Corporate Interference Leads to Bad Games, Says THQ Exec

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Corporate Interference Leads to Bad Games, Says THQ Exec

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If you want to design games, says THQ's EVP of core games Danny Bilson, you can't be an executive.

According to Bilson, game designers should be allowed to get on with the business of designing games, and not have to keep constantly checking in with management every time they make a change. Speaking at the IGDA Leadership Forum in San Francisco on Friday, Bilson said that the only way to make a good game was by letting designers pursue their visions, and keeping corporate concerns out of the picture as much as possible.

When Bilson joined THQ as creative director, the company had largely built its success on "licensed Game Boy games." His task was to increase the overall quality of THQ's output, and while some might have found the task daunting, Bilson believed he was in a great position to enact real change within the company. "I walked in there," he said. "And I'll be frank, I said 'this is all opportunity. There aren't a lot of creative leaders here, so I can maybe get something done!'"

Bilson said that the only way he knew to make THQ's stock more valuable was to make great games, and the only to do that was by taking a hands-off approach and letting designers work on their ideas. Having to constantly show work to executives was not only costly, he said, but also served to water down a concept.

In Bilson's opinion it's far too common for people who have nothing to do with actually making a game to have an undue amount of control over it. He gave the example of the marketing department essentially setting a game's budget with a forecast, thereby putting limits on what the designers could or couldn't accomplish, and said that he challenged the wisdom of this whenever he could. "I don't think games should be directed from corporate in any way," he concluded. "If you want to design the game, you should get in the studio. You shouldn't be in the corporate headquarters, and you shouldn't be an executive."

Source: Gamasutra

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Otherwise, Executive Meddling is still too close to call. There were some games that suffered from Executive Meddling.

well I hope this philosophy pays off for THQ. Because EA has been doing that for the past 2 years and it been helping their image with gamers.

I keep seeing that as Bison, and getting the "YES! YES!" meme in my head.

But this much is obvious, you only have to look at TV or any other media form to find people totally unqualified criticizing people who have actually lived this.

I suggest the Buzz Aldrin approach the next time a corp tries to tell you what to do:

This is so true, but sadly I doubt anyone in charge will really listen.

It's good to see that there actually are some sane people in the industry. One Kotick is enough.

I think that would be the easiest way to spend $25 million on a game about fairies. You have to have some cost control and some check on the devs. They all by definition are going to think the idea they just have come up with is the greatest think since sliced bread. A creative type isn't always the best judge of his own work. What if the dev wants to make a fps about heroic gay French soldiers with all cutscenes done in French. It might be great game but how many 15 year old kids in New York are going to buy it? There has to be some boundaries when your spending several million dollars of someone else's money,

First NOW they figured this out?

Corporate interferance and pressure from set budgets is whats affecting alot of industies these days.

Reason being,these people in suits are basically the same in every industy,accountants.

They all have the same mentality and the same objective,to set a budget that will maximise profit.To bad if keeping to the budget dilutes the quality of the finished product.

Most of the suits in the gaming industry probably dont play games anyway,and more than likely deride those that do as childish,so releasing a product thats buggy,or just plain boring or crap probably wouldn't phase them.They measure success on profit alone.

I see the exact same thing everyday in the hospitality industy.
More for less,cut backs on staff while still making ridiculous statements about delivering a quality product.
Budgets set so unrealistically low the only option is for fulltime staff to work extra unpaid hours to be able to meet labour costs.

If these people could actually see past the dollar signs in their eyes and invest in staff and doing things propery and trusting in the skills and training of the workers they hire,they'd post biggers profits in the long term.Call it short-sighted greed.

This needs to be forwarded to Activision. Right now.

They ruined two games that could have been amazing ([Prototype] and X-Men Orgins: Wolverine) due to their meddling and delays.

For example, Woverine could have been great with the original story they had, but you could see that the Gambit and Deadpool levels were just copy pasted in to match the story of the movie (very poorly, I might add) in order to have a movie tie-in game. Shame. It was so good up to that point

albino boo:
I think that would be the easiest way to spend $25 million on a game about fairies. You have to have some cost control and some check on the devs. They all by definition are going to think the idea they just have come up with is the greatest think since sliced bread. A creative type isn't always the best judge of his own work. What if the dev wants to make a fps about heroic gay French soldiers with all cutscenes done in French. It might be great game but how many 15 year old kids in New York are going to buy it? There has to be some boundaries when your spending several million dollars of someone else's money,

So instead you end up with the smorgasboard of bland games that we have a present,which are the end result of accountants playing it safe.

I really love THQ... they go from up to up all the time even though they seem like a bit of a niche company.

Warhammer 40,000 and relatively obscure Russian books anyone?

In the world of a normal software designer you generally tend to do a complete draft of the design before you present it to your client, presenting a time how long things will take to get done. RAD would apply for things that don't require as much attention, such as updates or small programs... I really don't see that working for games.

He's right.

The best executive is one who lets the developers do their work.

now this kinda talk i can get behind, gg thq! i get the same impression from zenimax. that is if what id and their new sign ups (ex capcom dude, i forget his name)etc are saying about hands off support. we need a new model to push new ideas. all part of the industry growing up i guess. its like what extra credit said the other day. big studios should setup indy dev studios.
nothing is wrong with the big hollywoodesk block busters, but after a while we want more in-depth stories, characters and gameplay mechanics.

heres hoping for a more diverse gaming future. so put down the game and pick up some tools. time to get to work!

