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Freelancing on Freelancer... and elsewhere
March 24th 2003, 21:33 CET by crash

While idly paging through the user manual for Freelancer, I came across the credits page. Looks like MS took the title of the game really seriously.

To wit: At the bottom of the page is a footnote-style legend for a series of colored dots next to names. Green is ArtSource, yellow is "Murder of Crows" (no idea), blue is VMC Consulting, and red is Volt Services Group. Checking past MS games, those dots have been there, but primarily in the QA section. Not too unusual; having a pack of temporary and experienced (one hopes) QA hit-men isn't a bad idea at all.

But for Freelancer, one of the engine coders is from Volt. So's a game programming guy. And a designer. Four more designers are from VMC. All but one of the in-game cinematics team came from VMC. The entire audio staff was courtesy of Volt. The entire test team but one, Volt. Looking at this page, and the amount of talent scattered across departments, and where they came from... it's like, damn, it's not too far of a stretch to imagine a day where an idea man with enough money can simply walk into Volt or VMC and hire an entire temporary game design team.

With the vetting process and checks and tests (and insurance and the like) that temporary services provide, in a lot of ways it may be actually better to not staff a team yourself. Sure, it'll be more expensive, but you won't have to worry about an HR department at all--let the temp services handle that. Hire what you need when you need it, knowing you're getting full value for your money, not having to worry about all the overhead...

Makes a lot of sense.

Why, then, does it give me the willies?
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#4 by Gunp01nt
2003-03-24 21:35:01
supersimon33@hotmail.com
and, if it catches on, and more publishers switch to temp-teams, then job security will be non-existent in the games industry.

Yo mama's so fat, all the restaurants in town have signs that says: "Maximum Occupancy: 240 Patrons OR Yo Mama"
#5 by The_Joker
2003-03-24 21:38:03
http://www.jackinworld.com
ETA till WAR thread?

Joker, Ph.D. Procedural Assholian Behaviour, Pedophilosopher
- All your ass are belong to my wang Jafd. Prepare to are penetration.
"I fart in THX." - Sgt_Hulka

PENETRATOR: Rise of the Wang Cuming "When it's done".
#6 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 21:39:49
Job security be damned!  Bring on the temp-team masses!  Who knows....it might even lead to having more than 3 games a year that are actually worth playing.

Bleh.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#7 by Chunkstyle
2003-03-24 21:41:28
Job security is un-American.

We are the goon squad and we're coming to town.  Beep beep.
#8 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-24 21:42:29
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
and, if it catches on, and more publishers switch to temp-teams, then job security will be non-existent in the games industry.

For teams creating good solid games, that's not a problem.  For teams working on movie licenses/budget titles, yeah, they're going to become expendable.
#9 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 21:43:11
What about book licenses, Warren?

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#10 by Your Friend
2003-03-24 21:45:56
Uh an idea man with a lot of money could always do this...not a new development.

The huge problem with this is that almost anyone with sense would rather have a team that they know can work together, rather than some hodgepodge of people who may or may not fit.  Freelancer turned out pretty well, but all the reports from its development suggest it was a huge clusterfucker (not necessarily because of the temp services angle, though I doubt that helped) and is not a particularly good model to emulate.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#11 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-24 21:47:24
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
What about book licenses, Warren?

I shouldn't have qualified my statement with 'movie' I guess.  Any company creating games based on licenses is going to have to worry about these 'temp teams'.  Most licensed games are cheap knock offs meant to appeal to the LCD.  That sounds like contract work to me.

I know you were taking a funnay shot at WoT, but I think something like WoT goes beyond the typical cookie cutter, "let's milk this new movie/book license for all it's worth!" type games.  Those kinds of games won't be affected.
#12 by chris
2003-03-24 21:47:56
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
I think that contracting out certain work can be extremely beneficial to teams. However, I think that any game developer with any experience will tell you that one idea man cannot make a game good, no matter how smart they are. You need the interaction of a team of people -- all of whom are mentally and emotionally tied to the project -- to really produce something amazing.

Putting a whole team of hired guns behind an idea, regardless of how strong that idea is, is not a wise decision. Instead of the problem of to much design by committee, you're likely to not get enough.

On the other hand, I could see a small group of guys succeeding quite well as a "hey, do you need some extra art resources, but don't want to hire fulltime guys to do it?" sort of company. You could put together a group of multidisciplined people (for example, a 3D/2D guy, a 3D/Level guy, and a 3D/Animation guy) and potentially thrive as a company. Particularly with content creation becoming more and more time-consuming. This frees the main development team to work on the overall vision, and lets the contractors do things like modelling wall panels and support pillars.

