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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 3 of 3

When would game bivouacking work? When would it not work?

Game bivouacking, in the way I speak, wouldn't be useful to small game productions. A small two- to five-person game dev company probably doesn't need such a solution. Their overhead is low enough; they're doing their own thing; and so on. Unless they were working in coordination with some kind of "co-op" of similar-sized entities, they wouldn't need this. Likewise, any company intending to stay permanently into a franchise of small games probably wouldn't need this. They make their games slowly, and don't have the production overhead.

However, this practice would have overwhelming advantages for large game projects that need to be done according to a tight, well-planned schedule. The flexibility and low-burn of core team / outsourcing, combined with the close integration of having all (or most) personnel onsite.

Next, you could only realistically set up such a bivouac in a game cluster: a city or municipal region with a fairly high concentration of game development talent in close physical commuting distance.

From the development talent's standpoint as soon as one production ends and its temp studio shut down, you'd want to be able to move onto the next bivouac / temp studio being set up, nearby. (Ideally, you would form a company of like-minded developers, and you would move as a unit. This too happens in film/TV.)

From the producer's standpoint, you could only set up a temporary game production space in an area with a large pool of game dev talent close by. So this practice could likely take root only in a true game development cluster: a place where existing studios are already in close proximity.

Being in the same state or province likely doesn't quality: this talent has to be co-located within daily commute distance. This is the only way you, as producer, could access the kind of fluid but deep talent-base you'd need at your disposal.

As many projects would appear and then disappear, followed by other projects appearing, this close-cluster footprint would be the only way talent would be attracted to what are, essentially, temporary gigs. But, again, if the flexibility of core team / outsourcing means the "gigs" are for games that will be truly mind-blowing, then it's worth it to function this way.

Strong core talent would benefit here. It would have the freedom to move between projects at its own pace -- unhinged from the need to maintain overhead of the ongoing concern of a development studio. While its development partners went elsewhere for the duration, it could take a break and dream up its next project. But when a bivouac went up, the excitement and tangible novelty of things would create a truly creative hothouse.

Let's make a scene

So this can be another way to further modularize and standardize the production of videogames -- to integrate the advantages of some different ways of doing things, and bring more flexibility to gamemaking. It's been done already for many decades in a similar entertainment industry. If we can combine the strengths of the close physical coordination of onsite development with the flexible production business practices of core team / outsourcing we can bring about a whole new way of building games.

But, honestly, that's a dry way of putting it.

Essentially, this idea is to provide a tool to help create a scene, in the same spirit of an avant garde art movement. This taps into an ancient phenomenon. When you look at instances of true art or innovation movements in history, from punk rock to new wave cinema to indie filmmaking, you see that what emerges are these scenes: these hothouses of creativity where people not only work in close coordination, but have a flexible existence that incubates things in a spontaneous way.

Creators see each other at parties, cinemas, art galleries, coffee shops, and so on. They meet and talk about "setting something up". There is cross-pollination. There is community. And it's caused because everyone is physically close together -- in the same temporary studio, but in the same area. And a new idea can set up as a serious but temporary studio at a short notice.

Many in the game industry, on the other hand, dismiss these largely qualitative but vitally important things -- these things that foster a flame of creativity -- in favour of short-term, quantitative elements such as "cheap rent", or what not. I never cease to wonder why.

The best talent wants to go to a cluster where things are happening -- to push the envelope; to live on the pulse of change. The idea of a game development bivouac is a way to help make this desire real.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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