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Talking to Gamasutra as part of an <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3758/an_examination_of_outsourcing_the_.php">in-depth new feature</a> on outsourcing, Wideload's Alex Seropian has suggested the "model is broken" for fully staffing game t

August 7, 2008

3 Min Read

Author: by Paul Hyman, Staff

Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth new feature on outsourcing, Bungie co-founder and Wideload president Alex Seropian has suggested the "model is broken" for fully staffing game teams internally, noting major possible issues "...when you've completed production on the game -- you've got 100 people on the payroll and you only have work for five or 10." Seropian believes that the primary benefit of outsourcing is not necessarily to save money but to best employ company resources in the most efficient manner possible. "The fundamental part of our business model is that we have a core staff of full-time employees -- now numbering 25 -- which gets the extra manpower it needs to do all the production work from outside the company," Seropian explains. "That means outsourcing all the art, animation, sound effects, music, voiceover, and even some of the engineering stuff. On our most recent game, Hail to the Chimp, for example, we had the help of 15, maybe 20 outside companies." "To me it makes no sense at all to try and hire 100 people, which takes a long time," he says. "And it's even harder if you're trying to hire the best of the best, especially here in Chicago which is a great city but isn't exactly the heart of the video games industry." "So it's a big effort, a big risk, and at the end -- when you've completed production on the game -- you've got 100 people on the payroll and you only have work for five or 10. I'm sorry; that model is broken and it's not one we intend to use." But despite the advantages of outsourcing, Seropian is quick to admit that there are also high hurdles, all of which he's encountered in Wideload's five-year history. High atop that list is what he calls "simply process" -- which includes setting expectations very clearly and providing outsourcers the tools they need to succeed. "To make it work, you need to treat the outsourcers -- who may be halfway around the world -- like they are on the team," he explains. "And, for us, that means getting them into our source control system, allowing them to preview their work in mid-game as we are previewing our work, and providing them with a pipeline of assignments and feedback and expectations." "For instance, we tell them that when they do a character model, we usually review it about 20 times before we call it done. Because, if we don't say that, when they get to the fifth iteration, they're going to be like 'Ah, come on, man. Isn't it done yet?' "We're talking about a lot more here than just having good communications," Seropian notes. "It's treating them like they're working in the same room as you are. We have come to understand that and to build it into our culture that we aren't going to succeed if the outsourcers don't knock the ball out of the park. We have to do everything possible to enable them to do that." Gamasutra's conversation with Seropian came as part of a larger article on outsourcing in the game business, which also spoke to representatives from Kuju Entertainment and THQ's XDG outsourcing division.

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