-chris
#13 by Your Friend
2003-03-24 21:52:08

and lets the contractors do things like modelling wall panels and support pillars.


New GDC award?  Best Support Pillars.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#14 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 21:52:10
Of course I was taking a shot a WoT - and frankly, I'm concerned that you would bother yammering out some explanation rather than just taking a shot back!

What?

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#15 by Shadarr
2003-03-24 21:54:07
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
WoT suxx0rs LOL!!!11
#16 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 21:54:08
#12 - chris:

"This frees the main development team to work on the overall vision..."


  So, basically, it frees the main development team to all become Idea men?

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#17 by Caryn
2003-03-24 21:59:31
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
I don't think I like the idea of an entire freelance team. It seems to me that game creation in this regard should work like a band: you put together a group of musicians whose styles all compliment each other, and when they've worked together for an extended period of time the result is clearly a more unified product rather than a hodge podge of styles.

"That's an interesting viewpoint supported by many factual references, but you failed to note that I really don't care." - Bailey
#18 by chris
2003-03-24 22:00:49
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
#16 UncleJeet
So, basically, it frees the main development team to all become Idea men?

Not at all. It allows them to work on the main characters, vehicles, major architecture, whatever, rather than the smaller stuff.

No matter how good a 3D guy is, it's going to take him time to model and skin a giant industrial fan, or a tree, or any of the other hojillion "show up in just about every game" types of mesh you can think of. Wouldn't you rather pay him to spend that time making sure that the parts of the game that are supposed to stand out REALLY stand out?

-chris
#19 by Neale
2003-03-24 22:13:15
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
But they might make really good industrial fans.

You can't derail this train of idiocy, Shadarr. Not even with a big fat cow of logic on the tracks. - Bailey
#20 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 22:13:43
#17 - Caryn:

  I'd agree if game teams were the size of bands, but they're not.  If games were created by four or five people, then hell yeah - I'd support that because then maybe we'd have some FUN back in gaming again.  But I think it's hard to get a close-knit team that works like a close-knit band works together, for the simple fact that your concept artists may never meet most anyone on the team or each other, and your sound guys might not really ever visit with your character animator guys, and when it all comes together, your PR guys will have no idea what the game development guys have been up to the past few years, and will end up launching an ad campaign proclaiming that, This Spring Warren Spector Will Make John Romero His Bitches.

#18 - chris:

  Well, I agree with you really.  I was just being me.  However, I'd be a little concerned if people started outsourcing the "generic" elements of game design while keeping the rest of the work in house.  Frankly, I think that those "generic" elements would only become more and more generic as more nad more companies used the same outsourcing people, and even if they didn't stand out because you'd seen them before, they'd definately stand out from the detailed work the in-house guys have done.  Suddenly, for example, you go from intricate detail on things like the faceplate of a wristwatch a character wears but never looks at really, to a fan in a room that is generic, undetailed, and boring (not to mention out of place due to stylistic differences.)

Or something.  Keep in mind I'm stupid.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#21 by LPMiller
2003-03-24 22:16:22
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
As long as the game doesn't suck, I don't care if it was programmed by full timers, contractors, or monkeys.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#22 by chris
2003-03-24 22:33:10
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
Jeet -

Sure, you'd need some level of quality control and a way to keep things matching. I'm not saying I have the perfect solution (if I did, I'd have already started the company)... I just think that the right combination of guys could make a living doing it. Not get rich, mind you, but make a decent living. =)

In fact, I'm pretty sure leslie knows, and has maybe even worked for, a company of guys who do exactly that.

-chris
#23 by UncleJeet
2003-03-24 23:14:27
And what about girls, eh?  What about TEH WOMEN!

Sexist Pig-Dog!

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#24 by Darkseid-D
2003-03-25 00:00:27
rogerboal@hotmail.com
Well you have several recognised 'ghost' writers for autobiographies and you all know about studio musicians, so why not have 'temp' programmers/designers etc.

Its just an extension of business models, next thing you know, theyll be shipping all the helplines / support lines for games out to india/pakistan. Oh, wait.

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#25 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-25 00:12:28
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Metal Gear Solid 4 for GameCube?

