Friday, January 22, 2016

Going Indie - The Ups and Downs of Big Game Development

Gingear Studio is up and running.

And most of you probably don't know who or what that is, or if it's even worth caring about.

The reason it's being mentioned on The Geek Spot is from an insightful article written by Maxime Beaudoin, former Ubisoft employee and software architect behind Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. That sounds like a dream job to a lot of us - maybe not working at Ubisoft but the chance to have your name attached to a big game like AssCreed. You're not only shaping the future of a game franchise, but you'll be part of the legacy that is AssCreed. That's kind of cool when you think about it.

But one day Beaudoin decided it was enough. He left his ideal job to start an indie game company with his girlfriend. So why would someone leave such a lush position at a big developer? That was a pretty bold move - it's not as though he failed at Ubisoft. His team did help develop Syndicate, a very thoughtful and necessary step forward from the disaster that was Unity. His position was secured. He had great benefits and a nice paycheck. Why leave it all?

While Beaudoin couldn't give too many specifics due to legal and contractual obligations, his story is very telling. It's something that many game employees can understand and admire the courage of those who decide to set off on their own.

"On my last day at Ubisoft, while I was saying goodbye to my colleagues, nobody asked why I was leaving to work on my own games. Even people who barely knew me had a pretty good idea. A lot of them were actually envious, although they worked on Syndicate too, realizing one of their own dreams. I’m sure that many professional game developers might have a clue about why I made this move."

What made our brave programmer want to try the indie game scene happened when he worked on 2 very small team projects at Ubisoft, that ended up being cancelled. They came up with the game concept, characters, levels, and had to do everything within their group of 4-6 people. If they didn't have a level designer, someone learned how to program and made it happen. For Beaudoin, that was when he was the happiest at Ubisoft. And when those games were cancelled, even after the strong reception from the rest of the staff members (60+ people), he felt the sting. There's a joy to being involved in every aspect of a project. Taking that personal ownership and putting it out there for the world to experience. There's nothing else like it. And as he rose up in the command chain, he was finding himself having less and less impact on the games he was involved in - more of the "I approved this" instead of "I made this level" type of management. Because that's how businesses work.

Going indie gives Beaudoin a chance to get back to that stage where he was on a small team and had his hands in every pot. He can work creative, technical, designs, scripts, and everything in between. It's not about specialization and feeling disconnected from the project.

If you have a few minutes to spare today, I strongly encourage you to read his blog post. It gives some great insight into the big gaming dev world that you may not be aware of.

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