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Why are we so obsessed with the boring parts of game development?

Why are we so obsessed with the boring parts of game development?

August 13, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 13, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, GDC Europe

The industry has become far too obsessed with platforms and business models, to the point where we've started to forget what video games are actually about -- having fun and feeling passion for what we create, says DICE's Karl Magnus Troedsson.

"Why are we so obsessed with the boring parts?" asked Troedsson, general manager at Battlefield developer DICE, as part of a talk at GDC Europe this morning. Why do we so often discuss which platforms will cannabilize others and which business models will prevail?

"Business models and platforms come and go," noted Troedsson. "If we make great games, we will survive all the different transitions."

Of course, you can't simply ignore all the business talk, and keeping ahead of the curve is always important. However, says the DICE GM, "fun is where it really starts."

DICE's core values: Quality, innovation and fun

DICE itself has three main focuses which it believes helps to keep this direction: Quality, innovation and fun. "It's so crucial to find your focus and stay true to it," he adds. "The market is too fragmented to do a lot of different things."

When it comes to the quality, for example, it's possible to over-scope a product and try to do too much, overshadowing the fun elements and not allowing your company to properly polish the title before launch.

"Battlefield 1942 was a textbook example of over-scoping," notes Troedsson as, at the time, DICE tried to add too many vehicles, large environments, lots of different environments and 64 player online. While the game turned out to be enjoyable, it was far too much to attempt at the time.

Innovation, too, is an area that can be a balancing act for developers. "Innovation is a bit of a buzzword", he says, noting that it's a little unclear on what exactly the word refers to.

bf3.jpgMany people, for example, lament "sequelitis" and say that bringing out iteration after iteration of a franchise is not true innovation. This, argues the DICE man, is "a cop-out argument" from people who don't understand exactly what innovation entails.

"It doesn't have to be a radical change," he says. "There are different levels of innovation, and it depends on where you sit." The inclusion of medals in the Battlefield franchise, for example, may not appear to be a huge step forward, but for many players who understand the series, it feels that way.

The environment destruction in Bad Company is another example of where DICE has applied innovation to the FPS space, says Troedsson. Creating these environments "was a pain in the ass", he laughed, but it changed how people played the game. "You don't look at a house in a static way anymore -- I'll just make a hole in the house and go through instead."

And yet, as with boosting the quality of your game, innovation needs to be of reasonable levels. If you push too many innovative elements into your titles, says the GM, you simply won't have time to polish your game and make it of good quality.

The final key element to video game development -- fun -- is a topic that is currently in flux at DICE right now. The word "fun" has become rather ambiguous at the company, says Troedsson, and his studio now leans more towards the word "passion."

"Development isn't always fun -- there are blood, sweat and tears," he says. But if you are passionate about your game, that will show through and customers will see that you care.

Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe. For more GDC Europe coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)

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