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Time to speak more openly about game development
April 8, 2013 | By Kris Graft

April 8, 2013 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Design, Video

Non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses, paranoid public relations and developers who are extremely protective about the alchemy they use to make interactive entertainment: These are just some of the factors that comprise this secretive video game industry.

Perhaps it's time to knock down some of the walls of secrecy, and find time and venues to share knowledge on a more regular basis for the betterment of the art and craft of video game development.

Speaking on the Official GDC Podcast last month with Gamasutra and One Life Left, BioWare senior gameplay designer Manveer Heir (@manveerheir) discussed the need for more transparency in the game development community.

"What I propose is that we don't need 'rockstars,' but developers who are public, and willing to speak about their craft," he said. "Maybe a lot of bigger companies -- and I work for a bigger company -- sometimes don't really want that, because once you create a persona for yourself, you're creating value for yourself as a person, but that value might become a problem for the corporation, right? Like, you could just walk away if you get enough name recognition."

While companies do tend to want to rein in employees in order maintain and control a specific public image, Heir said open lines of communication, at least between developers, can not only help professionals make better video games, but also facilitate a support system. In a way, openness could even serve as group therapy.

"The process [for game development] needs to be transparent," Heir added. "So coming to GDC, you see all these people talk about their processes, mostly transparently. You have talks with people over drinks that, frankly, could get lots of people fired, but you learn so much from those talks [laughs]. There are discussions and inside secrets [and you realize], 'Oh all these other great games are going through the same kinds of problems I'm going through,' and you feel a little better."

Above, you can hear more from Heir and other game developers on a variety of topics in Episode 1 of the Official GDC Podcast. (Direct Download mp3.) You can also listen to all of the GDC 2013 and GDC 2012 podcasts here.

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Jed Hubic
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The game industry discussing things like development?

Semi-seriously though, all the best solutions/help to issues I encounter always seem to be from informal conversations with other developers. Personally, sites where developers divulge all their techniques for making many games you're familiar with would be an addiction.

Genna Habibipour
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Another problem is that developers/publishers complain about the lack of 'rockstars' out there to hire, and don't think of hiring someone that they can train up into that skill level. Of course they don't want to spend the time and money training someone that might move onto another company afterward. But the flip side is that your company earns a reputation for having highly skilled employees, and in turn, probably attracts higher quality applicants. The company also doesn't end up in a crisis if the 'rockstar' leaves or retires.