The sausage factory of game design

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2006 By Brad Wardell In Society Dev Journals

They say the difference between a successful game company and one that is out of business is time.  At least, that's what the joke in the game industry is.

And there's a lot to be said for that.  There are a lot of problems in game development, particularly when doing a new game.  For example - turn over.

While developing Galactic Civilizations II, we had a couple people leave during the course of the project. It was all amicable, but you get big enough, turn over becomes a percentage.  Because we were so tight on time, we ended up taking people off Society and putting them onto GalCiv II.

So then GalCiv II gets done and we're left with one game team. So what can one do?

Paul K., who was our lead developer on Society, has also left in the past year.  When you have a company of 40 people, a few people are going to leave each year.  But some developers are not well equipped to handle the loss of even one person. 

At Stardock, our development strategy revolved around having a few incredibly good developers who are equipped with a lot of inhouse technology that allows one developer to do the work of many. So when we lose one developer, it is really tough.

So what this means is that we're hiring up people. But it's slow going finding the right people, particularly since we're based in Michigan which isn't a tech hub (it's a great place to live and work but it's not like say Dallas where there's a bunch of game studios coming and going).

So that's one of the things that's slowed down Society.  The other thing is the fact that GalCiv II has done not just a bit better than we thought but massively better.  Which begs the question of which projects should resources go to?

Stardock has on its plate 4 game projects:

  1. Galactic Civilizatiosn and future expansions.
  2. The Political Machine 2008
  3. A fantasy strategy game
  4. and Society

The Political Machine is a smaller project so that will essentailly be done by the GalCiv team.

But if we have a second dev team, which should it be? a fantasy strategy game or Society?

It wouldn't be the end of Society, it would just mean that it's developmetn would be slower (i.e. a later release date).  We are definitely going to do Society. The question is how fast we can develop it.