Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Development cultures

An interesting thing about traveling around the world is to compare the subtle differences between cultures. Besides hearing people's views and opinions, I love to observe things in their environment. How people drive, the graffiti, the amount of litter, the colors they choose are all interesting. As I type this, I'm in a nice hotel that is very clean and has had a lot of attention paid to the decor. However, half the stuff seems broken or poorly designed for use. Most are little things. For example, I had to go down to the desk to ask how to hook up the ethernet. The rooms don't have guides. "Oh, that jack is on the bottom of the phone" I was told. I then discovered that there was no phone. "Oh, some rooms don't have a phone". I was moved. Again, more questions, but the phone was broken. So it was back to the front desk. This went on and on. The staff seemed used to the questions and there were a lot of them being asked. I hear that this is the norm for other hotels around here.

Interesting contrasts exist for studios developing games. The differences in cultures between studios in the same town can be greater than those in separate countries! For example, there is often a dominant discipline in the building, which manifests itself in the tool chain. There is a level of tolerance to defects....sometimes little tolerance, sometimes a lot. There is a wide variety of process discipline and who "owns" the process.

The bottom line is that there is no single superior development culture. You can't look at any of these studios and predict which will make the hit game based on culture alone. You can certainly predict which one is going to make the game at lower cost with less crunch and stress, but those benefits don't get printed on the back of the box.

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