Kilt Wearing Pixel Pushing Monkey Boy
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DVD Collection
#26 by Your Friend
2003-03-25 00:20:28
As a GameCube fan (I've gotten way more enjoyment out of my GC than my PS2 and XBOX combined thus far), I'd normally say that's cool, but since I'm not an MGS fan, I guess I won't.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#27 by Your Friend
2003-03-25 00:26:26
I voted yes on deadlock's topic.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#28 by bago
2003-03-25 02:00:04
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Heh, as a former employee of both Volt and Microsoft, I can tell you it's not that odd. It usually takes forever to get a Fulltime Req for a position, especially in light of the re-org of 2002. Therfore the positions are padded out with contractors. This kind of sucks for some aspects, as they have a 1 year limit to work there, but with the job market a buyers market, it's not that big of a deal for the moment.

I ran into the 1 year limit last week, and have a few interviews lined up already, but I'm enjoying the time off. In fact, I just made cookies!

The seeming unanimity among poets makes them look suspiciously like a herd of independent minds.
#29 by Charles
2003-03-25 02:00:41
www.bluh.org
I would love to see a port/update of MGS1.  That game is awesome, and with a graphical update it would be even better.  Would be nice if they added the gameplay that was new in MGS2 to MGS1.

Of course, this is only a minor technicality, as even when "properly elected" into office, a politician has as much chance of not having gotten there via corrupt means as Dubya has of spelling racecar backwards.  --UncleJeet
#30 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-25 02:11:53
erictcheng@hotmail.com
I would love to see a port/update of MGS1.  That game is awesome, and with a graphical update it would be even better.


Metal Gear Solid sucks!

Would be nice if they added the gameplay that was new in MGS2 to MGS1.


It would be great if they just simply added gameplay to Metal Gear Solid and remove all that cinematic whining about mullets and saviour for the free world.

Kilt Wearing Pixel Pushing Monkey Boy
IMDB Entry
DVD Collection
#31 by Duality
2003-03-25 02:35:56
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
I thought MGS3 was going to be on the Xbox.

Isn't it kinda not-smart to be fracturing the userbase like that?
#32 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-25 02:41:29
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Metal Gear Solid sucks!

Kilt Wearing Pixel Pushing Monkey Boy
IMDB Entry
DVD Collection
#33 by yotsuya
2003-03-25 02:52:04
Bago-

When did you leave Microsoft? I was still under the impression you were still there.

Walt Whitman once said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." You could look it up.
#34 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-25 02:57:28
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Metal Gear Solid sucks!

If by "Metal Gear Solid sucks!" you mean, "I have no taste in games!", I agree.
#35 by Squeaky
2003-03-25 02:58:12
I have never played any of the Metal Gear games. Nor do I have any desire to...

"It is better to be considered a house cat and sit on the lap of pretty girls then to be feared as a tiger and hunted by men." --T. Takamatsu
DVDs
#36 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-25 02:59:26
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Fag.
#37 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-25 03:05:01
erictcheng@hotmail.com
If by "Metal Gear Solid sucks!" you mean, "I have no taste in games!", I agree.


I have no taste in games that are like Metal Gear Solid, which relies heavily on cinematics, a hokey story and annoying unbelievable characters with stupid codenames. That and all those Resident Evil clones.

Kilt Wearing Pixel Pushing Monkey Boy
IMDB Entry
DVD Collection
#38 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-25 03:09:33
Charles
I would love to see a port/update of MGS1.  That game is awesome, and with a graphical update it would be even better.  Would be nice if they added the game play that was new in MGS2 to MGS1.

I don't think the difference from MGS1 to MGS2 would be a big deal.  What I would like to see it a total remake of the original MG in the MGS way.  I imagine a lot of people are like myself and cut their teeth on MGS and would love to play are remake of the first two 2D games.
#39 by bago
2003-03-25 03:16:50
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Contract was up last Friday. Been snowboarding and canoodling in the meantime, while starting some freelance work for a friends company.

The seeming unanimity among poets makes them look suspiciously like a herd of independent minds.
#40 by LPMiller
2003-03-25 03:32:24
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
Hall and Oates, Live by reques on A&E right now. This pleases me.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#41 by Your Friend
2003-03-25 03:48:59
Metal Gear Solid (and MGS2 even more so) is the action equivalent of Final Fantasy 7+.  Too much movie-wanna-beism, not enough game.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#42 by Charles
2003-03-25 04:24:18
www.bluh.org
If you want to keep your story and your game completely separate, you might as well exit stage left.

I, and I'm guessing a lot of other people, like the cinematic aspect of the MGS games.  The gameplay is tops too.

