When business people refer to the gaming market as ‘hostile’ they aren’t just talking about the competition. Consumers themselves make it a hostile market because when avid gamers see a commercial, hear a game being announced, or get a release date, suddenly they become personally involved. Every delay and minor glitch is a personal offense and the game company, both indie and AAA, has to pay for it in hostile words. This needs to stop. GamesRadar had an entire article about why people hate Activision, which boiled down to no reason at all except they wanted to.
The average gamer, whether hostile or not, doesn’t know the reality of making a game. I’ve heard my fair share of people who seem to think that just because it’s a big company, that means making a game on time or even early should be easy. There’s a reason many games spend years in production depending on the team size and the scope of the game. A single person endeavor could take even longer.
As a game design student, I actually get to learn and experience the difficulties of making games. I was forced to make a game in two weeks. All we had to do was make the player get past a guard, grab an item, and go back as a 3D unity game. This was most students’ first Unity experience which made it increasingly difficult, not to mention that we had to design, model, and play-test the game in two weeks. We only even meet once a week as a class. Now, you may say, “You guys have no idea what you’re doing. Game companies have people who have been making games for years!” Yes, you’re right. However, they’re not making a two week game. It’s simply not possible to make Call of Duty in a month, at least not bug-free.
First, with a big company, you have many hands on the game at the same time. Something is bound to crash, and then there’s a scramble to fix it. There’s a point in production where if the bug doesn’t crash the game, they go into the documentation and check it off as ‘AD’ or as designed. They don’t have time to spend on glitches that may be frustrating as long as they don’t make the game impassable. For the companies who do have the budget for it, that’s why they delay, to take out all the major bugs for the player. Yes, the same player who may have ranted and trashed the company for delaying the game. Don’t forget that games are a business. Just because anyone can learn to make a flash game or use RPG Maker doesn’t mean those games will be good, doesn’t mean they’ll work, and it doesn’t mean that if your favorite small-time hobby game-maker can make a game in a couple months, doesn’t mean a big company can when they’re working on a scope 20x the size.
However, indie games have this issue too, perhaps even more so. Fans will get excited because everyone loves an underdog, but then something happens. Indie games often have less than 10 people working on it, sometimes only one or two. When something happens, one person could be out of commission for awhile, putting the game’s release back for who knows how long. Some indie developers even have day jobs. Making a good game can be expensive in both time and payment for any programs that need renewing or some royalty fee. Yet still, many fans don’t seem to understand this, and it breaks my heart to see these developers attacked.
One company that I think helped steer gamers in a better direction was Double Fine. When they worked on Broken Age, they released what developers call a ‘dev log’ in the form of a video series. This helped fans understand what was happening behind the scenes, which is one of the most important parts of making gamers understand that developers are people too.
This isn’t to say all game companies are innocent. Yes, some don’t have the best business practices, and that’s fine if you want to hate them for that. However, don’t forget it takes a lot to make a game. It’s stressful, hard, thankless work. It’s not leaving the office the last three months of development. It’s surviving on coffee and junk food because there’s no time (or in an indie developer’s case, no money). It’s trying to make the best game possible despite some people wanting you to fail. The game industry is a volatile market for exactly this reason.
My game design professors, who have all worked in the industry, have something they say loudly and often to all their students. “Done, not perfect.” There can be no perfect in making games, there is only making it as done as possible, and done as well as possible. I only wish that people would think about that before bashing a game company for taking too long or missing a bug.
Have an insight as to why gamers hate on companies? Disagree? Feel free to say so in the comments!