GAME 260, Week 11

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, ch. 9: The Witcher 3

“‘quest department’ … Traditionally, an RPG studio would have separate writing and design departments, which collaborated to build all of a game’s quests (Kill ten dragons! Defeat the dark lord and save the princess!). At CD Projekt Red, however, the quest department was its own entity, with a team of people who were each responsible for designing, implementing, and improving their own chunks of the game” (226-227)

Commentator’s Note: This is an important organizational principle. CD Projekt Red wanted to make the best quests, so their minimum organizational unit is the quest team. There is still a division of labour, but the focus of that labour is specifically on a mid-tier, mid-complexity entity: the quest. Often, work and the teams doing that work is so discretized that the outcome as a whole is lost. There’s a reason The Witcher 3 is known for it’s quest design.

“As head of the quest department (a role that he’d inherited from his brother), Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz would work with the writers to lay out a basic theme for each quest (‘this one’s about famine’), then assign it to a quest designer, who would plot out exactly how that quest would proceed. How many combat encounters would it have? How many cut scenes? How much investigation? ‘This whole logical chain of events would be done to come up with how this situation actually occurs, what are your objectives as a player, what are the challenges you have to face,’ said Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz. ‘The pacing is super important, because you can have a great story, but if it has too many dialogues or cut scenes it can drag. So you need good pacing, and that was a big part of our job in this process’” (230)

“Every quest, no matter how small it should be, should have something memorable in it, some little twist, something you might remember it by. Something unexpected happening” (230-231)

“CD Projekt Red knew that the older hardware was too limiting for their goals” (234)

Commentator’s Note: Product vision trumped speculative assumptions.

“There was something special about realizing that the developers of a game actually took the time to make it so tree branches rustled and crackled when it was windy, and so the sun would rise earlier and earlier the farther north you went” (238)

Commentator’s Note: People make games. This is the joy of discovering the work of another human’s hands.

“CD Projekt Red understands the position of writer very literally, because a writer is someone who writes” (242)

Commentator’s Note: Value what makes your studio what it is.

“Every quest in The Witcher 3 had some sort of complication or twist, as Tomaszkiewicz had requested, which was a design tenet that BioWare’s developers would later tell me they were hoping to use in their own games after Dragon Age: Inquisition” (244)

PsychOdyssey, eps. 25-26

Episode 25: A Different Beast

Tim steps up his involvement after some high profile exits from the studio, bringing major changes to the project. —Episode Description

“We have a new situation financially, which is good. Which doesn’t mean we now have infinite time to get the game made. We still want to get the game, ship next year, because we put that in the trailer. But also, we don’t want to work on the game forever. We think there is a right time to work on it, and the right amount of time to put into it. But I definitely feel like it changes the number one priority of our conversation from time to quality” —Tim Schafer

“What is the right amount of work to do for the rest of this game? What do we really want to focus our creative energy on?” —Schafer

“I would say the biggest company value I always talk to everyone, even during interviews, job interviews, I say: ‘It’s really important to me at Double Fine that we have mutual respect for each other.’ Because previous jobs I’ve had, you see a lot of rifts. There was a rift between the artists and the programmers on the past projects because they were in different buildings. I’ve seen a lot of territorialism among disciplines. And I wanted to have it be that the programmers felt lucky to be working with artists of this caliber. And the artists felt lucky to be working with the audio department. And the audio department, they respected the designers. And everyone had a lot of mutual respect. I feel like we really achieved that as a company here. And I felt like there were some negative relationships that were set up at the beginning of this project, some negative interactions that were just kind of festering” —Schafer

“I think a lot of people have their defenses up. A lot of people who feel like their areas of ownership and responsibility on the project have been trodden on, they had been trespassed upon, and so they put these big, big walls. But in a project where things are functioning really well, you don’t need those big, you know, razor wire over every wall” —Schafer

“We need to be able to communicate with each other in an effective way. And that was something that was seriously lacking under Zak. Because nobody felt comfortable doing it. You can’t criticize design. If you criticize design, you are criticizing Zak, and therefore everything is just shut down. Each discipline is equally important in making a game. And I feel that he put a lot more emphasis on design than anybody else, and then, questioned everything that we did, instead of supporting, or guiding” —Moira Marr

Episode 26: The Amnesia Fortnight Movie

Amnesia Fortnight returns, calming tensions within the studio as everyone takes a much-needed break from Psychonauts 2. —Episode Description

“it’s a really good opportunity for people’s careers, and professionally, and creatively. It’s so many different things. It’s like an explosion of creativity, and a way to explore new ideas. And a way to test people for leadership, to see how they perform under pressure, and how the team responds to them as a leader, and to see if they can both come up with an idea, and then see it through” —Schafer

“Managing an art team is not my expertise at all. I have no idea what all of the moving parts are for that. It’s like a new world for me to figure that stuff out. And as you can see, it’s hard… If I had to warn anyone against really wanting to lead, I would say that this is the hardest part, unless you know what all disciplines do” —Asif Siddiky

“Rule number one of having 18 years of experience here is: ‘Never block somebody.’ Don’t be the roadblock. If you are the roadblock, or the bottleneck, you’ve got a shit ton of people waiting for work, and they’re not very happy with you because they can’t do their work” —David ‘Rusty’ Russell

“Things feel uncomfortable. And that’s, to a certain degree, definitely what one can feel. That’s a good question. I mean, that’s a tough one for AF. For any project. Just getting to the fun is really hard. In all the time that I’ve been working in games, I don’t think there’s been a strict answer on how we actually get to that” —Kee Chi

“I now know, no matter whether you’re the lead or not, is to just be willing to cut stuff, and focus on what’s currently feeling good, and be realistic about what you have time for” —Siddiky

Media and Management, Coda

“empty supermarket shelves and a dearth of personal protective equipment served as deadly warnings of just-in-time inventory supply and its failures” (97)

“Citizens the world over came to appreciate the interdependence of nations, the porosity of borders, and the complexity of defining some work as more ‘essential’ than others” (97)

“the ability of knowledge workers to retreat to the safety of home offices clashed with the need for fab workers to guard assembly lines stretched to meet the increased demand for computers and home electronics” (98)

“On-demand services sustained the appetites of consumers in cities across the globe, revealing a vast logistics infrastructure that felt more reliable than government or welfare” (98)

“hardware is the site of competing sovereignties, where management means controlling not only the technologies themselves but also the imagined futures that they represent” (101)

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