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Real-Life development stories: The Colosseum map

Short story based on real events about the efforts to make an external producer understand what a whitebox map is, and the pain of dealing with people not educated in real videogame development

Alvaro Vazquez de la Torre, Blogger

September 29, 2016

5 Min Read


Short story based on real events about the efforts to make an external producer understand what a whitebox map is, and the pain of dealing with people not educated in real videogame development

Dev team: “Hi there. This is the dev team calling to the Rome office. You there?”

Rome: “Yes! Ready for the conference call”

Dev team: “Ok, allow me to introduce the people in the room: It’s the Art director, the level designer, the artist and me, the producer”

Rome: “Hi everyone. Here it’s just me, the live producer of our game for the Italian territory”

Dev team: “We’re calling you on regards of that last mail you sent. For everyone to be on the same page we sent you a build of the game which includes a whitebox version of the new Roman Colosseum multiplayer map we’ve been working on, looking to get early feedback. You guys at Rome mentioned you had concerns about it. Can you let us know which those are?”

Rome: “Absolutely. First of all it’s ugly. Very ugly, actually. How can you guys even suggest we publish that map?”

Dev team: “Ugly?”

Rome: “I mean, it’s all white! Looks awful!”

Dev team: “You do realize it’s still in whitebox state, right?”

Rome: “Absolutely! But it’s ugly! All assets are white! It’s shameful, we cannot publish that”

Dev team: “We know, that’s why it’s called whitebox. Those are temp assets. We’re still working on the real ones”

Rome: “Sure, sure… but it’s so ugly!”

Dev team: “Well, it won’t be once we replace all the props with the final version, with textures and all”

Rome: “A final version? So there are several versions? Why did you send the ugly one?”

Dev team: “Again, it’s not ugly, it’s just work in progress”

Rome: “We cannot publish that…”

Dev team: “I assure you it’ll look great in 4 weeks. We’ve made a lot of research, used all sort of visual references and it’ll look exactly like the Roman colosseum

Rome: “Oh! How can you say that?”

Dev team: “Sorry?”

Rome: “It’s not the Colosseum at all! You removed many walls, added some symmetrical corridors where there aren’t any, and even terraces on the sides that doesn’t exist in reality! You see, it’s all wrong!”

Dev team: “…”

Rome: “I mean, it’s going to be a disaster! A map whose name is Roman colosseum and it’s not the Roman colosseum! The journalists and the public will trash us”

Dev team: “It’s set up that way for gameplay reasons: The map needs chokepoints to ensure players find each other and fight. And the terraces are meant to be used by snipers”

Rome: “Players won’t play it because they’ll say “That map is a fraud: It’s called Roman colosseum but it’s not””

Dev team: “It was never our intention to replicate exactly the Roman colosseum

Rome: “Why not? Why would you call it Roman colosseum if not?”

Dev team: “Ok, listen: We’ve used the real colosseum merely as an inspiration, but adapted the layout to our needs, to make interesting and balanced gameplay. You need cover points to break lines of fire, chokepoints to funnel players into combat and such. It’s a multiplayer game after all, it’s supposed to be played again and again. Surely the priority is to make it fun over any other consideration”

Rome: “But I’m telling you, it’s not like the Roman colosseum at all! Users will hate it! We need to change it”

Dev team: “Why? It plays very well! We’ve playtested it for 2 months now and it’s very fun. Everybody here is happy with it. We even run an external playtesting session and it was rated over most of the other maps we’ve made”

Rome: “You have to listen to me: I cannot give our users a map called Roman colosseum which is not the Roman colosseum. I don’t even understand why you can’t see it”

Dev team: “Ok, tell you this: What if we use a different name?”

Rome: “What do you mean?”

Dev team: “Roman Colosseum is just a codename. It was meant to be changed when it goes live anyway. We can name it however we want. What about something like… Amphitheatre. Or Arena. Or even just Rome?”

Rome: “But people will see that it intends to be the Roman colosseum, and fails. The external ring and dimensions are just the same. You can even see Rome in the background! They’ll know it! It’s going to be a Public Relations disaster”

Dev team: “How can they know if we’re not using the name? Trust us, it should be fine. Players don’t care about that, just if it’s fun or not”

Rome: “You really need to change it”

Dev team: “But we can’t! We’d have to change the whole layout, iterate for months again and still it’ll probably won’t be fun at all because the real-life colosseum was not intended to be a videogame map. That would take up more than 3 more months, and we’re supposed to start working on other map in 4 weeks”

Rome: “…”

Dev team: “I guarantee you the map will be fun to play, and we can rename it to whatever you want to. If needed we can change some textures – you call which ones - to make it look less like the real deal. Trust me, it’s the only option we actually have”

Rome: “…”

Dev team: “Do you have any other concern?”

Rome: “Yes”

Dev team: “… is it related to the map being ugly?”

Rome: “Yes”

Dev team: “Oh dear god…”

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