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What The #$%& Is With The State Of Gaming In General?


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So i see WG is introducing new "WOWS 'special premium" which is only for WOWS. trying to milk the cow some more. One of the arguments I use to myself to justify premium time for the year is that it applies to both games, so it's money well spent. I hope they don't end that, because i have a hard time justifying 2 accounts.

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You would be surprised how often that happens. The guys I contract for have the distribution rights for Microsoft FSX on steam. So they built an updated version of it with DLC in mind, and made it difficult if not impossible for guys to create their own mods and content. Not surprisingly it bombed, and they withdrew it from sale only months after release. it looked and flew very nice, but they had thrown out pretty much everything that made FSX a success for the past 14 years, its mod-ability.

 

Well I make trainsims so ive no right to complain, but sometimes you want to shake devs because they dont grasp the potential of what they have. And incompletely undestand what the communities want and put a lot of extraneous fluff in it. Best example of that was Tropico, which was one of the most fun strategy games I ever played. One of the follow ups I played was an absolute bore.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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  • 4 months later...

While being a few months old at this point another prime example for this thread (too long to copy/paste the article):

 

https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964

 

After reading that I'm still struggling with the idea that making top tier games is unsustainable. It's painfully clear from the article (and everything else that has come out about Anthem since it's failed launch) that despite being in 'development' for years the reality is the overwhelming majority of that time was simply wasted money due to extremely poor leadership (and that's putting it nicely). They effectively made the game in a year. If they had clear goals and real leadership at the top you could have had a similar game in that timeframe with much less cost and much less fan ire (since expectations were ridiculous from all the years of vague promises). This last point is kind of amusing... so much was expected of Anthem given all the time in development, the studio, and the vague promises. A similar quality game released with less fanfare would have likely gotten decent reviews in part because 'it came out of nowhere' and 'look what they did with so little time.' Would it have made as much? Maybe not initially but in the long term it'd probably be a better return on the investment.

Edited by Skywalkre
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You could just as well look at how Microprose ruined themselves, developing no less than four different render engines for Falcon 4, pouring so much money into the development that there was never a chance to earn it back. I suppose there was the sunken cost fallacy at work, and being in love with the product so much that they lost sight of the business aspect. So, lack of focus/leadership isn't really new. Not sure if it is indicative of the state of gaming today.

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After reading that I'm still struggling with the idea that making top tier games is unsustainable.

Well, the EA way of brutally squeezing their employees is, at least for the employees. Not necessarily for EA, as long as enough young, gullible people are happily walking into the meat grinder of their corporate ethos of crunch time being a Good Thing.

But again, this is nothing new. The horror stories of how EA treats their developer staff go back to the 1990s, for everyone willing to read, and to remember.

Edited by Ssnake
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After reading that I'm still struggling with the idea that making top tier games is unsustainable.

Well, the EA way of brutally squeezing their employees is, at least for the employees. Not necessarily for EA, as long as enough young, gullible people are happily walking into the meat grinder of their corporate ethos of crunch time being a Good Thing.

But again, this is nothing new. The horror stories of how EA treats their developer staff go back to the 1990s, for everyone willing to read, and to remember.

 

But as the article details most of the blame for Anthem has nothing to do with EA. That's what everyone has thought over all these years with what's been happening to BioWare but the reality appears to be senior management at that studio simply made bad call after bad call completely on their own (and when they were called out on this by this article their move was first to circle the wagons and protect those who were responsible, rather than admit fault). If anything it wasn't pressure from EA but rather BioWare management possibly hoping to kiss EA's ass (that's almost a reason that would make sense... which is easier to take than they're just completely awful at their jobs).

 

Again, is something really unsustainable if you waste 5/6 years of development because leadership couldn't make a decision? The bigger issue from a lot of these postmortems is where has competent senior leadership gone to? Does the culture or climate inherent in making a top tier game push away those who are actually capable of delivering it?

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I cannot believe that EA let themselves be bullshitted about the state of Anthem for five, six years. This requires consent, or willful ignorance. So any failings of Bioware top management, and they appear to be grave, fall back on EA leadership who either didn't notice the incompetence, or did nothing to stop the situation. If I learned one thing, leadership failures pretty much always trickle down from the top.

 

When Volkswagen cheats with the Diesel situation, and they have a detail-obsessed "auto freak" at the top who regularly berates his subordinates about the smallest of details ... no matter what the VW PR brigade says to spin the situation, I simply won't believe that Winterkorn didn't know about it. Nothing that we know about his personality suggests that he rewarded non-reporting, or sweeping issues under the rug. He cherished being in the top position making the final calls on everything, that more or less every car model they produced was "his" car model.

 

In a similar way, either EA must have willfully looked the other way, or they simply didn't care. Everything that I hear about EA is that they treat their employees like shit, and that they are interested only about their profits and quarterly reports suitable to boost the stock price. That they treat their customers, the gamers, with disdain, and that they have no interest in games as such. Such a management attitude will have its impact on subordinate levels.

