to it. He should have used his real name and retained his integrity. Right now he's just whining. While that makes me look less favorably on the man, it does not, in my opinion, diminish his message.

da criminal said...

Aujang, I don't disagree that incompetence at ANY level needs to be removed. My point- which perhaps was not made all that well- was that every game has those people who bitch about management and the injustices of the world and how awful things are when- in fact- that individual doing the bitching either:

a- simply does not have all the information as to why things are working the way they are.

b- has sour grapes because HIS/HER ideas were not implemented and instead of dealing with that in a mature way, goes off on a 'I'm such a rebel! Fuck the man!' tirade.

IF Louse is spot on with his criticisms then he should bring them up with management and if he gets no satisfaction he should leave. He is not owed his job; a job is not a country where he should stick around and try to vote out the bastards and fix the problems that- if they are real- are probably so deeply rooted there will be no way anyone at his level can fix them.

So I agree with you: corruption and bad management needs to go, either by being dragged into the light where it can be observed and thus removed OR by having the people being managed walk away and find better jobs or start their own gigs.

BUT I also have seen many people in the biz who bitch and get all 'boy, if I was running this place things would be so much better!' when they are really just asshats with no idea of what it takes to do the job of the people tasked with running the game or the company.

In the case of Louse, I assumed it was the later given his silly complaints about artistic expression not be allowed via cutting the dancing out of Warhammer (again, not in the original post, but in his comments section).

David

Aujang said...

David:

So, I think there's two separate points in your post I want to address.

First, I'm completely in agreement with you about the 20-40 year-old boys working in the industry. It drives me insane and I think all of your criticisms regarding their sense of entitlement and their inflated self-worth to be completely accurate.

The second point you make is what I think really needs close examination by executives in the gaming industry. You say: "simply does not have all the information as to why things are working the way they are." That is probably true, but the question this raises in my mind is: "Whose fault is that?"

A game is as much an expression of creative vision as it is a commercial product. People will always have differences of opinions on the former (and likely the latter too), but 3/4ths of management is figuring out how to make everyone happy with the process. With some people (read: 20-40 yr old boys) this may be impossible. But with the vast majority I don't think this is the case. A game is NOT a democracy, but it is something of an enlightened dictatorship. And the list of grievances EA Louse has makes it look like there was more going on than his slighted ego.

To this day one of my developers steadfastly disagrees with one of the game's design elements. We had a few long discussions about it, and eventually he was overruled. He wasn't happy about it, but he knows why we made the decision and he respects it. (To a point. Heh.) Do you really think anyone at EA took the time to make the Louse feel the same way?

da criminal said...

Aujaug, I agree that a good management team will allow all the workers- from the lowest paid entry level guy to the super star programmer- to know as much as possible. Everyone should feel vested and enlightened as to the reasons decisions are being made...within reason.

The reality is, there are always those on the team that feel they should know EVERYTHING and that management needs to justify every decision that is made. This is not only unrealistic, it's exhausting to deal with.

In the same way a coder doesn't feel compelled to explain to a designer the five thousand thoughts that went thru their head as they were working up a new combat mechanic, a manager should not feel compelled to list out the 5-20 reasons and people involved in making a decision- along with those people's own agendas and politics and how pleasing person X may help the game overall down the line.

The main thing is the workers need to feel that management IS looking out for them and the game and be ok with the fact that there will be some info that simply can not be shared.

A great superstar employee will appreciate that balance. A self entitled, snot nosed asshole will not. As I said in my post, I don't know EALouse or the game he worked on or the people he was hanging out to dry. So I don't know for sure which of these categories he falls into. I get how if he's the former and things got SO BAD that he just snapped. Hell, I've been guilty of that as well. And if that's the case, I feel for the guy. But because of some of his comments- the dancing bit- and because he was willing to name names but hide his OWN name behind ANON, my gut tells me he is more of a self entitled prick.

David

KKDragonLord said...

In case you didn't notice David, he was pissed that the Art department was forced to copy the colorful disney look from WoW (which is not inside that view) and then told not to do dances. Its not that he really wanted to do dances so much his balls hurt. Its that WAR should NOT be a WoW clone Especially when it comes to the Art because it Has to differentiate itself, to make its mark, And, since you admit that you dont know shit about the Warhammer universe, that is precisely where you missed the point. It is Supposed to be the Darkest fantasy Setting ever imagined. SO thats what went wrong and that is the True meaning of his post.

