In her final installment of "Inside Job," Erin Hoffman talks to developers about what attracted them to the games industry and how to keep top talent from leaving.
Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Erin Hoffman shook the foundations of the game industry with her infamous "EA Spouse" blog. Now she's illuminating the industry's quality of life debate from the inside out. Every two weeks, take a new look inside the machine that drives the industry with Inside Job.
Erin Hoffman writes a love letter to the truly powerful members of the videogame industry - the gamers themselves.
Making the development process smoother and more pleasant may be as easy as choosing the right tools.
Production tools are an integral part of virtually every game developer's toolkit, but as any craftsman will tell you, the challenge is finding the right tool for the right job.
The industry will never be 'done' addressing quality of life issues, but Erin Hoffman believes there's reason for hope and praise as well as critique.
I'm not sure what caused this precisely - maybe the time for re-evaluation was nigh, maybe there's something in the collective unconscious. But after about a year and a half of the gaming media being content to assume the industry was clicking quietly along on its own, everyone seems to want to know the State of the Game all at once.
Following this month's "student series"-final game design degree treatment, this week we have for your review some commentary on the study of game design from three different corners of this issue.
To close out the student series of Inside Job, I want to recklessly tackle head-on what appears to me a glaring lack in most game education programs: a definition system for a degree in game design.
Earlier this month, I set out to consolidate folk wisdom from the games industry for the anecdotal benefit of students and developers new to the business. This week, the quest continues. I posed two questions to some of the great people I've been fortunate to meet here.
The planes and trains are the last sputtering flames of GDC. Solitude is replaced by the industry without its pulse and glitter; instead of Sid Meier dropping subtle pearls, there's the guy behind you talking far too loudly about what made The Sims Online fail for someone actually in possession of a clue. These last sallow bursts seek strangely to prolong what cannot be prolonged, and show the current generation of the industry for what it is, good and bad alike.
"The only validation that you can have as an institution that's teaching game development ... is the games that your students are producing. ... I tell my students that, in the end, it doesn't matter where (or if) you went to school. The only thing that people are going to care about is what talent or ability you can bring to bear on a game project today."
In a perfect world, employers would fully comprehend the value of building an experience-balanced team and have the resources to act on that comprehension. They would understand that nothing, but nothing, is a replacement for quality team members. But increasingly those with access to company accounts seem to understand less about the value of experience in software development, and as the industry gets larger, this problem worsens.
Continuing on the theme of the role of independent games in the future of the games industry, I caught up with Aquaria developers and 2007 IGF Seamus McNally Grand Prize Award Winners Derek Yu and Alec Holowka. They recently released the full version of Aquaria, which, with its stunning visual presentation, classic charm, and innovative control system, has been described as closing the gap between games that are identifiably "independent" and "professional."
In this primordial soup of game innovation, a place receiving an increasing level of attention as the years go by for its old-school charm and forward-thinking design ethic, not only do we have a focal point for a large percentage of aspiring developers - the industry's future, in no uncertain terms - but we also have a testing ground for innovations in process as well as in game mechanic.
For this pre-holiday-madness edition of Inside Job, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Jones himself on the issues of game censorship, parental concerns, the social context of the videogame censorship battle and more.