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Feature: 'Game Law - Discipline And The Up Sell'

You can convince your publisher to let you expand your game's design to incorporate exciting new features -- but how do you prevent that from drowning you? Game Law brings you
October 30, 2007
In this Gamasutra-exclusive feature, industry attorney Tom Buscaglia recounts the cautionary tale of one of his client studios. A start-up who'd just gotten its first major deal, this studio's dream-come-true publishing deal and upgraded digs seemed ready for a happily-ever-after ending. But as Buscaglia explained, the passion that had been the talented group's strength would also be their downfall. Deciding they needed to add a multiplayer mode to their FPS to help it perform well on the console side, the team still had the single-player challenge left to design. The team came up with a 21-level linear adventure with AI-driven NPC allies and enemies, a real multiplayer experience in a single player game -- "awfully ambitious," as Buscaglia said. But the publisher was thrilled, and the team decided to incorporate the new design into the PC version first to be ported to Xbox later. Buscaglia explains why this was not the great news it may have seemed at the time: "At this point they should have taken into account more than just how cool this game was going to be. But their passion blinded them to the harsh realities of running a business. The scope of the project had changed substantially. More features, more levels, a more demanding AI; all would necessitate more time to completion. And as we all know (or should know) more time means more money out the door for salaries and expenses. Sure, publishers get upset when a game slips. But the real problem with slippage is with the additional operational and personnel costs to the studio. This was not even a slippage situation. This was a situation where the studio knew that the new, expanded design would require significantly more time to complete. And while the game that they originally sold to the publisher could have been made within the original budget, this new game would ultimately take twice as long to build, which meant it would cost twice as much to make." But this didn't have to be a disaster. In the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, Buscaglia explains the pitfalls of committing your studio to work on anything without getting paid for it, and how he counseled his client at the time -- and most importantly, when the right time is for an up sell (no reg. required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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