Not to mention. GoW1 didnt not have a good enough gameplay to surpass what had been established by Devil May Cry 3, it was less about player skill than doing flashy movements around non-stop, and that removed a depth of play from it that could improve the game tremendously with increasingly difficult game modes.

GoW was a good game, but could be better (especially its story), it was the best of the series, but it wasnt truly "A best of all time" nominee so dont think it was that perfect as you are implying.

Cuah123 said...

Creativity aside, (which there is plenty in the game industry and I've said this often) is the notion that long unscheduled hours for a lack of a defined preproduction process is just the way its going to be, the take it or leave point of view really leaves no room for industry growth and maturity. My wife, who happens to have come from both television and movies (our cousins) was awestruck at the amount of hours that we all put in, she asked about scheduling and preproduction and reminded me that in most disciplines its 90% preprod and 10% execution. Aside from her union talks (at this point) I think she has a strong point.

Her industry started out 100 years ago just like ours, we are a century behind the times.
Sadly in our industry we often spend more time executing (maybe through serendipity) and spend about 10% conceptualizing and thinking. This might not be the case on all projects, like GOW (first game was a classic btw, couldn't pass the barbarian in #2 so I stopped) and Warhammer.

Having worked at EA, I can tell you we spent alot of time in preproduction, so I don't think this was the case.
However, when in a position of creative power, we should not treat those who are going to implement as bots ready to execute upon our latest whim. Which I think EA Louse is really getting at. I've been on both sides of the coin and when you're on the implementation side, you can really feel when the creative person has not really thought it all out, but is shooting from the hip instead. Creatives shooting from the hip as an implementer means lots of hours at a cost of quality of life, or free work and free labor; which as Americans there is a long history against and for me it rings wrong, (of course unless its a entrepeneurial endeavor which you own and drive).

If for every decision there was a dollar sign attached, I bet we'd all be more careful about the decisions we make.
One way to keep the long free hours of work beast away is to keep your team small, figure out your compulsion loops first before going horizontal. Its easier to steer a speed boat than a titanic sized ship full of people. If you have an example of what your game is about, its going to be easier to have people buy in. If your a publisher or a VC ask to see a vertical slice of the game to insure your investment, either documented or in the engine. If your a dev that has already delivered your vertical slice and your pub changes their mind, it should be at a cost of money. It goes both ways, when money is involved people stop and really think about it.

Maybe instead of scheduling to a 5 day week plus crunch, we should schedule to a 4 day week without crunch (yes some prods schedule in crunch. Perhaps instead of taking 2 years, it takes 3 years or scope is reduced.

As a studio head, think about the longetivity and maturity of your studio through your people. A studio is like a pitcher, pitch him too much and his arm is going to go, pitch him at the right time at the right game.

Apolloin said...

Well, David Jaffe is right in that someone needs to make a decision - but speaking as someone who knows it can also be CRAZY frustrating to watch someone with a reputation and an ego blackboxing all the design decisions and waffling on about the 'one true vision'.

Obviously there are times when the visionary egoist is right, and having a coherent vision is important, but for every Warren Specter there is a John Romero.

da criminal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
da criminal said...

Cuah, this is why I would love to see games have SOME form of unions. I agree that it's simply not fair the way it works right now. Unions as they function in Hollywood would bring a fuck ton of pain to the way games are made right now BUT in the long run I think it would force the biz to stable out and do better pre-prod and force processes that would be good for the biz as a whole.

Apolloin- I agree as well. But the reality is, game design is iterative. So is code and so is art and so is scripting and design implementation. But a lot of the people who bitch about game designers who make changes and adjustments to the game never stop to think that THEY themselves- in their disciplines- are CONSTANTLY noodling with their work before they call something done. You think a coder writes a line of code ONCE and never adjusts it? But designers and game directors are expected to do this or they are 'iterative obsessed' and people who don't know what they are doing or people who don't know what they want or people who can't make up their minds.

I have had many people tell me who once were implementers that once they got to wear the creative decision making hat that NOW they understand how challenging the creative job is in games and now understand why you HAVE to iterate and make changes along the way. Can you work and learn to get better at iterating as little as possible? Sure, we can always get better at it. But it's a fact of life if you want to make a good product.

