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Blizzard: Shipping unfinished product is "devastating" for developers

Warcraft talent allowed creative freedom without the pressure of meeting financial targets, says COO Sams

Blizzard COO Paul Sams has said that shipping products before they are finished will devastate a passionate development team, undermining the creativity and hard work that has gone into creating a game.

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, Sams said talent at the Warcraft developer knows that nothing will be rushed for the sake of hitting financial targets, and the top brass will never "pull the rug out" from underneath its creatives.

"If you've been in the games industry for any length of time and you've worked for a variety of companies, what you will hear from developers is that they were working on a game that they were so excited and enthusiastic about... and yet, when it got to the point where the company wanted to ship it and the game wasn't done, that company would oftentimes make the decision to ship it anyway because they needed to make their quarterly numbers, or whatever," offered Sams.

"So the people who have put in the blood, sweat and tears on making this game that has all the promise which instead has to be pushed out the door those types of experiences are pretty devastating to people."

Developers get a say in what games they want to make for Blizzard, added Sams, allowing them creative freedom without unnecessary pressure from management.

"Developers know that when they come to Blizzard know that they will get to make the game they want to make, because we let the developers decide what they're going to make.

"They also know that we will not pull the rug out from under them they will have ample time, budget and support to be able to deliver the game that they envisioned.

He continued: "We will not pull the rug out from under them and ship it before it's done, so people feel that when they out their heart and soul into a game, they'll be able to deliver the game they envisioned and there's not going to be a situation where there are tonnes of compromises, we're shipping too early and everybody does that thing where they say 'Woulda, shoulda, coulda if we'd had the time.'"

The full interview with Sams and executive producer Rob Pardo can be read here.

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Latest comments (11)

Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
These are exactly my thoughts as well. I've been in situations like that, and it was bad. More so, bad for the one who pressed to release "on time". Of course that doesn't mean that a project can or should go on and on and on forever, but if there is something that everybody believes that it would raise the value of the product, then there should be no second thoughts!
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Waqar Ali Studying Games Design and Production Management, University of Abertay Dundee8 years ago
Now if only this attitude was more prevalent in the industry. You keep seeing so many releases that could have been so much better if there had been more time to go over bugs. But I guess not everyone has the financial resources that Blizzard do.
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Russell Kentish Studying Master of Digital Media, Centre for Digital Media8 years ago
On the other hand, you don't want to keep a game in the works for too long. (Duke Nukem Forever)
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Show all comments (11)
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Shigeru Miyamoto once said (I'm paraphrasing here), "A delayed game is eventually good, but a bad game is bad forever."

Sure this was before he age of patches but his point is still quite valid.
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Martin Rohatynski student 8 years ago
Blizzard's reputation is far more important than releasing a game quickly into the market that isn't perfection. It'd be highly unwise of them to tarnish it because of pressure from Activision or any one else for that matter.
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Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive8 years ago
From an idealistic point of view I certainly agree but sometimes (quite often for many developers) it becomes a question of releasing now and earn some money or not releasing and letting your business die due to lack of liquidity. It's the equivalent of pissing your pants to stay warm... It's a temporary solution but sometimes it's what's needed to stay in business.

You could then argue that maybe we should have better businessmen running more game studios so they can secure the financial conditions needed to actually keep developing until the game is ready. I'd say that is as important as maintaining creative focus.
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Albert Schmidt Game News Reporter 8 years ago
Blizzard has been successful over the years for putting the time needed into finishing up a game. This is why you still see their main titles for sale at just about every major store. The only thing you can really accuse Blizzard of doing is putting out to press information about a game earlier then they should. They have always had a way of teasing players with their product and keeping them waiting for days and months on end. In every case so far the wait has been worth it.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 years ago
The difficulty isn't KNOWING that you should delay or even can substandard games, it's getting your studio in a position where it's possible to do that. Someone at Blizzard early on made those tough choices that led to the studio gaining the kind of financial muscle that made such decisions easier in later years. Same with Valve. Same with a tiny handful of other never-released-a-bad-game studios (Bioware?).

Every developer knows this is what you should do. It's getting yourself in a position to do it that's the hard part :).
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
If the game you are developing shows that if you invest some time on it it will get much better, i.e. if you show some extraordinary new features that would add value to the product then no sane publisher would say no. Most WILL give you the extra time. If they think this is hopeless anyway, then they will most probably either cancel it early or just release it if it is already late in production and try their luck. :)
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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix8 years ago
Yep, he is - well spotted. Now corrected, thanks.
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Chris Wallace Studying Games Design, University of Bolton8 years ago
That's what happens when you push things out too quickly... ;)

In all seriousness, in the age before online consoles patching a console game was unheard of, but nowadays it's surprising when a title doesn't auto-update when you feed it into your machine. Although it does have the advantages of providing new content, it shouldn't be abused and used for bug-fixing. Ever.
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