GAME 260, Week 6

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, ch. 5: Halo Wars

“‘It was really like a family,’ said Rich Geldreich, a graphics engineer. ‘It was a combination family slash a little bit of a frat house’” (115)

“Over lengthy, heated discussions, Microsoft’s executives explained that if Ensemble wanted to make its console RTS, it would have to be based on Halo. End of story. ‘It was basically put as, either you make this Halo,’ Devine said, ‘or you’re all going to get laid off’” (122)

“a large chunk of Bungie’s leadership was never really happy about Halo Wars, according to several people who used to work at both companies. Bungie tolerated Ensemble’s questions as cordially as they could. They got a kick out of the whimsical Graeme Devine, and Joe Staten was always classy. But in private, Bungie’s staffers would gripe that they didn’t want another studio touching Halo. When Ensemble sent over questions or asked for permission to use certain parts of the lore, Bungie would sometimes stonewall them” (125)

“At one point, the studio’s leadership decided that the big MMO wouldn’t take place in a brand new sci-fi world, as had been originally planned. During an all-hands meeting, Ensemble’s management announced that actually, they were going to make it a Halo MMO” (127)

“The studio couldn’t expand without getting approval from Microsoft, and Microsoft seemed to have no interest in green-lighting any of Ensemble’s other prototypes, including the Halo MMO” (128)

“‘We were trying to avoid layers of thinking,’ said Chris Rippy. ‘One of the biggest problems with long game development is, when you playtest the game for too long, you invent problems and you add layers to the game that don’t need to be added’” (132)

“With Halo Wars scheduled for release in just a few months, Pottinger threw out nearly all of Devine’s design work. ‘I took over the design,’ Pottinger said, ‘and Graeme kept doing the story stuff which was a full-time job, and he did a great job at that’” (133)

“Word got around that everyone at Ensemble needed to go to the auditorium for an all-hands meeting. As they filed in, they started seeing scores of Microsoft employees” (135)

“‘Tony gets onstage and says, “We have some news,”’ said Graeme Devine. ‘Ensemble is going to be closing after Halo Wars.’ After fourteen years and a dozen games, Ensemble’s time was coming to an end. The good news, Goodman said, was that Microsoft wanted them to finish Halo Wars” (135)

“Ensemble’s staff wound up crunching for months, sleeping at their desks up until the very last minute to finish Halo Wars by the end of January, when they knew they’d all have to leave” (138)

PsychOdyssey, eps. 13-15

Episode 13: I Made a Game

Leaders and team members reflect on the highs and lows of the most recent Amnesia Fortnight. —Episode Description

“I wish I’d handled the stress of it better … Building the game is a much more strong memory than the game itself. You make the game, and the game goes out, and it kind of just lives on its own, and it’s this thing that’s external to you. But the experience of making it is something that you live through. And that becomes part of who you are. And so the making of a healthy, good environment is super, super important to me” —Zak McClendon

“A lot of the feedback, a lot of the thanks to different people was like: ‘Thanks to so and so for putting all the crazy hours. And thanks to so and so for working all night long!’ And I, like… The purpose is, like… ‘Okay, let’s not use that terminology when we thank people.’ Because I don’t want to glorify crunch mode. A lot of companies are like: ‘Yeah, you gotta stay up all night! Blah, blah, blah, blah.’ And that’s just– I don’t think that’s really healthy. But I also– I don’t know what the solution is. Because I don’t want to ignore the people, you know, working really hard. But I don’t want to send the message to everybody else that’s like: ‘By the way, you can’t see your family for two weeks, because you’ve gotta be here. Because other people are going to be here two weeks, and…’ Because that’s not really– That doesn’t really fit with the company’s values.” —Tim Schafer

“It’s not, like, an open, destructive force. And I don’t think AF is destructive. I don’t think making video games is destructive, but, like… You can really get consumed by what you believe could be possible. And you have to be careful” —Camden Stoddard

Episode 14: Surface Tension

Frustration from Amnesia Fortnight carries back over into Psychonauts 2 as the team struggles to see eye to eye on the execution of the newest level concept. —Episode Description