Really?? No.... really?

...Who are these guys!? Who let them in here!? Could someone, please, tutor these new guys so they know what we do in here!?

Put up your own money, and stop complaining.

While there does need to be some checking and balancing to create a quality product that will be received well under appropriate funds, he's dead-on. Don't send Ed from accounting to oversee the creative direction taken with the level design and puzzle integration of a new adventure title when the best he can think up is "67% of players respond positively to blood splashing on the screen and hiding behind a rock." Innovation does not come from the guys on top, and especially not from guys like Bobby Kotick[1].

That type of attitude at least encourages deviation from the familiar model of "Try to be like Game X!" which results in a game usually not as good anyway. Why should I buy "Game like Game X" when I already own "Game X?"

[1] Instead, customer boycotts typically arise.

mazzjammin22:
This needs to be forwarded to Activision. Right now.

They ruined two games that could have been amazing ([Prototype] and X-Men Orgins: Wolverine) due to their meddling and delays.

Ironically, the Wolverine game was better than the movie, which suffered greatly from Meddelsome Executives.

The people in charge aren't gamers, they dont see a product as if it should be fun. They only see it as how much money it will bring them. And if that means cutting out new and inovative ideas for the same boring tried and true methods, then so be it. Independant developers are really only the best chance we have for anything decent.

Creative persons expressing themselves for the entertainment of public and betterment of their imaginations?!
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I've said this in like every single post about DLC and stuff like that, When you put an Economist or some related trader type of guy as CEO instead of a passionate gamemaker, the result will always be the same.

THANK YOU! I'm glad somebody went and said it!

Sadly true. I can't help but think this is exactly what has been happening to the Blizzard WoW devs. Changes used to be about fun and balancing, now they make a lot of decisions based on how much money they can make.

It's kinda true. Too bad sometimes the people who can bring in great ideas to a branch, are the ones who are pushed in a chair and told to program shaders...BY THE LEAD DESIGNER!

Bioware, I'm looking at you!

The_root_of_all_evil:
I keep seeing that as Bison, and getting the "YES! YES!" meme in my head.

But this much is obvious, you only have to look at TV or any other media form to find people totally unqualified criticizing people who have actually lived this.

I suggest the Buzz Aldrin approach the next time a corp tries to tell you what to do:

That video made my day.

Still, every exec fears to be financing the next Shenmue. Better communication ought to be the solution, but not at the expense of fucking with the game's development cycle.

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

this always sounds good in THEORY, but in practice it ends up with you ending up with games like they were in the NES days, where you had a bazillion shitty games and maybe one or two gems every once in awhile.

also in practice, you scare the general public with your "artistic vision" so they wont buy your game in favor of purchasing something like "Cash-In of Duty: Black Ops".

So, don't be a PHB? Got it.

albino boo:
I think that would be the easiest way to spend $25 million on a game about fairies. You have to have some cost control and some check on the devs. They all by definition are going to think the idea they just have come up with is the greatest think since sliced bread. A creative type isn't always the best judge of his own work. What if the dev wants to make a fps about heroic gay French soldiers with all cutscenes done in French. It might be great game but how many 15 year old kids in New York are going to buy it? There has to be some boundaries when your spending several million dollars of someone else's money,

I don't think he was talking about the long standing idea of concept pitching to the publishing types, just that once developers and the publisher have got down a good idea that'll sell well, let the developers do as damn well with that concept as they can by their own merits and limitations, without mucking about with pointless demonstrations and out of place changes.

While I agree with Bilson, the problem aren't just the "suits". The developers themselves are also partially responsible for such a state of affairs.

The fact is, most developers lack any sort of business know-how and also lack the desire to learn. Yet, in order to run a company at all (let alone a successful one), it is important to keep in touch with market realities and steer development into games that will end up actually selling and turning a profit. Basically, it is important to curtail creativity so it can be focused into what is important. Since most developers lack the ability and willingness to do so, they entrust creative control to people that do...or, as we like to call them, the "suits".

And that is where the problem arises. Since creative control is in the hands of people who are entirely unfamilair with games, they end up making decisions without the challenges of game development in mind, resulting in many rushed and failed projects. But since game developers usually lack the business know-how to keep development focused, such a state of affairs persists. The fact is, if you are a game developer and don't want the "suits" to get in the way, then you have to (in a sense) become a "suit" yourself. If you don't want others to control your creativity, then you have to learn to control it yourself.

This is pretty much the consensus of every game designer or member of the industry I've ever met.
This is why it's the indie side I have in my sights.

Its kinda like the Pot calling the Kettle black since he's saying that, but I hope people do something and let developers do more of thier ideas without so much helicopter judgementing.

Tom Phoenix:
...steer development into games that will end up actually selling and turning a profit...

And that's the problem with your argument, here. Sure, there's the "tried and true" method, but that doesn't work all the time either (see: the decline of Tony Hawk - a series that actually suffered from both problems). Basically, we may know what sells today but what sells tomorrow may be something very different.

But you are right, it is a give-and-take affair. Still, I think it's one thing to impose creative control on a project ("recent research says this would sell better if we were to change the lead to a space marine") and another to provide outside pressure to complete development (which, when lacking, just leads to Duke Nukem Forever), although the latter is honestly just part of proper management which is solving a problem not unique to game development.

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