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An Examination of Outsourcing Part 2: The Contractor Angle
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An Examination of Outsourcing Part 2: The Contractor Angle

September 8, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

[Last month, Gamasutra spoke to three major proponents of outsourcing to discover the case for outsourcing. This time around, three different flavors of outsourcers -- Production Road, Virtuos, and Darkside Game Studios -- discuss what differentiates each of the relatively young companies from each other.]

Despite popular suspicions, if outsourcing is causing job losses at western development studios, that is no one's intention.

At least not according to Andy Cheren, president of LA-based Production Road, a new brand of outsource project management company that is taking advantage of the growth in convergence among videogames, movies, and other digital media.

"Not one client has ever told me that their intent is to save money by cutting jobs," Cheren maintains. "Developers who outsource are doing it to get more on the screen, to spend money appropriately to make the game the best they can possibly make it, and to take some of the pressure off of their core team's functionality."

As an example, he cites a Southern California-based first-party developer of a major publisher with its staff of 120. "They don't want to grow larger than that," Cheren says, "which means that if you ask them to do multiple iterations of both of their next-gen console IPs simultaneously for multiple SKUs, something is going to break. But if a developer's management supports its team leads by embracing the outsourcing model, they will be better able to polish and enhance their projects, they won't become overworked, and their quality of life will improve."

Cheren, a founding owner of recruitment firm Digital Artist Management, helped launch Production Road just 19 months ago as a sister company to DAM.

He describes the firm as "a global production company that offers services and development capabilities to clients in all sorts of new media entertainment." In fact, its first project had nothing to do with games; it involved the car modeling and texturing on the Warner Bros. live-action movie Speed Racer.

"Warner Bros. had hired Digital Domain to build the art assets but then they had a capacity issue and weren't able to meet day-and-date delivery," Cheren explains. "They brought us onboard to take on that part of their obligation to Warner Bros. that they knew we could handle through our development team in Korea. In effect, we were able to find an outsource company for an outsource company."

Cheren describes Production Road as a hybrid -- part agent, part packaging company, and part virtual studio. "Our internal team of 10 executive producers, visual effects supervisors, art directors, and technologists act as a clearinghouse. We function as an external project management team that's brought in to use our expertise to solve a specific problem," he adds.

That expertise, says Cheren, stems from DAM's nine years as a recruiting firm, having compiled a Rolodex of thousands of key contacts throughout the industry and having developed intimate relationships with many.

"What we're doing is like recruiting on steroids," he says, "where instead of moving one person to do a job, we're helping move large numbers of teams with highly specific skills, packaging them appropriately, and managing the development based specifically for our clients' needs. For example, if our client requires AI vehicle and physics development, we have teams vetted in our worldwide network that possess previous experience to do the job, and then we make the relationship work."


Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Comments


Anonymous
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Gilles comments about virtuos working with most the major developers is false. His comments about working on fifty percent of the rts, fps and other titles is false. In three years in business they have worked with a handful of publishers and a handful of developers. That is not MOST.



The outsourcing industry has far too much hyperbole and used car sales tactics happening at the business level.











Beware of hyperbole. Contributing to a handful of games is not most. There are outsourcing studios out there with 10 times as many clients and projects contributed to.

Anonymous
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I am an outsourcing producer and agree with much of what was said. However, I don't know who any of these companies are, except for Virtuos. The biggest lesson I learned was to properly vet studios. If you are working on something like Diablo 3, and they only have bad wii art or code, you can find someone more appropriate. If you are working on cel phone games, use a company that does that. Get their references. Ask for their client list and call those clients. Do your due dilligence. The previous poster is right about the issues that come up when dealing with outsourcing studios who claim to do much more than they actually do.

Anonymous
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Quality varies at the larger outsourcing studios in my experience. One month things are good, another month when resources are shifted, I saw a considerable quality loss and had to invest in additional internal resources to handle it. I prefer to use the boutique shops in China and India now. I am getting what I ask for because I made that decision.

Anonymous
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im curious to know if there is a listing of companies out there that handle outsourcing. i find it difficult myself to find a company that isn't overpriced or under qualified..

Anonymous
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I'd say there are a bunch of decent companies in China and Shanghai specifically where it seems the concentration of outsourcing companies are globally. Virtuos is perhaps a top company in staff numbers but certainly not top in quality and consistency. If you can't get it right every time in one location, how on earth can you do it in two locations? There are other really good companies such as www.minliusoft.com, www.pearldigital.com, www.art-coding.com, www.is-games.com, www.vykarian.com. You should take a look at all the links if you are looking for a list. Another point when discussing 'overpriced'. Many vendors suggest inflation is adding to pricing pressure therefore must increase prices to clients even though slightly. It's all BS and a well managed vendor is likely not passing on any price increases to their clients at least for a few more years. Hope this is helpful.

Anonymous
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When it comes to art outsourcing I would recommand to give www.xpec.com, www.pearldigital, and www.vykarian.com a try. I heard too many stories that virtuos weren't performing to what they have promised.

Anonymous
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www.massiveblack.com was very good. Their 3d pricing is the same as the others in Shanghai but the work is far better than any of the work we got from any of the other companies we tested. They did a ton of work with me on my project. Great stuff. Great process. Great people.

Anonymous
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Outsourcing =! offshoring



(They're different animals.)

Anonymous
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I personally would never work with an outsourcing company that was difficult to visit and which I wasn't in the position of working directly with the creators doing the actual work. Too much risk. If I always have to go through top-tier management to get basic stuff done, there's too much of a disconnect.

Anonymous
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Agreed, outsourcing is not limited to working with companies in different timezones.



While lower intitial prices might be available in China, I've found the best results are usually had working with companies in N-America or Europe, definitely if you're new to outsourcing.



In most of those studios you will find game development veterans who have a better understanding of the work.



That said, there's definitely a place for both models, often on the same project. You learn to use each studio for what they're capable of.

Anonymous
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We use a US based studio that has operations in China for the art for both our games. We did not want to have to pay US rates for the grunt work and were able to get the more complicated stuff done nearby. So far the experience has been very good.

Anonymous
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I second the vote on Massive Black. Those guys rock! Best in the business, by far.

Anonymous
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Love the first comment 'Beware of hyperbole'.



Seems like there is a member of Massive Black posting on these forums... The hints are hilarious.



Suggestion: Do your own due-diligence, contact the firms who you will find are very approachable and generally proactive. See what they say.

Anonymous
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Ask for references


none
 
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