Games

The problem of “fun search”: how to create a great role-playing game and did not face a crunch

Respect for resources when creating Outward.

Outward is a role-playing game from Quebec’s studio Nine Dots and Deep Silver. Despite mixed press ratings (67 points on Metacritic ), players accepted it well: Outward became a commercial success.

Although it is quite a big game, only 10-15 people were engaged in it – and this is without a single week of crunch. On the last stream in the framework of GDC 2019, the head of Nine Dots, Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, told how the team managed not to recycle throughout the production and still release a decent game.

For Bushe-Vidal, kranch starts with 52 hours of work per week for a long time. If we proceed from these figures, then, according to the developer, in Nine Dots no one has ever processed.

This may seem extremely obvious, but two things that have allowed us to create a big game world are the emphasis on pre-production and the lack of crunch.

Guillaume Bouche Vidal head and creative director of Nine Dots

For Nine Dots role-playing Outwards – the first game of this magnitude. During development, the team constantly varied the amount of this or that content – instead of “before the victorious” sit on one feature. So they managed to maintain productivity and efficiency.

For example, at first we planned to make fewer monsters, but more regions. Over time, we realized that the team was able to make more enemies, but for this we would have to cut the number of planned locations. We kind of adapted to the opportunities that we had at the moment of time.

Guillaume Bouche Vidal head and creative director of Nine Dots

According to Bush-Vidal, one location had to be redone anew four times in order to achieve his plans. After that, the team realized that now it does not have enough resources to create large regions, and to continue working in this vein is simply inefficient – so the developers concentrated on creating various monsters.

I heard a lot of horror stories about other studios, where people cut out under 70 percent of everything created. We did not want this to happen again in Nine Dots – we are a small team.

Guillaume Bouche Vidal head and creative director of Nine Dots

Of course, the development of Outward was not perfect: the studio faced problems during production. Boucher-Vidal is confident that the team has learned from its mistakes and because of this it will be able to work even more efficiently in the future.

With the same resources and time that we had in the case of Outward, we can now achieve much more.

Guillaume Bouche Vidalhead and creative director of Nine Dots

According to Bushe-Vidal, one of the most serious problems, because of which a gamer is faced with a crunch, is the wrong attitude to the development process. He believes that the conventional idea of ​​“finding fun in the gameplay” is fundamentally wrong.

Instead of looking for fun, Bush-Vidal suggests focusing on creating the gaming experience that the developers originally wanted to invest in the gameplay. But it’s fun or not, it’s up to the players to decide.

If you don’t know what fun is, then why are you a game designer at all? […] You do poorly with your work and spend very valuable development resources if you can’t answer the question about fun correctly.

Guillaume Bouche Vidalhead and creative director of Nine Dots

Sometimes the creators themselves do not even know to the end what game they want to make – but they are already starting to develop it. The head of Nine Dots believes that you need to plan everything in advance and thoroughly – “even before writing the first line of code.”

It seems to me that many people fail game design, because developers are starting to make a game without understanding what it will be in the end. It is too wasteful.

Guillaume Bouche Vidal

head and creative director of Nine Dots

If any resources were wasted, then this, according to Bush-Vidal, demoralizes the team. Development experiments are good, but not in the middle of a production cycle. Therefore, real game designers need to be not only creative, but also entrepreneurial – financially.

Probably, many developers will hate me after that, but it seems to me that the work of a game designer is based on cost reduction. The sooner you design the whole game on paper, the less often you have to check whether this or that thing works in practice or not.

Guillaume Bouche Vidalhead and creative director of Nine Dots


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