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Higher quality needn't mean bigger budgets - Capron

And Arkane COO believes more companies are favouring smarter working methods in development

Arkane Studios COO Romuald Capron has told GamesIndustry.biz that while the scale of triple-A development budgets has ballooned to huge proportions, there are smarter ways to work on projects that means companies needn't add "tonnes of guys to your team".

Speaking in an interview at this year's Game Connection event in Lyon, Capron also expressed a belief that more and more studios were looking at ways to maintain "reasonable budgets," questioning whether the market could sustain the current rate of increase.

"It's a personal point of view, but I'd say that there are other ways to grow our market other than just forever increasing our development budgets," he said. "I think there are smart ways to increase the quality - and even the innovation - in your game that doesn't add tonnes of guys to your team.

"At some point, I'd say that hiring a lot of extra people has a negative effect - because you need more management, you have less productivity, and I'd say you lose some innovation."

He went on to explain that Arkane, previously responsible for Dark Messiah of Might & Magic as well as a significant portion of work on BioShock 2 - and which was recently added to ZeniMax's growing stable of developers - tended to favour outsourcing certain elements of a project's work and only retain a "core of senior, experienced and talented people" internally.

"I think that's a good way to maintain reasonable budgets, and I think a lot of companies are coming round to this way of working right now," he continued. "They're realising that having 200 people in a studio - okay, it can work for ten months of scheduled development, but is it the way to make a triple-A game?

"Maybe they could re-organise and say, okay, let's keep to a three-year schedule again, but with less people - and more polishing at the end? At some point I'm not sure the markets can follow as fast as the development costs."

The full interview with Capron, in which he also talks about the reasoning behind the company's deal with ZeniMax, plus his thoughts on the future of core game audiences, is available now.

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Latest comments (12)

Laurent Benadiba CEO, SDP Games7 years ago
Agreed.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany7 years ago
I agree too. Talent and emphasis on quality pays a lot more than big budget and thigh dealines. We have, in fact, a lot of examples our there.
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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames7 years ago
Outsourcing is the future :)
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Show all comments (12)
matt stott , Codemasters7 years ago
out sourcing will be the end of many jobs in the west...
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek7 years ago
It would seem I'm the only one to disagree, I think a lot of management only look at the financial cost of outsourcing and not the moral and internal skill cost within their own studio, but this does depend on how far you take outsourcing and how much it becomes part of the studios working method.

In terms of art, the best and cheapest method to work is a collection of experienced and trusted freelance artists who can work to a high quality quickly and on flexible contracts. This generally costs the same as outsourcing in terms of quality vs cost and because they are on sight production is faster, not to mention the overlooked cost of internal time sorting out outsource related art. The biggest problem is finding these people at the right time, even getting these individuals can be a very time consuming process.

One of the biggest points I would like to highlight is that outsourcing only becomes cheaper when you don't make half your work force redundant after a project is over, putting that into perspective it is not the cost that is the problem. Its the flexibility, freelance artists who work on sight on short term contracts are a much better solution. The problem is finding and getting them.
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Outsourcing is part of the way AAA games have to be created in the future. It doesn't mean that it will be done in the East.

Most of the time it makes more sense to hire talented people in the West or Europe for a small time than big teams in India or China (Arkane did that very well on several big AAA games). Actually it works quite well for us too (we are doing a lot of tech consulting for bigger studios, for instance on Kinect).
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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames7 years ago
I disagree with the comment about laying people off at the end of a project. If outsourcing is an integral part of your overall project plan then you won't be in that position anyway.
You need a core of good experienced people and outsource work as is needed.
You don't need to have a team that expands and contracts on a yearly basis.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nik Love-Gittins on 30th November 2010 2:42pm

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I agree with the fact that there is a need to always look for improvement and innovation. Most of the time it means being able to reset the button and rethink the processes and "right ways" of doing things.
We see it a lot in the localization of AAA titles: it's not always the ones with more resources that work in the most efficient manner.
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Private Industry 7 years ago
Outsourcing has it`s good and bad sides it certainly helps in not needing to hire to many people that you have to let go once the project is over because you don`t have anything for them to do. On the other hand having always direct control over the things can help a lot when you have to do quick changes, it`s faster when you need to change something on a model when you do it in house compared to outsourcing and you can always have a lot on how it progresses and looks the way you wanted it.

It works for some better than for others and at the end of the day you have to do what works for the specific studio.
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Gareth Edwards Director, Cubic Motion7 years ago
Outsourcing isn't just about farming work out to countries with low labour costs. As industries mature they start to benefit from allowing specialists to develop sub-components. The specialists can amortize their R&D over multiple clients, thus making the 'whole' more efficient.

Most car-makers don't make their own tyres. In a sense, yes, they have less control over tyre-making than if they processed rubber themselves, but this is easily outweighed by the advantages of leaving it to people who know all about tyres. The car-maker has more important things to worry about and would be bad (or at least hopelessly innefficient) at tyre-making.

That, amongst all the other componentization (real word?) of car-making, is why we have the absolute miracle (and if you think about the overall complexity, it's truly a miracle) of buying a new car for as little as $10000. Can you imagine the cost of building a working modern car if a single company had to make everything themselves, plastics, electronics, fabrics, engines, etc. ? That's pretty much where a lot of developers are today, but it'll change as the industry develops - we're still very young.
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Joel Eckert Game Designer, Red Indigo7 years ago
Finding the balance in a small studio is key in its success. Sure having a small pool of highly skilled and talented developers is cost effective. I believe strongly that developers working like this will take more pride in their work and will be more innovative.

But management has to be sure that a good balance is found when it comes to hiring. Not enough people on a project can cause the senior developers to be over worked and over stretched. Being seniors they can probably handle this anyways but where I caution is in the fact that any studio that wants to continue to be successful will need to hire new, "up and coming" talent that will offer new ideas and new ways of thinking. But they need to be watched carefully by the seniors, if the seniors are overworked, mentoring falls to the side, potentially causing many problems.
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London7 years ago
Sometimes you wonder what all the money is spent on.

I don't think outsourcing is the answer, but general resourcefulness and efficiency.

I won't pretend to know the ins and outs of all companies, but you see some where budgets are allowed to spiral out of control and the product still disappoints, or turns out Ok but fails to make enough money. Some companies (as we've seen reports of) allow millions to be spent only for the game to be cancelled indefinitely.
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