SimHQ: Since games are more complicated are more or less developers required on a project these days as opposed to the late 80s and 90s? If the answer is yes, how much does this affect your decision making process when it comes time to consider making a new game?
Martin (Battlefront): If you ask me, the answer is no. While games become without a doubt more and more complicated, the tools at our disposal become more and more powerful, increasing the productivity of even a fairly small team. There is no need for ever increasing dev teams. It’s only the desire of publishers to release games quicker and packed with even more features (a “one of them will stick and make the game more successful” approach replacing good game design) and even nicer graphics that is driving the dev team explosion. And it’s based on the entirely false assumption that a hundred people can finish a game ten times faster than ten people, and make it ten times better.
David (Matrix Games): I believe this question is oversimplified. Due to technological changes a small development team can now make a game that would be considered good by most standards. However, to create a state of the art game a larger development team is now required. Take Starshatter, by Matrix Games, for instance. A single man development team created a space simulation that is on par with nearly every other space sim on the market. On the other hand, some other products require much larger teams than the standard 3-5 man teams that were prominent in the 80s and 90s. The decision when it comes to making a new game always boils down to a question of “Can the addition of more manpower move enough units to justify him.” It has a lot to do with how big we anticipate the market is and how much diminishing return is experienced from the addition of more crew.
Chris (Lead Pursuit): We have around 20 developers, each with a particular area of expertise obviously. As it’s our first release, we cannot go retrospective. However, it seems that as time marches on, gamers’ expectations increase (boy is that true!) and therefore additional talent is required in the pool if the existing team is unable to meet those demands.
Rick (XSI): I would imagine that the majority of game developments large or small require an enormous amount of decision making, a huge process within itself. In the closing stages, decisions where made because of budgetary constraints, and the reality is that every inch of the development process is extremely complicated and incredibly difficult. With the new breed of flight sim developers, the revamped business model becomes a developers biggest asset, as it allows you the room to structure and to be much more selective in picking and molding a team, developing your product and then bringing it to market… New ideas must constantly be developed for this standard to be viable and practical well into the future.
Al (eSim Games): I think that customer expectations are so high, that it does require more manpower — even in the niche market that we occupy. People can’t help but notice what’s being done in the latest AAA title, and their expectations for all titles are inevitably raised. It doesn’t help when the the US Government spends tens of millions of dollars to develop and distribute free games, either. That simply perpetuates the consumer attitude of wanting everything and expecting to pay nothing.
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Coming tomorrow in Part 2 of Developer’s Roundtable:
“Is the mutliplayer or single player aspect more important in success of new release?”