In such an isolated world where the pandemic, novel coronavirus is spreading affecting people’s lives, it is very important to work individually in an isolated environment. Since working from home effectively reduce the spread of virus, it is essential and important to work from home. But how about the game development? How do game studios work in such an isolated environment?
Game studios produce their games through the software development process. Game studios produce their products as a creative outlet and to generate profit. A game publisher normally funds the game development. Well-made games bring profit more readily. However, it is important to estimate a game’s financial requirements, such as development costs of individual features.
Game development is a process that starts form an idea or concept. Often the developers base their ideas on a modification of an existing game concept. The game idea may fall within one or several genres. Designers often experiment with different combinations of genres. A game designer generally writes an initial game proposal document, that describes the basic concept, gameplay, feature list, setting and story, target audience, requirements and schedule, and finally staff and budget estimates.
And a game developer may range from a single individual to a large multinational company. They are both independent and studios that publishers own. Independent developers rely on financial support from a game publisher. They usually have to develop a game from concept to prototype without external funding. They transfer the formal game proposal to the publishers, who may finance the game development form several months to years. The publisher would retain exclusive rights to distribute and market the game and would often own the intellectual property rights for the game franchise.
Thus, the game studios have to work smart and hard to produce an excellent game. Everyone working in game studios have to work together in a team-spirit. By this way, they can only produce a good game. But if they have to work separately, especially during this corona virus outbreak, what may happen? How should they work?
Mostly, teams of 30-130 developers make the games today, all working at once. Games are so large that game studios have to practice like the division of labor. In fact, dividing a big pile of work into small, bite-sized pieces is a critical part of the process. The administrators organize their teams by specification such as programming, design, art, animation, etc. And a project manager directs them by a project management methodology. At a high level, they agree on the approximate design goals of the finished game such as Road Fighter Redux.
Then they state simple short term goals like, let’s make a melee combat system. That requires character art, fight animations, sounds and combat code that determines the winner using a set of design parameters for damages and resistances for various attacks, blocks, ripostes and parries.
Then we can write out tasks, for programmers, artists and designers, in an order that causes the finished parts to arrive at about the same time. Once a system is assembled from the parts, they review it together to see if it needs more work and to talk about what system to start on next, like may be a load or save game feature. That cycle happens again and again, as game studios build a game.
Across the games industry, developers from studios of all sizes are adjusting to a new work-from-home mandate. Some struggle to say motivated as they grapple with isolation. The challenges of work-from-home setups, and looming deadlines. Their process can be slowed down exponentially, from communication to their ability to do their jobs efficiently. Others say their routines remain largely unchanged, or they have discovered newfound productivity from the quiet of home.
The total effects of the pandemic have not yet felt in the games industry and will likely to take months, if not years, to fully reveal themselves. Already, companies like Nintendo have had product delays. They postponed their highly anticipated releases like “The Last of Us Part II” indefinitely. In a post on Final Fantasy XIV’s blog, producer and director Naoki Yoshida warned of dalays as shelter-in-place orders impacted everything from voice recording to QA. Even games not grappling with those specific issues have other problems to contend with. “For big games whose data repositories are huge, it’s 10 times more efficient to be in the office with a direct connection to the data servers.” One developer tells the Verge. “So when they are uploading or downloading data remotely, it can slow them down immensely.”
Then there is a question of infrastructure. How do you move a team of hundreds to their homes and achieve workable results? Administrators of many companies instructed their developersm to take computers home and do their best to settle in.
At Destiny developer Bungie, the company made the call to start sending people home on March 1. Principle producer Carrie Gouskos says that her first reaction to the phase “social distancing” was to start work on an excel spreadsheet – a “very small piece of control in the chaos,” she says. “Turns out that’s what I do in a crisis, try to box everything into neat packages in Excel. Because it creates small rows of order.”
Gouskos’s task was to examine the scope of someone’s work, figure out what tools they used, decide if they would need a “beeftop or a coffee drinker’s laptop” to do their job – shorthand that separated someone in need of heavy equipment vs. a person who is working on word processing and meetings. From there, the process moved on to software requests and connectivity problems as developers learned to troubleshoot form home. Employees banded together to help each other as everyone navigated new territory. “While you can create a structure for support, you still need to rely on the help of other to make any structure work,” says Gouskos.
The other developers faced more unique problems. Some had recently moved and were set up in apartments that didn’t even have furniture yet: there were those now grappling with the challenge of working from home with their significant others and kids. Gouskos says Bungie tried to ease those pains by offering an ergonomic budget of 350 USD per person, or fielding large requests themselves. “Everything got a policy,” she says. “Webcam – use your budget. Added internet usage to your cable bill- expense it. The first printer request broke my brain. But after we figured out how to handle it, I was ready for the next two.”