 

So then, Bioware sells out to EA, the EA attitude becomes impossibler to ignore from one meeting following the next. What do guys from Bioware middle management who still care about games do, as soon as their stock options from the merger can be sold? They leave Bioware, and move on. They made some money from the merger, they have at least one solid entry in their resumées, so it's time to do something entirely different, or to switch to a studio that still cares about what these creatives love doing.

Which means that the experienced hands at the mid level get replaced by new guys who, in retrospect, aren't quite as talented or at least lack the experience, and a Bioware top management that starts to believe in the unsubstantiated rumors about some "Bioware magic" while being more and more disconnected from the actual game production process. And the new guys in middle management can't handle it. If this doesn't drive the last die-hard loyalists out of the company, I don't know what will. But in the end you have a rather toxic combination.

Edited by Ssnake
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It seems to be almost universal that management of complex technical projects is bad to the level of the pointy-haired stereotype.

 

When I say universal, I mean that it isn't limited to game software development, I mean any project that has a reasonably high proportion of original technical content.

 

The complaints from the non-management grades are also universally the same.

 

From my perspective, as a peon, not a manager, at some point it no longer seems to matter whether any or even all people on a project are individually competent or not, the apparently exponential complexity of large projects drags them all down.

 

Sometimes it amazes me that anything big ever gets done.

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You wonder if there is any kind of software system that would make management of large projects easier. I once bought a piece of software that was designed to make writing software easier. But I cant say ive ever heard of anything relating to project management, at least in the hierarchical structure, many such developments presumably are quite similar, even if what they make is vastly different.

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If there is one universal constant, corporations in general and tech firms in particular are notoriously bad at developing leadership skills. They train managers, or simply promote the best techies into a job where they have more and more responsibility for people - the polar opposite to what they're good at. My impression is that, irrespective of actual results, militaries are the only organization that attempts to develop leadership skills in a systematical way.

At the same time - especially in larger corporations that are listed at a stock exchange, with the duty to report quarterly results - the implicit and explicit incentives are usually contrary to, or at best indifferent towards a good "employee experience", if we want to call it like that. So, people with actual leadership skills may still retain and improve them despite the environment in wich they operate. In the military, people are less talented still get a chance to develop the necessary skillset. Some don't, of course, and can still get promoted to the highest ranks where they can arguably become even more destructive than the worst bankster sociopaths (think Haig, Westmoreland, Zapp Brannigan). But that doesn't change the fact that corporations by and large fail to grasp that you manage things, but that you must lead people.

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If there is one universal constant, corporations in general and tech firms in particular are notoriously bad at developing leadership skills. They train managers, or simply promote the best techies into a job where they have more and more responsibility for people - the polar opposite to what they're good at. My impression is that, irrespective of actual results, militaries are the only organization that attempts to develop leadership skills in a systematical way.

At the same time - especially in larger corporations that are listed at a stock exchange, with the duty to report quarterly results - the implicit and explicit incentives are usually contrary to, or at best indifferent towards a good "employee experience", if we want to call it like that. So, people with actual leadership skills may still retain and improve them despite the environment in wich they operate. In the military, people are less talented still get a chance to develop the necessary skillset. Some don't, of course, and can still get promoted to the highest ranks where they can arguably become even more destructive than the worst bankster sociopaths (think Haig, Westmoreland, Zapp Brannigan). But that doesn't change the fact that corporations by and large fail to grasp that you manage things, but that you must lead people.

 

This is not strictly accurate, large corporations spend tons of money to train people managers, specially if they come from tech backgrounds in the forms of MBAs and other leadership education, which is better than anything military, but the larger the corporation, the most likely that power politics will develop as the scope of control of the top management (which sets strategy) is exceeded - this will lead to bureacracy as each middle manager creates his personal empire, and this will permeate down the organisation to the point that significant stuff is being held by a low level guy sited in India because he didn't got for 901A-P7 adequately signed.

 

This will eventually lead to people gaming the system and eventually becoming the CEOs and such, but not understanding why stuff doesn't get done like they want to.

 

BTW, Armies and navies work exactly the same, see the proportion of generals to soldiers in modern armies.

Edited by RETAC21
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I was always struck by Ben Rich's book on Skunk Works, on how he recommended their approach at getting rid of corporate hierarchy. Instead of having the management separated physically from the floor that built the aircraft, they had them sat on the same floor, and people could walk in every time they found a problem.

 

Well it probably wont work everywhere, but as a general principle, its not a bad one.

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No, it is a good principle, for example, USAF's Tactical Air Command or Toyota devolved responsibility to the lower levels in order to improve quality, be they number of sorties or cars breaking down. When management feels they are unable to change the organisation is when you have a problem.

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