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Postmortem: Wideload Games' Stubbs the Zombie
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Postmortem: Wideload Games' Stubbs the Zombie

August 11, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

What Went Wrong

1. Complicated Tool Chain.

Engine licensing is important to our model. We don’t have the staff or desire to spend years creating an engine from scratch. On Stubbs, we used the Halo engine, which was great for us because the engine kicks ass and we all knew how to use it. But, with that said, the Halo engine had never been licensed before; there was no documentation and no internet forum or third party support for it. Any training our contractors got on asset creation had to come from us. The Halo engine has its own unique asset path and idiosyncratic behaviors, so the learning curve slowed us down and wasted time.

In some cases, we decided it wasn’t worth training a contractor to produce game-ready assets; we’d just bear the burden of cleaning and importing the assets ourselves. This was tremendously inefficient. In other cases, we had to devote art director time to basic training. I think in the future we’ll dedicate someone to tool training so as not to create a production bottleneck internally.

The many faces of death - Wideload commissioned a number of artists for Stubbs' concept art, and used the best of each.

2. Contractor Selection.

We could have done a way better job of vetting potential suppliers. We got lucky and found some incredible people to work with, but our selection process had three problems. First, not every asset class that went into production had a shippable asset reference to go with it. We made it a goal to develop the first version of every object type (character, vehicle, environment, scenery, weapon) internally and send that as the level-setting reference, but we got a little too enthusiastic in some cases to wait for that. This made it difficult to set the bar for everyone.

Second, not every contractor was required to submit a test asset. This was another goal we set, but again, we jumped the gun in a few instances, which was a mistake. Omitting this step allowed incorrect expectations to emerge and caused underbidding. In the future we’ll set expectations of quality and scope for potential contractors before they submit a bid and start working.

Third, we underestimated how important good management and art direction is for contractors. We worked with one art house in particular that was stretched too thin and sold us on the A team, but gave us the B team. They experienced a bad cash flow squeeze during production, which strained our relationship. Additionally, their art director was not experienced enough, which made it really difficult for us to manage quality across their team. Had we discovered all this in the selection process, we would not have had to waste time replacing the contractor during the middle of production.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

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