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Postmortem: Black Rock Studios' MotoGP'07
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Postmortem: Black Rock Studios' MotoGP'07

October 17, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

As well as the crowd we included cutscenes, rendered in real time using the game engine, to add to the pre-race build-up and to capture the post-race celebrations. These turned out a big success, but as we'll see in the What Went Wrong section did not go as smoothly as hoped.

Frontend - We all know the frontend is a banana skin upon which even the best-run development teams can slip. It's common to underestimate its scope, and it seems to be a common testing ground for unwise software methodologies or ill-considered experiments in data-driven software. Some of these problems are caused by lack of experience in the frontend team, because all too often it's staffed by graduates, while the more experienced coders and artists work on the game.

Here at Black Rock we've made all those mistakes in the past before eventually settling on a formula for the MotoGP frontend that worked. Data-driven software is usually a good thing, indeed much of our game is data-driven, but with a front-end the coupling between the data and the game code is particularly complex. Instead of this we employed a more coder-driven system where the screens were defined by a set of templates and as the templates were updated all the screens using them were updated. This means the programmers and artists had to work very closely together.

The original MotoGP had won an award for its implementation and we had ported it across pretty much verbatim for the MotoGP'06. It was clear and logically laid out, but in the intervening 6 years things had moved forward and it was looking quite tired.

The first thing we did was hiring a specialist graphics designer, which was something we'd never done before. He had a lot of experience working for large companies such as U.K. mobile provider Orange but had never worked in the games industry. I think this worked to everyone's advantage because he was able to take a totally fresh look at how we visualize our frontend and came up with a very clean and compelling style.

Secondly, we decided not to change the functionality of the frontend. We liked the way it worked, just not the way it looked. In those situations it's tempting to start implementing from scratch, but instead we opted for a re-skin. Every screen was completely redesigned from a visual point of view, but still maintained the same functionality.

In this way we were able to break one of our golden rules and staff the frontend code team with a single graduate. A very good graduate, for sure, but still a grad. Code and art made a great team and even colleagues with years of experience playing MotoGP were fooled into thinking we had created an entirely new frontend.

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