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Is It Time For The Bivouac Game Studio?
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Is It Time For The Bivouac Game Studio?


January 20, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

So why can't the game industry do this?

The question raises itself: why can't we do this in the game industry? Why do we assume that if we work all together we must be part of a single, fixed-location, permanent studio -- factory-like (with all the horrible things that entails)? Or, that if we use external contractors everyone has to stay separate and we can't bring all these entities together in a temporary studio space to work in close coordination? Why can't we bring our contracted parties together for a time to make a game in close coordination while we remain contractually and creatively flexible?

Certainly, you might look at the experience of the various game jams as being essentially this: game development bivouacs? The Toronto Game Jam here has many stories of setting up spaces to house several dozen game developers at once.

How would you set up a game studio bivouac?

At its simplest, a game dev bivouac is simply an office space occupied for a temporary duration. Perhaps it's this idea that requires the most acceptance and adjustment. The idea of moving in to a new space. I can hear it now. "OMG, we have to move between games now?" (Well, for many of you, don't you already?)

Yet from a physical perspective is it really that difficult? So you have to clear out your desk at the end of a year, or whatever. I've been to movie sets where tons of equipment was moved in to a space in just a few days, or moved out.

The idea that it's prohibitively difficult to transporting a few computers and some desks and so on is a stretch to believe. Not if it means you can bring the best companies and talent, custom cast for a specific game, together in close quarters for the time you need them.

I'm certain IT infrastructure wouldn't a problem. There would be mundane issues such as insurance and so on -- all of which are easily doable thanks to existing precedent.

Here in Toronto, the city's film office has gone out of its way to find space for many films and television series. Warehouses, abandoned breweries, old factories, military bases and so on, that had been sitting empty, were easily converted into quite large, very adequate film studios for a temporary duration. And the rent was dirt cheap. Just turn on the power and water, and do some basic physical maintenance and these shows had a studio for two or three years (or longer if the series continued).

Hundreds of millions of dollars of film/TV production was done this way. Why can't these kind of municipal or regional film/TV offices help with finding space for game bivouacs? A temporary studio doesn't have to look pretty -- besides the "camping" feel of an old brewery or automotive building would gel quite well with the whole youthful college culture element of game development. Plus, such a space might feel like being in a Counter-Strike level, too.

One can even see a time when companies emerge that do nothing but specialize in building game studio spaces specifically to rent out for temporary productions. Spaces tailor-designed to suit the needs of these single-project development initiatives -- with the optimal physical and office layout, infrastructure, amenities, code pits, art pits, rooms for tabletop design prototyping, and so on.

You need only look to film as an example of the equivalent (and certainly the physical footprint doesn't need to anywhere near as large as it is in film -- which often requires huge, soundproof buildings the size of airport hangars).

One can even imagine sections of such a permanent game bivouacking studio set up to look, frankly, fun to work in : with medieval, sci-fi, WWII or other themes.

(One of the funnest times I had working on a TV series was walking into an old warehouse and suddenly into the midst of the "Amazon jungle" -- complete with tribal villages, a small river and so on... During lunch break you could catch a few minutes rest in a hammock in a full-size tree fort -- connected to similar structures via catwalks. But I digress.)

Anyway, if you can't have fun in the game industry -- an industry about fun -- you're in trouble.


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