I feel if the team REALLY feels the designer is making it up as he goes and has not thought things through (within reason- you will NEVER be able to imagine how one decision will affect the whole game with any fantastic degree of accuracy) then the team DOES have an issue and a point. But I think the team needs to be careful in making that judgement because- at least from my experience- there have been MANY times I could have done what was easy for all involved- myself included- and just gone along to get along but the game would have suffered and then we'd all be out of work.

David

Aujang said...

David:

I think you hit the nail on the head right here:

"The main thing is the workers need to feel that management IS looking out for them and the game and be ok with the fact that there will be some info that simply can not be shared."

That sort of dynamic requires a level of trust that, judging from my completely anecdotal experience, isn't particularly prevalent in our industry. You may disagree, and frankly you've got more experience in the industry so you may even be right.

In any case, I'll be interested to see what happens from here on out. I wonder if/how EA plans to deal with this. They haven't been on the receiving end of particularly positive press recently.

Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip Elson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip Elson said...

To quote an earlier post "The controls are too stiff for fluid switching between offense and defense. It's like comparing the stiff no-strafing controls of an old Resident Evil title to a modern shooter. One reason for this is the fact that dodge is tied to the right analog stick. There no way around the clunkiness of this control - either you take your left thumb off the left stick, or your right thumb off the front buttons." (Talking about GOW franchise) I am so sick of this mentality people have about video games. People act as if video games should cater to their inability to adapt. If the controls do not work in light of your ideal functionality, that does not make them wrong. I found the GOW series WAY more intriguing than Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta to name a few of the comparable games. Immersive story aside, the game's core combat mechanics are impecable. It can be enjoyed by the simplest of gamers all the way to the most hardcore (myself included lol). I found myself playing that game for hours upon hours trying to beat the original on God mode (I have many times now). Did I ever complain once that the game was terrible because I had to find a glitch to beat the second phase of Ares? No! I adapted and found a way to beat him I.E. the essence of what makes video games fun! People never said Mario Brothers was a terrible game because the controls were clunky...and they are, especially by today's standards. You adapt and figure out how to play it all the while enjoying it. I am so sick of these reviewers being so pretentious about their video game abilities that if they cannot play something well it is not a good game. Of course I am not saying that bad controls are good, just agreeing with Jaffe that there are many different perceptions of "good." The only problem now is that the bar has been set so high that only games that are scored 85% and above are even paid attention to. This is most likely the result of the video game industry following in the business models of the film industry. It is next to impossible to have a major studio back a new IP these days. And when I say new IP I mean genuinely new, not a remake of an old movie, book, comic, game etc... The same seems to apply to the video game world. The smaller studios that make indie games do not have the marketing backing to do mass blanket marketing, just as independent films cannot compare with Hollywood blockbusters. There are only a few publishers and distributors now in the game industry that are major players, the same in the film industry. To get to my point that is relevant to this entire argument, the video game industry will not take as many risks on mid to lower level employee's ideas because there is too much money on the line. When a video game has a budget of say $150 million (not uncommon these days, same as many Hollywood blockbusters) they want to make sure they have a sound investment obviously. Most upper management have the experience from working in other games (I did say most) therefore from a business perspective, you gamble on these people with the experience. As we have all seen from studios such as EA, this is not always the best decision *cough cough Medal of Honor cough cough.* Although the mid to low level employees may think they have better ideas, I can see how their perspectives might be slightly jaded as they cannot see the big picture. Their job is most likely very niched and they are only able to see the project from a keyhole. Agreeing also with the point that employees need to feel that they are a large part of the machine and being looked out for. Employee happiness is a big key in productivity, if the mid to low level employees feel as if they have input and it is a level creative playing field, this will result in higher productivity and most likely a better product.

Stray Neutrino said...

Hi David,

We have unions here, in Sweden, that game devs can optionally join. However, the problems in the industry, as a whole, are still prevalent here as they would be in a non-unionized industry (read: American development).

As far as I know, I know of no union action against the industry here in the history of the industry.

"Cuah, this is why I would love to see games have SOME form of unions. I agree that it's simply not fair the way it works right now. Unions as they function in Hollywood would bring a fuck ton of pain to the way games are made right now BUT in the long run I think it would force the biz to stable out and do better pre-prod and force processes that would be good for the biz as a whole."

oilahize said...

