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 Pag on Games » Blog Archive » Why Do Good People Make Bad Games?
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Why Do Good People Make Bad Games?


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Gamasutra has an interesting opinion piece on why talented people end up making poor games, especially when it comes to licensed games:

Specifically I’ve been thinking recently about why good people make bad games. It’s amazing to me that I can go and speak with someone working on a movie licensed title, and they’ll be full of legitimate enthusiasm, real ideas, and almost convince me - OK, this time they’re going to get it right.

Then the game comes out, releasing day and date with the movie, with under a year of development time, and totally flops critically.

What’s depressing about this scenario is that nobody wonders why. Everybody on the team already knows! The schedule was too short, the demands from the licensor were unreasonable, and the project wasn’t well managed.

Some of the comments at the bottom of the page are very insightful:

The environment is not conducive to risk-taking:
A lot of developers feel that because the industry (especially the console industry) is such a stratified and approvals-ridden space that there is not much room for creativity. The average would-be game developer these days has to put a lot of muscle and reputation behind an idea to get it approved the 47 required times by different parties and still have it see the light of day.

Personally, I believe it’s often because quality is at the bottom of the list of priorities for the developer, the publisher and the licensor. Releasing on time is more important than making a good game because missing, say, the release of the licensed movie would cost a lot of sales. Not going over the budget is a higher priority because the name of the license is seen as influencing sales more than reviews. Putting a good bullet-point on the back of the box is a higher priority because more people read the back of the box than read reviews. I’ve heard of all of this from many people working at many companies. It’s hard to make a quality game when the people with the most power over the project see quality as a “nice to have”.

Still, there are ways to make quality licensed games. The best approach I’ve found is to find a fun and simple core gameplay and focus on it, removing everything that’s not essential to the game. Making a simpler, smaller game results in a better title at the end because you had the time to do it properly. You’re better with a few good features than a lot of half-finished features.

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