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The reality is, left to our own devices, we as developers would never ship a game because there's always something else to iterate on, or new ideas, or more polish to make the game better. It's always going to be never finished, just shipped."
- Naughty Dog co-director Bruce Straley.
Game development is hard. There are whole websites devoted to how to do it well, after all.
Now, in a new feature on Vice, a group of developers from around the industry open up about why, exactly, it's so hard -- and how remarkable it is that most games ever get made.
While the feature seems aimed more at game players than game makers, developers may appreciate reading about how their colleagues deal (or at least try to deal) with the weird, frustrating, utterly unique challenges that crop up in game development.
"I would play [The Last Of Us] for a couple of months and everybody got used to cover and I'd start rethinking. I'd think, 'No, because of Ellie, because of this analogue space, because of crouch, because of all this stuff, I don't want this other button to make the controls cumbersome," Naughty Dog's Bruce Straley told Vice. "I had to apologize profusely and tell [the programmer] I don't know what I'm doing, and he has to trust me that one of these times I'm going to make the right decision, and I'm going to stick with it, and he's not going to have to reinvent the wheel as far as how we're going to do the cover button."
A good bit of the feature is given over to examining the "magic" of game development, the unseen or unexpected things that make these virtual worlds tick. At one point Fullbright's Nina Freeman celebrates all the invisible elements of game design (save systems, collision detection, etc.) that are required to make a game work, noting that "games are these really little magical boxes that run on smoke. The less visible stuff is holding the game up just as much as all that other stuff."
Later, Eidos Montreal's Antoine Thisdale shares stories of how Deus Ex: Mankind Divided improved during development, sometimes seemingly by magic -- as was the case when the game's protagonist began to mysteriously move a bit smoother, for no readily apparent reason.
"I went completely mad trying to figure out what I'd changed in that version. It was a very tiny thing—we eventually figured out that it was related to the way the code was managing the framerate," said Thisdale. "That day I went home at 10 at night. We were five of us at the office, completely mad, running around looking at numbers and all the data from the build logs. We were completely mesmerized by that thing. You hang on to these little things that are completely magical."
The feature is well worth reading in full over on Vice.