As gaming worlds get bigger, so do the hands it takes to expand them.
It’s hard to get bored in gaming these days. OK, scratch that; it’s very easy to get bored…if the game sucks. However, if done right, developers can literally have you lost in hours upon hours of gameplay. Gone are the days where you know you had just eight, right-scrolling levels (which at the end, you’d simply hit reset and start again). Even in the days of Legend of Zelda and Mario, the most they could offer you as far as out-of-the-box gameplay was letting you sneak into a hidden cave or stumble upon a warp-zone. Now, with the amount of in-game play hours, not including the endless side missions, collectibles, and achievements one can acquire in many open-world games, the time spent on perusing these little treasures can sometimes feel endless.
As game landscapes get bigger and bigger, there are the unsung heroes behind the scenes that continue to push technology to its limits to see just how spectacular and in-depth virtual worlds can become. The game industry easily rivals the film business when it comes to development. (The average budget for producing a video game is over $20,000,000.) Where does this money go? Well, much of the cost is included in things such as promotion and new technology, but another good chunk of it goes into the development itself. You could say that video games are actually a huge job creator, as the amount of people it takes to turn a game from a concept on a notepad to a reality on the store shelf has exploded. This number has risen to hundreds (and in some cases nearly thousands) of willing, talented people to come together and make it work.
In an interview wth Examiner, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Director Ashraf Ismail revealed just how many people it took to bring their latest title to market. When asked if we might see a cross over-style game in the future, Ismail said: “From a pure production standpoint, it would be very, very difficult to do something like that. On this game, we’ve had over 900 people working on it. With the Assassin’s Creed machine and being the game director, even I am sometimes amazed. It takes 900 people to create the content for this game, so to try to do multiple worlds that are all big and fleshed out with unique characters in them, I’m not sure it would bring that much to the player.”
This is, of course, very different from the days of 8 or 16 bits. I know I bang the old-school drum a lot, but you have to admit that there’s a certain charm that has kept the classics so popular all these years. Shigeru Miyamoto is the closest thing we’ll ever to see to a “video game Pope,” as he’s single handedly been responsible for huge contributions to the gaming industry. Now, I realize “single handedly” doesn’t mean he did it all by himself, but it’s almost how the public perceives it. Between Donkey Kong, Mario, and Zelda (not to mentioned the hardware influences of things such as the NES and the more recent 3DS), it’s amazing to think that one guy left such a mark. Nowadays, you’d speak in terms of “this developer” or “that studio” and not in terms of one or two individuals. Going further back to the days of Atari, it was common for many 2600 games to have a development team of two people. They’d work in tandem on the code and graphics and BOOM; that’s all it took back then.
Hell, sometimes it didn’t even take a team. Who can forget the infamous E.T. debacle where lone designer Howard Scott Warshaw was tasked with making the game virtually all by himself in just a few weeks. Of course, the subsequent landfill that resulted is a good argument AGAINST slimming down your design time quite that much.
It’s just amazing to see how much the world of video game development has expanded. The budgets are huge; the design teams are huge, and, as a result, the games are huge. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting we’re going in the wrong direction; it’s quite the opposite. I’m excited to see just how expansive and awe-inspiring our games will become in the future. What’s crazy to me is the masses of people that might be required to create future games.
They say many hands make light work. The gaming industry may just put that idea to the test in the future.