Developers should "have a fixed ship mindset" - Epic

Exec producer Rod Fergusson believes the schedule is "what's really, really important"

Epic Games executive producer Rod Fergusson has told an audience at GDC that, in his mind, developers should retain a "fixed ship mindset" when creating games, talking up the virtues of maintaining a discipline of vision.

In an attempt to identify what makes a game successful he looked back to the release of the original Gears of War title, noting that with a young development team, an unfinished Unreal Engine 3 and an unfinished Xbox 360 hardware set-up, the pressure was on.

But, he said, the importance of the timeline is something that the company relies upon: "The schedule side is what's really, really important," reports Gamasutra. "You have to know when you're shipping."

"The schedule side is what's really, really important. You have to know when you're shipping."

Rod Fergusson, Epic Games

He also discussed the three-sided triangle of scope, schedule and resources - and that if one changed, the other sides would also shift accordingly, while "having a healthy team at the end of your process is a great way to ship a game," he added.

Fergusson also talked up the importance of a game's visibility, and that changing schedules can impact that as well.

"Marketing is what's going to put you over the top. A game without marketing very rarely succeeds," he said, adding that the "it's done when it's done" attitude wasn't prevalent at Epic Games.

"We'd rather have small and polished than large and mediocre. Never be fearful of the ability to cut," he said, adding that a project will always "grow again."

"You need to build extra time into your schedule that is not on your schedule." He added, "The more uncertainty you have, the more buffer you need. You need to spend polish time to make that shiny golden nugget."

The company's next offering, Gears of War 3 was originally due for release in April, but has been rescheduled to the end of the year. Fergusson noted that the extra time wouldn't be taken up with adding lots of new features, but in applying that polish.

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Latest comments (6)

Matthew Eakins Technical Lead, HB-Studios6 years ago
I wish more emphasis was placed on the "ability to cut" bit. When a schedule goes out the window for whatever reason you are essentially left with four options: Add more time to the project (move the ship date), cut features, add more manpower (read The Mythical Man month for a great explanation on why this is problematic), or work overtime. If you have a fixed ship date and aren't willing to cut then that's where the death march starts.
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This headline should be "Producer says deadlines are the most important thing in game development SHOCKER!"

Seriously, who's worked with a producer who didn't think the deadline was more important than the game achieving its designers' and developers' goals?
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 6 years ago
The problem is not all producers are the best project managers and they also have to deal with other pressures from the publishing side of the business.

Trust me I have a producer phone me up at 10pm asking did we really need to be opening bugs.
That was just one phone call on that project so you can probally get the picture.

I think teams need to an end date to help focus their minds and acheive goals and deliverables.
It is also a function of project management to plan and focus the team working on the project.
Project management has been dier on some of the projects I worked on but some teams have been fantastic with it as well.
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Show all comments (6)
Rob Dorney Partner, Fuzzy Bug Interactive6 years ago
Hes right though. The delivery deadline is the *only* thing thats important. No point shipping the best game ever if its missed its marketing slot, and the company goes down the swanny as a result (last Sega Rally being a PRIME example)
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Germán Vázquez Executive Producer, Neggi Studio6 years ago
@Williams It might not be a shocker but you will be surprised how many time the problem comes up in so many companies (indie or not), the article gives you a very good example or another mentality in game development with the "its done when its done" approach that huge companies like blizzard use and as a result many smaller developers use as a role model for their development cycles.
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Gregory Hommel writer 6 years ago
Posish is key. I have yet to buy or recommend a game this generation if I was the least bit unsure of the development team's commitment to deliver a highly polished product. However, a finely polished game does not make up for a lack of other features. Gears Of War is a great example. If the next entry in the series has only made slight improvements to the game engine, no amount of polish will compensate. Gears 2 was very much a polished product but it simply wasn't as good a game as the first entry, evidenced by the large group of users that have refused to accept Gears 2, instead keeping Gears 1 going strong. Making small but polished games so that the developers can exploit the game engine as much as possible is a tactic that is destined for failure. Competition is stiff and gamers are very aware of when they are being nickled and dimed to death. A small polished game may be better than a huge mediocre game, but why don't you virtually ensure success by building a huge polished game.
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