The Top 10 Things The Game Industry Can Learn from Film Production
May 1, 2012 Page 5 of 5
Lesson #9: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Stop micromanaging and hand some of your work to others! What would happen on a film set if the director spent all their time making script page changes on their computer and photocopying them for the crew? They wouldn't have had time to rehearse their actors, answer questions about the creative direction for set construction, or approve camera angles from the cinematographer. The director on a film does just that -- directs -- ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Game producers should encourage their leads to delegate as much as possible. Create clear role definitions and stick to those. Check in often about where people are spending most of their time, and troubleshoot ways to get tasks off their plate that prevent them from higher priorities. Above all, always keep deadlines and priorities in mind. If your milestone requires X, Y, and Z, let other items go.
Lesson #10: You Can't Fix the Story in the Cutting Room
In film production, there is a time when the movie reaches a point of no return. Unless your budget has deep pockets to allow for massive reshoots, what you shoot is what you get. If the original screenplay and concept were flawed, there is no great way to fix them.
If you watch films closely, you can see editing tricks employed to try and fix story issues. A constant soundtrack over scenes may try to mask emotional flatness. Quick editing and bold, large titles may try to add intrigue to scenes that would be otherwise tedious to watch. Scenes can be constructed from outtakes, and lines added in voiceover.
Things can definitely be doctored during editing, but there is only so much an editor can do to fix a broken movie.
Games are unique because developers can change content through the entire length of production. Scenes aren't locked in stone, animations can be changed, and environments can be reworked. Missions can even be reordered. On one hand, this means that game content can be improved through the very end of a production schedule. On the other hand, this could give a game team a free pass to procrastinate story decisions that should come early in production, or to make changes mid-stream that throw the project off schedule.
Abandoning ideas that aren't working is key to success. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is what you want to avoid. Stick to your original vision, and you'll turn out the product you first set out to make. If you do this and stay on track, you will get it out the door quickly and have time to spare to make another new, improved project that you know will be "so much better than this one".
Avoid letting your team's perfectionist side take over, and focus on shipping the game that is in front of you, putting everything you have into making it as good as it can be. This can be difficult for game developers, who trend toward perfectionist tendencies. Feature creep has a way of lengthening schedules, which in some cases could be likened to a film editor trying to mask a scene that isn't working with loud music.
Sometimes new game features really can make the difference in shipping an excellent game, and mid-story changes are what end up making a product shine. The trick is to find a happy trade-off between running with what you've got versus allowing directional changes that may hike up quality.
How do we utilize these ideas to make higher quality games faster, cheaper? Let's review!
- Develop solid game concepts before production crews are brought in
- Vet concepts in a similar way to the film script development process
- Hire a skilled time management specialist
- Keep crews productive by planning and paying for overtime and providing meals
- Ensure team members are consistently in the loop for game changes and vision
- Define team roles and have one clear creative director
- Delegate tasks off leadership to allow them to focus on moving the rest of the team forward
- Balance improvements and high quality with sticking to the original product vision
- Make sure post-production time is planned in your budget
- Use post-production to its fullest capacity, acknowledging that it is half the game
Now, what about the list of fascinating tidbits that film producers could learn from game devs? We'll save that for another article.
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