[In this editorial, originally published in Game Developer magazine's May 2008 issue, editor Brandon Sheffield calls for more open sharing of technology and tools, pointing to Insomniac's 'Nocturnal Initiative' as a notable step in the right direction.]
Insomniac announced its Nocturnal Initiative
to create "an open collection of libraries and utilities for addressing common challenges in game development" back at GDC, adding to its existing Insomniac R&D page
, and both are really quite important concepts.
Sharing techniques and technology can only make the industry as a whole stronger, especially now that graphics are coming to a bit of a plateau – or are at least aren’t as much of a talking point for the marketing folks.
I’ve long maintained that a lack of sharing is one of the big elements that has held the Japanese game industry back technologically, and the more we do share, the better the development experience becomes.
We’ll probably never get to a place where game development tools are truly standardized, but a common knowledge base is a good start in terms of getting everyone on the same page.
This idea of sharing is the main reason why Game Developer, Gamasutra (and Game Developers Conference, in fact) exists. They are meant to help working developers share insights so that they may do their jobs better.
But every so often, I get the occasional off-the-cuff comment from someone regarding a feeling that the publications cater much more to the student and aspirational crowd, versus the working professional.
It can be difficult for us to tell – we’re not working in the trenches. But if this is indeed the case, the failure is shared. We rely on submissions from industry folks, and if everything we’re getting is indeed ‘too kiddy,’ then that will certainly be reflected in the content.
It’s very interesting to see what happens when I turn the tables on that statement and ask the developer in question to write something good and appropriate for us, as they often feel as though they have nothing to contribute.
What’s worse though, is when nobody speaks up. Quite often in our industry there are ‘perceptions’ of things, or unspoken rules and standards that are followed.
Most developers accept crunch time as an inevitability. When CEOs talk, their words are often shrouded in rhetoric. This is true of most industries, but ours is supposed to be rather straightforward and personable.
A particularly painful trend is that most developers won’t fire someone who’s doing a bad job. Mediocre developers are allowed to languish in their positions, mis-manage teams, and drift from company to company because they worked on a successful game, and because nobody wants to speak ill of anyone else in this often-incestuous industry. Speaking up and telling the truth is an incredibly crucial kind of sharing.
This is also why what Insomniac is doing is so important. The company is sharing good, pertinent information (granted, it partly concerns the PlayStation 3, but that’s a major pain point for lots of folks out there).
Exposing Common Ground
No matter what ulterior motive they may possibly have, they’re doing a lot of work for everyone’s benefit. That’s what we need more of. If, in fact, Ubisoft, Naughty Dog, 2K Boston, Blizzard, or Bungie were to open up this directly in a public space, imagine how much learning could be gleaned!
Game Developer and Gamasutra are meant to be vehicles for this sort of thing. A blog, a company website, or developer forums are also appropriate venues, but a single hub of information would be the most efficient as a resource.
We may not be there yet, but it’s one of the closest things to a database of collective game development knowledge out there. It will only function that way if people are willing to share their experiences, their technology, their business practices, and their ideas.
We need to stop all solving the same problems. Granted, each game has specific solutions, but with a springboard of what’s worked in the past, couldn’t you get going a lot quicker?
So with that in mind, I’d encourage anyone reading this to think about what you might have to contribute to the community.
Something that would actually help other developers who might be facing problems you’ve faced – or even problems you’re facing and working out currently.
If you send the articles to us - or just send the links to us to mention in our news, as we did for Insomniac
- we’ll make sure they get seen. We’ll all be better for it.
[For your information, those wanting to contribute to Game Developer magazine can contact [email protected] - and Gamasutra's news and features editors can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.]