“I don’t feel like the Psychonauts team is quite moving as fast as I know we could be. It’s hard to do when you are on a project that’s, you know, three years long or whatever, to keep up the pressure of decision making. And AF, you know, day by day by day, you see the impact of every decision you do or don’t make, because the turnaround time on that thing is so short that you are like: ‘Okay, I’m making a decision here, it’s gotta land two days later, or the whole thing is going to go off the rails.’ In an environment where those time frames are much, much longer, it’s harder to keep that frame of mind” —McClendon

“Our First Playable on the first game was kind of a disaster … Microsoft wanted concept pitches, so we pitched it to people, and they loved the concept, and they are like: ‘Show us the game!’ And then, everyone was really happy, and then we turned on the game, and you could just see, everyone was just kind of sour and like: ‘This is not what you said this was going to be.’ We just felt it. We just felt it, you know, failing in that First Playable. So, already the game is in a much better shape than that” —Schafer

“We don’t have an Art Director yet. That’s really crazy to me! I mean, that’s one of the cool things about working here is. They don’t just hire people. I mean, like, it’s tough, because, like, we don’t have the people we need, but also… When they do hire someone, there is no problems working with them, because they went through that whole vetting process” —Jeremy Natividad

“We don’t just get to… keep taking time infinitely. There is a point where we have to draw a line. A big part of it is… Everybody thinks it’s overscoped. We just don’t know what to do about that” —Ryan Mattson

“Each level is its own different thing. And some come together quickly, and some don’t. Sometimes you get an idea, and it takes you getting two-thirds of that idea before you go: ‘Oh, this isn’t going to work. It’s just not going to work.’ We thought we could have this thing that would look this way at this point. And it took us all the way getting there to realize: ‘Oh, it’s not going to work.’ Is there a way that you maybe could’ve figured that out? I don’t know… Maybe? But sometimes you have to bring it to that point to realize it’s just not going to work the way you intended it to be. So, okay. How do you fix that? How do we change it? You know, and sometimes you have to take the time to go: ‘Okay, scratch it. We’ll try something else’” —Andy Alamano

“When you are considering cuts how almost done something is, is often a real sunk cost fallacy. The reality of it is the amount of done that anything in our video game is right now… is very little. Compared to how much work we are going to have to do” —McClendon

“The first thing you do in any game– The first thing you do when you enter the games industry should be cut … Because it teaches you not to get attached to anything” —Schafer

“Yeah, I do think some crazy shit is going to happen over the process of making this game though” —Natividad

Episode 15: Hard to Get Old

Tim celebrates his 50th birthday while publisher Starbreeze puts pressure on the team with an impending visit. —Episode Description

“We should get a producer or something to keep this organized … Look, you guys, don’t be mad at us. We came to the meeting when it was scheduled. And we had the meeting, so I don’t think anyone in here did anything wrong” —Schafer

“This sprint, coming up, is our last chance. Like, we are not going to suddenly find extra time. This is our First Playable deadline, and we have to nail it. We have to send this to Starbreeze, they are going to look over it. This is our statement for: ‘This is what the game is going to be. This is what we can do as a team.’ So, whatever you guys can do … If you can stay late, if you can get through more stuff, if you can take on extra stuff, help other people with their stuff, that would be wonderful” —Gavin Carter

“Lots of hoping in game development” —Emily Johnstone

“We need three more FX artists to get this game done. That’s not going to happen. So, we are going to have to work smart together” —Jeremy Mitchell

Media and Management, Introduction

Series Foreword

“‘Media determine our situation,’ Friedrich Kittler infamously wrote in his Introduction to Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” (vii)

Commentator’s Note: Here’s the abstract of Kittler’s book: “Part technological history of the emergent new media in the late nineteenth century, part theoretical discussion of the responses to these media—including texts by Rilke, Kafka, and Heidegger, as well as elaborations by Edison, Bell, Turing, and other innovators—Gramophone, Film, Typewriter analyzes this momentous shift using insights from the work of Foucault, Lacan, and McLuhan. Fusing discourse analysis, structuralist psychoanalysis, and media theory, the author adds a vital historical dimension to the current debates over the relationship between electronic literacy and poststructuralism, and the extent to which we are constituted by our technologies. The book ties the establishment of new discursive practices to the introduction of new media technologies, and it shows how both determine the ways in which psychoanalysis conceives of the psychic apparatus in terms of information machines.”