Umm...GOW FTMFW!!!!! Lol.

oilahize said...

Matty's just mad he sucks at GOW.

Rannz said...

I'm in "games" and I agree with the point of worker bees doing work and worrying less if their input is being listened to...unless the powers that be ask for input specifically.
That's something I had to learn straight-away: keep your mouth shut and just do your assigned tasks (as an artist).
I do feel for employees that have been told they have a say in the direction and design of a project but then are summarily ignored for whatever reason, be they an artist, a QA tester, etc..

I've read EALouse's blog post and agree that some of it sounds like sour-grapes, but there might be some truth buried in there.

Joe said...

God of War is the undisputed king of the genre. Combat isn't the only thing that matters in these games. God of War excels in pacing, puzzles, adventure, story presentation, sound, epicness, and it gives you a feeling of brutality not seen in other games.

Depth of the combat is the ONLY way Bayonetta tops GOW. The only people that say Bayonetta is a better designed game are snobs who hate mainstream games!


I have yet to try the new Castlevania though ;)

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Filip said...

wow, check out the main headline news at n4g.com

pure trash, headline totally taken out of context...

insanity said...

Hi David, I just quickly wanted to say I'm very impressed with your writing on this topic. Not just your initial post, but looking at you interact with those commenting has been a pleasure to read...

You come across as a very respectful person, with thoughtful opinions to match. It's always refreshing to see someone willing to allow different opinions to exist without needing to destroy them

TyrantII said...

80% of the work is done by 20% in business, game industry included.

Granted, This mostly applies to the behemoths where incompetence can hide out for years, aided by useless HR departments that are road blocks to hiring talent, not helpful IMO.

I work in big bank finance, and see many similar qualities:

Incompetent management hiding out, don't rock the boat mentality, HR with no clue how to properly vet candidates because they know HR and not the work / group. New hires that won't work out, but only get laid-off when "excuses" periods hit the company, such as ATB layoffs.

Ultimately, David is right. Shut up and deal with it and a boring, cushy job and deal with the cliff when you get there; or leave and find a better business to work at. Many smaller companies want and try to find candidates that have vision and an ability to sign on to the corp's future. They're better places to work for, but the risk is also higher, and the focus on YOU and your performance is much greater.

Take that step.

Bruno Velazquez said...

I like how Matthew never showed his face again after Eric and Jason de Heras le him have it. Way to send him packing guys!

Jinf said...

Oh no, .. I am directing an online game currently. I personally have same problem with some guys that just don't WANT to get it. It seems being a hater today is not just usual, ... it is actually required if you wanna be "cool".

I really know what you mean dude - and you are not alone in this shit.

Jack Pipsam said...

take a chill pill

sara chen said...

I love how Burberry uses their signature check pattern to design most of their masterpieces. We have recently seen this renowned fashion house use their signature design on an espadrille sandal and leather pumps, and this time they are showcasing it through their Burberry Lace-Up Leather and Canvas Boots.

Perfect for the coming winter season, the Burberry Lace-Up Leather and Canvas louboutin shoes is made with a black leather base adorned with a buckled strap and stitch detailing at front. This leather base sets the stage for the lovely canvas covered leather shaft which Burberry designed with their well-known signature olive and black check pattern. This bootie is also designed with a…

skugga74 said...

#1: You add what the CONSUMERS want, not what some retarded leaddesigner wants. If they dont know what the consumers want they dont have anything in the game industry to do, except be the janitor perhaps.

The beta testers wanted more content and a better pvp system. The beta version went live with a few tweaks here and there, far from enough.

If the consumers wants magic in SW-TOR you add it, period. Otherwhise you can aswell shut down the project, because honestly, the words from Louse is spreading faster than the worst fire you can imagine. My guess is that 65% of the consumers who said they would play SW have heard about how much the game sucks. If there is no open beta for everyone to prove him wrong then the game will loose the most of those players within the first months playing, permanently. No one will play the first 30-day then quit and come back 6 months later during some comeback event wich gives bonus items for returning players. Those bonus items will still not make the game any better.

If EA cant keep their staff happy they surely wont be able to keep their consumers happy.

Personally I wont buy SW because of the Louse blog, I dont want to spend money on something that might be bad. You have to prove me and others wrong by letting everyone test the game. Otherwhise... Game Over - Insert Coin to continue.