Of course, this is only a minor technicality, as even when "properly elected" into office, a politician has as much chance of not having gotten there via corrupt means as Dubya has of spelling racecar backwards.  --UncleJeet
#43 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-25 04:35:03
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
I agree with Charles.

It's comments like these last few that really boggle my mind.  So what DO gamers want?  More story?  More action?  It seems anytime you give them one, they ask for the other.
#44 by JMCDaveL
2003-03-25 04:39:15
I thought MGS was quite fun, MGS2 was pretty boring to me, Raiden sucked and none of the characters were very interesting. It also felt like a much shorter game but it probably wasn't, too many damned cinemas. The Big Shell was just a boring locale.

--jmc
#45 by JMCDaveL
2003-03-25 04:41:28
Of course now I'm playing Xenosaga which is pretty much a string of cinemas with game parts sporadically intermixed, but thats fine since I knew what I was getting into after Xenogears. Too bad the voice acting is horrible with no way to turn captioning off (at least then I wouldn't know entire paragraphs of plot before the actors slowly sputter out the lines).

I AM A BOOZER BANZAI BANZAI

--jmc
#46 by Your Friend
2003-03-25 04:41:57
Here comes Your Friend's obvious answer:

Different gamers want different things.  We don't have a singular mind.  

Me? I prefer to get my stories from books and movies, which IMO do a much better job of narrative storytelling.  For games, I don't mind some story, but if the story smothers the game (which occurs in the newer FF games, and MGS, IMO) then forget it.  Game first, story second if you wanna hang wit' Your Friend.

The sales of FF7+ and MGS2 prove that not every gamer shares my views.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#47 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-25 04:53:00
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
I guess I'll have to get a GameCube soon.  That'll give me 4 consoles in front of my monster TV (already have Dreamcast, PS2 and XBox).  *bliss*

I'm still trying to finish Grandia 2 ... then I'll be diving into .hack, followed by Xenosaga ... after that, I'm told that Dark Cloud 2 should be my next stop.

An RPG surplus ... wish this would happen more often!
#48 by Chunkstyle
2003-03-25 04:59:07
.hack is fun.  It reminds me alot of Phantasy Star Online, but the other players are more intelligent.

We are the goon squad and we're coming to town.  Beep beep.
#49 by UncleJeet
2003-03-25 05:13:05
I own every console - but, by far, the GC gets most of my time.  The Xbox gets second place, with the ps2 coming in a far third....I think I piddle around on the DC more than the ps2.  Anyway, as to story vs. gameplay - bleh.

Story IS gameplay - in a good game.  In Deus Ex, in other words.

I do like cinematics.  I love cinematics.  However, this love is only bestowed when the cinematics are actually, er, cinematic in some way.  I felt MGS2 was just way too over the top and hokey with characters and a story I didn't care much about.  However, the direction of the cinematic sequences was well done.

Take Freelancer, to stay on topic, as an example.  The gameplay and story are totally separated - but the cinematics are nice to watch (for the most part.)  Decent camera work, some nice effects here and there, and even facial expressions - which more games *really* need to do.

Opening and closing mouths are the new bobbing heads.  I don't like that.

Eat me.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#50 by Charles
2003-03-25 05:14:14
www.bluh.org
I don't know, to me, MGS surpassed pretty much any Action/drama movie I've ever seen, with a few minor exceptions (which I can deal with, since I don't tend to nitpick a good movie over a few bad parts).  Plus I like anime, which helps.  I think MGS2 went a little crazy with story, but I still liked the game overall.  The gameplay is the best stealth gameplay ever.  The awesome voice acting and presentation is just icing on the cake.  

Also, giant robots and beam weapons never hurt.

Of course, this is only a minor technicality, as even when "properly elected" into office, a politician has as much chance of not having gotten there via corrupt means as Dubya has of spelling racecar backwards.  --UncleJeet
#51 by UncleJeet
2003-03-25 05:16:20
*Please note.  I beat Charles to the obligatory Deus Ex reference.  That is all.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#52 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-25 06:06:25
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Life sucks.

Kilt Wearing Pixel Pushing Monkey Boy
IMDB Entry
DVD Collection
#53 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-25 06:47:26
Speaking of games and story, a sequel to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (you know, the console version) was announced.  Coming in winter 2003, which must mean Christmas since that's the only winter left in 2003 (Oz does not count).  Hopefully they will include an ending in this one and continue the story through each act.  At least the gameplay was good.
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