“rather than produce a series of explanatory keyword-based texts to describe media practices, the goal is to understand the conditions (the ‘terms’) under which media is produced, as well as the ways in which media impacts and changes these terms” (vii)

“What are the terms or conditions of knowledge itself?” (viii)

Platform Capitalism Has a Hardware History

Authors: Rutvica Andrijasevic, Julie Yujie Chen, Melissa Gregg, and Marc Steinberg

“a science, a professional discipline, an operation of control, or a technique of self-enhancement” (ix)

“management is enabled by various forms of media, just as those media give life to management” (ix)

“Over time, the stopwatch, the punch card, the calculator, and the camera are but a selection of media types that have catalyzed management innovations” (ix)

“Theories of management are constantly manufactured and disseminated through printed and virtual textbooks, mass-market self-help paperback guides, TED talks, corporate consulting, and other motivational genres” (ix-x)

“sensing and positioning capabilities embedded in smartphones and watches have made management all the more intimate, as disciplinary technologies nudge the mind and body with corrective haptics” (x)

“media are not a qualifier for management, they are how management works” (x)

“managerial techniques should be the object of media studies as much as television or Netflix; conversely, management should be as concerned with media as it is with efficiencies or organizations” (x-xi)

“we focus on media as a condition of management” (xi)

“Weihong Bao (2015, 8) advances the project of understanding media further by distinguishing three conceptual models of the medium” (xi-xii)

  1. Linear model
  2. Intermediary model
  3. Spherical model

Linear: “transmitting a message” (xii)

Intermediary: “software interface” and “platform theory” (xii)

Spherical: “environment,” “the medium as message” (xii)

“To Bao’s linear, intermediary, and spherical models of media we add a fourth: media as organizational force” (xii)

“Two concepts guide our engagement with media and management: ‘just-in-time’ (JIT) and the platform” (xiii)

“JIT is also closely associated with the temporal dynamics and supply-chain management of the logistical turn” (xiii)

“In showing the centrality of manufacturing in the development of JIT and on-demand logics, we stress the dependencies between assembly and consumption that remain insufficient explored in media studies today, despite a renewed interest in the materiality of media” (xiv)

“the platform first and foremost as a managerial concept, steeped in a history of hardware manufacture, and deeply tied to changing efforts of extracting labor and profit” (xv)

“Toyotism typically marks the beginning of competitive tension between the United States and Japanese business culture. In the mid-twentieth century so-called bottom-up efficiency measures were seen to enhance factory output and quality. In the 1970s and ’80s, corporations such as Sony and Nintendo inherited these dynamics as mass-market media ecologies and new consumer devices took shape” (xv)

“For media studies to accurately reflect the management of digital labor therefore requires shifting attention from Silicon Valley to the powerful force of the Asia Pacific” (xv)

“It is the trans-Pacific encounter between the United States and Japan that produced the concept of ‘lean manufacture’ that now bleeds into software design, start-up mantras, and efficiency methods in the present” (xv)

“Software histories are also hardware futures” (xvi)

“the merger between SoftBank subsidiary and LINE and the joint venture with Toyota points to a future where automobiles are, once again, the drivers of the platform economy” (xvii)

“Lean manufacture and just-in-time mutate from manufacturing principles to the governing logic of app-mediated, on-demand delivery services” (xvii)

“automobile and smartphone converge as the most celebrated forms of mobility, and the boundaries between factory manufacture and platform mediation seem to blur” (xvii)

“The car factory and the smartphone share an inheritance, namely, the engineering of efficiency that has always been the goal of managerial oversight” (xvii)

“we hope to consolidate the growing community of scholars working at the crossroads of media theory, philosophy, labor, business, and organization studies” (xvii)

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