Is it really possible to objectively measure and then improve the quality of your studio's games at a high level? Foundation 9 (Death Jr.
) exec Jon Goldman thinks so, and explains how to Gamasutra as part of a new in-depth interview
now available on the site.
In particular, Goldman focused on the 'Total Quality Initiative'
announced across F9's studios, which span developers as diverse as the U.K.'s Sumo Digital, U.S.' Shiny and The Collective, and the U.S. and Canada's Backbone Entertainment.
As the exec explained of the initiative, which was officially announced to the press in February:
"Last year and this year, we started tracking quality numbers, and we saw that... last year, we issued a press release where we moved up in average quality by about two or three points, while the industry average actually went down. And that's actually not uncommon, and that's part of the cycle. In the early part of the cycle, quality averages go down.
But we were surprised that our quality averages have actually gone up, because people associate work-for-hire licensed development with quality issues. We realized that one, there's a perception gap, and two, this is something we can manage to do and continue to improve...
The other thing we faced is that we really grew a lot over 2007. As a management team, we can't know what's going on with 60 projects, because that's what we had going on last year.
We have to have some process in place that shows that we're actually exercising oversight, because there are a lot of points where we looked a publisher in the eye and said, "I'm committing to this," and I certainly don't feel comfortable as a CEO looking somebody in the eye and committing to something with which I don't have any oversight function, other than turning it in...
Because a lot of what I, or other people, message is about profitability and performance and things like that. But everybody knows that there's a difference between doing good product and doing good business. We want to make sure that's institutionalized, and not just something that we talk about."
When asked: 'Taking a step back, what does "quality" mean in this context, and how do you assess it?', Goldman explained further:
"There are a few things. We're really looking at like quality, so for particular games, like a little kids' Hamtaro game, we're comparing that to like games.
For Silent Hill [V, in development at The Collective], we're comparing that to like games, given whatever parameters there are. There's quality metrics that come in from the reviewer press, there's which games sell really well, we look at that metric, and then we look at other things like the budget and timeframe and those things.
So when you've got a basket of 60 projects, you can actually do some true comparisons. So we can't compare a $15 million project to a $30 million project, but we can compare a couple of $15 million projects with similar timeframes with each other and say, "Look, this is where we should've done something differently.
We should've changed the scope in this way, and we should've done this feature better." Those things. We try to get very analytical about it."
The full interview with Foundation 9's Jon Goldman
is now available on Gamasutra, including more information on Foundation 9's attitude to development in 2008, some of its high-profile products including Death Jr.
and Silent Hill V
, and much more.