Posted on February 15, 2008,

Mike Capps Doesn’t Like Developers Having Free Rein

epic-game-logo.jpgEpic is all over the place right now, aren’t they? Game|Life spoke with Epic Games president Mike Capps last week at DICE where he aired his thoughts on developers having free rein – or, more to the point, how he doesn’t think they should have it.

One of the main themes I’m seeing at this DICE is the idea that it’s in a company’s best interests to keep the suits, the corporate owners, away from the talent, the development teams. What do you think about that?

I think it’s crazy. Because talent without focus on business is a really, really dangerous thing. Blizzard is a great example. I don’t know how they’ve been so successful and as huge as they have. But to throw away a game three times. That’s not necessarily something to be proud of in perhaps your methodology so much as that somebody somewhere up high has the willingness to say, “You know, it’s not working.” That’s very different from saying you’re producing efficiently. Does that make sense?

Do you see a difference between “Hey guys, you’re spending too much money,” and “Hey, this needs more cowbell”?

EA used to be notorious for that. Guy shows up on a jet, spends three hours in the office and says it needs to be bluer and taller, because if I don’t add value I’m going to be upset with myself and they fly away. They seem to have really turned the corner on that stuff. So, yes, creative influence from executives is really dangerous.

[Epic CEO Tim] Sweeney knows that he doesn’t know anything about games. He doesn’t play games very often, but he can look at things and say, you’re not pushing the tech the right way. This doesn’t look as good as it could. He wants to make sure our products are cutting edge, but he could care less if in Gears when you’re blind firing the gun does this or that. He doesn’t have any influence on that. For sure he cares about budgets, as do I.

But getting them out of the creative process as in wishing they were frustrated designers — yes, that’s been a problem in the industry that seems to be going away. But getting them out of the creative process as in me pushing towards a marketable product, I think that’s what you see the best corporations like Activision, EA, Warner Brothers, etc., doing right now.

Personally, I really dislike Capps’ stance. Blizzard explained at DICE that its success has come as a result of allowing the developers to exercise their independence, which seems to clearly go against what Capps is saying. Yes, these are first and foremost game companies that are trying to make money, but pressure in this regard on the developers isn’t going to result in a better product, and ultimately, that might cost the company more money than that freedom in the meantime would have.

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2 Comments on Mike Capps Doesn’t Like Developers Having Free Rein

Phil Migrowen

On February 15, 2008 at 4:31 pm

“I think it’s crazy. Because talent without focus on business is a really, really dangerous thing.”

Amen. Witness Ion Storm. Witness 3DRealms. The reason why Daikatana failed and why Duke Nuke’m Forever has yet to see the light of day in over ten years of development is because their developers had too much freedom and spent too much time and money trying to create a “perfect” game instead of trying to create a sellable product.

“Blizzard explained at DICE that its success has come as a result of allowing the developers to exercise their independence”

Blizzard can’t serve as the model for other development companies because there can only be one Blizzard in the market and everyone else must compete with it. That’s why most MMO’s drop like flies. Blizzard is simply in a financial position where it can afford major screwups like Starcraft Ghost that would kill almost any other company.

somewhat

On February 16, 2008 at 10:37 am

If the developers weren’t obligated to get the product out the door by a certain date, the finishing polish would be neverending, and the games would never relase at all. Then where would all of us gamers be ?