One of the examples is Kojima Productions by Hideo Kojima. Hideo Kojima founded this well-known Japanese video game development studio. He is well-known for the Metal Gear Series. Kojima Productions shutters office after one of its employee tests positive for Covid-19. Thus, Hideo Kojima Studio had to temporarily shut down to prevent virus spread. But this virus spread cannot stop the excellent performance of the members of Hideo Kojima Studio. And the Corona Virus would not be able to stop their work.
Because of lock down, people are spending their time especially in their homes. They may spend their time especially playing games. So, game sales are up but game production is down. It is very true that the novel corona virus is spreading rapidly making the game studios face new challenges whether they may be independent or corporate. So, UK gaming industry chief issued warning about the effects of corona virus on the game studios. Despite the surge in players due to lockdown measures, the gaming industry has also been heavily hit. The industry’s biggest events, including the E3 games exhibition in Las Vegas, got cancel as a preventive measure.
Consequently, the studios that were due to present their new titles are in a state without a platform to promote their work. Dr. Richard Wilson, the chief executive of independent games industry trade association TIGA, told Sky News that he had spoken to one company which said productivity had decreased up to 20 percent because of the difficulties in having teams working together remotely.
Although the gaming industry is almost entirely digital, the nature of game development is restricting productivity when working from home. On a wider scale, the economy of the industry is also being hit. Commissions for tailored games in smaller studios are also reduced. And for medium sized companies, venture capital finance is almost unattainable. Dr. Wilson said: “Two Thirds of UK game studios employ are micro businesses employing four or fewer people with limited financial resources. “
On the evening of March 15th, Steam surpassed 20 million concurrent users, setting a brand new record. It is broken that record every week since, hitting 24 million on April 4. That sudden surge is widely attributed to the fact that many countries are on lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19. With governments ordering their citizens to stay inside, people are turning to games to pass the time.
Despite that huge surge in players staying home due to the Covid-19 outbreak, game developers all over the world are worried about their projects and studios. And several game developers at new game studios are struggling to find funding and plan for the future. Most of the developers agreed that funding would be difficult to find with the impact Covid-19 has had on the economy. Publishers and other sources of funding will be hesitant to take on new projects.
But in deeply consideration, those who work in game and software development are fortunate to be in a position that allows them to work from home while the other staff working in different sectors are not working. And today is the time when people are not really able to gather in physical spaces, gaming is really providing an avenue for people to stay connected in a virtual community. And the game studios are doing their best for the demand in an isolated environment.
Since the people suddenly start working from home and most of them have not prepared to work from home, many of them may not have prepared for a sudden change. So, the environment of working in game studios cannot exist in their home. So they may feel demotivated.
And there is one possibility that it is going to be incredibly divisive. Some game studios will get huge profits and some game studios will lose everything. If you have games already out to lean on, you may do well because everyone is locked in their houses for entertainment. If you were on the edge, this is going to sink you. And it is going to sink a lot of people.
The pandemic would not be over soon. And many cities around the United States have recently extended their stay at home orders through the end of April. Experts have said the outbreak is going to continue to get worse before it gets better.
Sony, the publisher of PlayStation consoles and dozens of video games, said in early April that it would be delaying the much-anticipated The Last of Us: Part II from May 29 to an undermined date. Developers at Naughty Dog, The studio behind the game, said the delay was because of the current challenges of printing, shipping and selling physical copies of video games. With factories close, distribution pipelines disrupted and the retailer GameStop operating at reduced capacity, Sony worried that physical sales would be diminished.
Sony isn’t alone. Amazon delayed its multiplayer game New World from Spring to August “in order to reach our quality bar as we work remotely for the foreseeable future,” the company said in a statement. The publisher Square Enix had to delay a big new update for its online game Final Fantasy XIV. The Microsoft-owned post-apocalyptic role-playing game Wasteland 3 was bumped from May 19 to August 28, with its developers citing “these new logistical challenges” in their explanation.
Other big companies have found it easier to adapt. Ubisoft, the multinational publisher of games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed, has 17,000 employees at 55 studios who could be moved from Project to Project as different countries faced lockdown orders.
No one expected the virus to spread so fast. They thought it could be contained, but in a matter of hours, the streets of Stormwind and Ironforge were strewn with the corpses of humans, gnomes and elves. It had happened in 2005 while an uncontrolled plague hit the online role-playing game World of Warcreaft, and nobody was safe.
The corona virus has had a complex effect on the gaming industry. Developers are unable to work, leading to hardware delays and event cancellations. Yet playtime has rocketed up: gaming is an ideal quarantine activity. Games pass the time and provide social stimulation via online play. Nintendo and Xbox’s online services have experienced downtime due to server strain. PC gaming platform Steam had a record 20 million players online on March 15 in the United States.
So, although there are more game players ever than before, there are much difficulty in game studios. They are facing slow manufacture since people are starting to work in home. Since those game studios are those who are making challenges