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Publishers And Developers, Living Together - NetDevil's Scott Brown On The New Paradigm
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Publishers And Developers, Living Together - NetDevil's Scott Brown On The New Paradigm


June 19, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

What’s the creative result for your people being able to work on difference projects internally, and projects that are different from what’s normally in the marketplace?

SB: What you have to worry about is the burnout, right? If your MMO takes a long time, you don’t want to burnout, especially if you’re stuck on this game for four years… That’s some of what we’re trying to avoid by having these other projects. The other thing is: it just gives you other things to look at every day. Maybe you just did something that helps this other group. It just gives us the ability to break up the day a little bit.

So people will work on all four games at once?

SB: No, I mean, everybody has a project, a focus, certainly. But what we try to do is move people around a little bit. The things you’re trying to solve when you’re making an MMO are complex. So it’s nice to have a break every now and then.

The other thing that we’re doing is a lot of in-house reviews of our own products, and beating up on ourselves a little bit. It gives you a better critical view of what’s going on.

What other changes are there are NetDevil?

SB: The big switch that’s happened to our company this year is we’ve switched to agile development. A bunch of our people have been trained in Scrum and we’ve been working on that. It’s incredible. It’s made a huge difference in how we work, how we approach things.

Is that common in online developers?

SB: To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about other developers to know. But [internally] we just forced it. We said every project is switching at the beginning of the year. And we’ve gone through a pretty brutal learning curve on it: what works and what doesn’t. Different teams have evolved in different ways that are best for their project. It is amazing in terms of its results, though.

Everyone’s forced to treat things as shippable products, from the very beginning. Software development has so long been: throw everything in – that’s the alpha. Refine everything once – that’s the beta. Then refine everything as much as you can before you ship.

It’s like, no, no, we’re not going to do that, because you’re limited by real things, like time and money. Those are real factors that aren’t going to be changed.

Now what you say is, if those are going to be our factors, and someday we’re going to have to ship this thing, what you do instead of saying ‘we’ve got everything in there, but kind of crappy, so we’re going to refine as much as we can before it ships,’ now you say: we’re making one thing at a time that are great. And if we ship early, it just means we’ll ship without something, like less content

That’s something to ask about: publishers. How do you like working with publishers? How do you like being independent?

SB: I love being independent. That’s so cool, we own our own company. We founded it ourselves, we’re still running it ourselves. We don’t have investors to answer to, or anything. You have to answer to your publisher, of course.

That’s our customer, really. But it’s been great. It gives us a lot more flexibility than other companies, I think. I don’t know if we could have made the switch to agile if we were owned by somebody else.

How is the LEGO game being published?

SB: By LEGO.

So they’re boxing it, doing billing and collecting…

I can’t say yet, but it’s all by LEGO.

And NCsoft is still doing Auto Assault. Would you still work with them again?

SB: Absolutely. There are some things about NCsoft that I think they do better than anyone else. They also…they get it. They understand what it means, that shipping is the beginning of your product, not the end of your product. They understand MMOs. I really like those guys. We still talk to them all the time, about a lot of different stuff. And we’re talking to them about some of our new things, too.

Some of what our talk was about was the fact that publishers are…the problem comes in the development schedule. It’s this typical alpha-beta-ship thing. It doesn’t make sense. If your typical contract says you’ve got things that must be done by this day for your next milestone payment.

When you have that pressure as a developer, you’re forced to work to the milestone. If you don’t deliver those points, you’re not going to get paid. But maybe that’s not the right thing to do right now. Maybe it’s a bad way to do it, but they have accounting, which says they’re a certain value, and you must meet these milestones in order to pay you.

I think it’s milestone-based schedules that create all of the problems. It’s not anything evil about the publisher or the developer. That’s an ancient kind of contract that doesn’t make sense for making online games, in my opinion.

That’s the thing that you can change. And when you change that, you can have a great relationship.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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