Do you guys sit in multi-disciplined pods, or do you have meetings? How do you hash these things out?
CB: Well, it varies. If you ever come to Bungie, one of the things you'll notice when you walk in the front door is that it's completely open. We have a big floor. Actually, the last thing this building was used for before we moved in was a set of batting cages, so it's just a big, cavernous space. It was a hardware store before then. It's a single big floor with desks all around, and the desks are all on rollers, so you can move them around the space and reconfigure as necessary as people move around and shift jobs and stuff like that.
But we don't sit in multidisciplinary pods, generally speaking, unless it's very early on in the concepting phase of the game. When you're concepting something, you've got five or six people sitting in a room together, just a pressure cooker of ideas. But after that, when it's time to actually produce the game, we organize people by discipline.
The reason for that is that the things that fall through the cracks are most often the kind of informal collaboration that has to happen between engineers, like, "Oh man, I'm having a lot of trouble with this." "Did you try such-and-such?" "Oh yeah, that fixed the problem." That kind of informal collaboration is important, and if you split the disciplines up, that tends to fall through the cracks.
Whereas if you have engineering, design, and art and they're all together, they can share their own best practices, and communication between the functional groups is something you can track and make sure it's happening, because it's something you can quantify. It's very hard to quantify those informal relationships that make you better programmers, because you're all just sitting together and sharing experiences.
Do you rely on producers to act as the go-betweens?
CB: We do have a number of producers at Bungie, and they do help with adding structure to the development process, but mostly, the way we do it is there's a bunch of teams dedicated to specific things.
For example, in the early part of Halo 3, there was a writing team of four or five people who would get together regularly, and then that turned into the mission fiction team, who would be a different group of people whose responsibility is cross-discipline, to make sure each mission reflects its place in the overall fiction and the story arc and the narrative experience. In the same way, there would be a group for characters and a group for streaming and stuff like that. It's a pretty common process.
Yeah, it is. But I think when people look at a wildly successful game, they want to know, from a development perspective, "What we could be doing to emulate that?"
CB: It's all about empowering the individuals you have. We've always focused on hiring great people, and then giving them the tools that they have to do their job, and making sure that everybody is set up in order to make a meaningful contribution to the game.
That doesn't necessarily mean that every artist is going to be designing a new weapon and putting that weapon in the game because they think it's cool -- obviously it has to fit with the overall design vision -- but they should have two things.
One, they should have a clear path to communicating with people who are tuned to the vision of the game and be able to have input that way. The other thing is that they always need to have the tools and the scope of creativity that they need, to do something that they really care about passionately.