Comments on: Entertainment or Software? (Or a False Dichotomy?) Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:53:13 +0000 hourly 1 By: Patrick Fri, 02 Feb 2007 08:47:00 +0000 “The friction you get at those middle management levels is frankly insane.”

Craig can tell you that sort of friction is possible even with two people. :P

By: Ian Schreiber Thu, 01 Feb 2007 17:19:00 +0000 Hmm. Maybe I’m oversimplifying here, but can this dichotomy be reframed into “Waterfall vs Iterative”?

That would explain why some companies are great at high-risk innovation (Iterative) and others at low-risk sequels and ports (Waterfall), and also why a hybrid between the two creates so much friction (upper management wanting to know “what percent complete is the current project” with middle management saying “I can’t tell you because we just changed everything yesterday”).

By: Darius Kazemi Wed, 31 Jan 2007 16:01:00 +0000 Ian: Your last point is dead-on.

My problem with most companies is that they do try to be a hybrid of the two management models, which is the right thing to do. However, they implement it like so: the upper management runs things like a media company, and the middle management on down tries to run things like a software company. The friction you get at those middle management levels is frankly insane.

By: Ian Schreiber Wed, 31 Jan 2007 15:50:00 +0000 Media = concentration on IP (particularly existing IP), focus groups, shipping in time for Christmas

Software = concenration on technology, usability testing, shipping on spec and with low bug count

That’s a lot of unrelated stuff. Sounds more like a hexchotomy than a dichotomy.

A game company that focuses on technology will come out with a game that’s a tech marvel that’s simply not fun. Bzzt.

Focus groups and usability tests are two sides of the same coin. You can do both at once (and probably should).

Shipping on spec and shipping on time aren’t diametrically opposed. I’ve seen plenty of projects that manage to do both. Or neither.

Focus on IP is that whole Costikyan-vs-Spector debate, but it’s something that can happen WITHIN the entertainment camp: you’re a New Media company, do you expand a hot license or try to create your own? That very decision is Entertainment-ish; to a software company, the distinction is irrelevant, you’re still building software no matter what IP you slap on the loading screen.

I’d also say further that “which mindset is better” depends on the product you’re trying to build. An entertainment-focused company that tries to build a risky, complicated game like a Sim is going to be in for a world of pain. So is a software-focused company that tries to build a low-risk expansion set or direct sequel.

By: Darius Kazemi Wed, 31 Jan 2007 01:57:00 +0000 Patrick: Here’s a pithy response for ya.

Media = concentration on IP (particularly existing IP), focus groups, shipping in time for Christmas

Software = concenration on technology, usability testing, shipping on spec and with low bug count

By: A Wed, 31 Jan 2007 01:32:00 +0000 Then, it seems equally obvious to me that the software-development model will win out. It’s more disciplined, from what I understand.

I think the same discussion I already posted still applies. An media-model is way more focused on the end-user than a software-development-model, which focuses more on the product (which, of course, does not imply exclusivity of focus, just prioritization). Those priorities will obviously effect development. And I still think both are necessary for a healthy industry.

Then again, I’m hardly an expert on management technique variation from industry to industry. I’m probably missing some glaringly obvious subtlety.

By: Patrick Wed, 31 Jan 2007 01:32:00 +0000 What is your criteria for “better”? What are some examples of software-oriented companies making better games? What, in your opinion, are the predominant characteristics of a Media-oriented company vs. a software oriented company.

A company that focuses on using rapid prototyping and procedural content experiments to hone in on the core play, and then turns that model out onto a production pipeline of assets and supporting media would seem to be a desirable hybrid.

If I can parse your subtext, you’re equating “media” with waterfall and software with “explores the procedurality of the game in a flexible way” or if you prefer, “agile”.

By: Darius Kazemi Wed, 31 Jan 2007 00:53:00 +0000 You seem to be talking more about the works in question, the end products. I’m not talking about the games, I’m talking about the process. I’ve seen great, innovative products come from software-style companies and entertainment-style companies.

When I say entertainment-style management, I don’t mean “a company that makes games to entertain.” I mean “a company that is run like a media company,” which may or may put entertainment first.

By: A Tue, 30 Jan 2007 23:20:00 +0000 Both are necessary. Taken from a different tack, look at the difference between the literati mafia and the sci-fi publishers. The literati push the boundaries of what is possible (often unsellable and hard to understand, c.f. “Ulysses,” etc.), while the sci-fi folks write things that are quite clearly enjoyable and sell.

Both are interesting. Both produce good writing. And both are clearly different realms. But so fiercely separating the two realms — as industry often does to any sort of false dichotomy — only leads to equally false and stifling boundaries. Really great writing comes in the form of what pushes the boundaries of possibility in both a content and formal sense, and both arenas make it possible. However, the fierce exclusivity makes it nigh impossible for someone straddling those realms to be successful in either one.

This analogy will hold true for the games industry, I think — as does the oft-mentioned but hardly-heeded adage of keeping your audience in mind when developing a product.