If you're a AAA-game developer at a big studio with a publisher and a big marketing budget, this video is probably enough to give you cold chills, or at least a knowing nod.
This is what it looks like when people who don't understand game development begin asking for things they assume are reasonable, and it's your job to somehow explain the reality of the situation.
After all, you are the expert.
How things go wrong
"Many’s the time I worked on a project where a higher-up would start off a new request with 'Can’t you just …' without an appreciation for the cost entailed. It seems obvious to a studio head or an executive producer that if another game highlights graphical feature X, clearly our game can," Keith Fuller told Polygon.
"'This other title has amazing lighting because of deferred rendering, can’t you just rewrite our engine to use deferred rendering?" It’s possible, sure, but in terms of time constraints and budgets it makes about as much sense as requesting green lines that are red," he continued.
Fuller has shipped 12 AAA games as a programmer, design manager and producer before going into business for himself helping other developers avoid issues like this. He's also written a book about improving leadership in game development.
"The biggest misunderstandings I’ve experienced as a developer came from bringing in people with no background in any discipline of game development," Fuller said. "Back when I was part of a team working with Quake 2 technology (circa 2001) we had a writer start suggesting ideas that included knife fights in space suits. A failure to grasp technical constraints combined with a poor understanding of what makes a shooter fun — not exactly a recipe for success."
If leaders don’t trust and protect their teams it quickly gets very expensive
Which is why the above video is such a good illustration of what can often happen to people who know how to make games when faced with people who think they know how to sell games. What they want sounds reasonable, so why can't you just do it? The problem isn't just ignorance on the part of marketing and publishers, it can be a failure of leadership at the developer to support the people who know what they're doing.
"Any time you’re bringing external input into a development environment there’s a burden of protection on the leadership. Similar to the video, imagine your publisher brings in a writer or marketing group (eg. kitten lady) to make requests of a developer (like, say, the guy who tries desperately to explain tricky concepts like 'perpendicular' and 'line')."
At the end of the table you’ve got a studio head and to his right, a producer. It’s on both of them to realize the danger represented by external creative requests, analyze the level of understanding present, and intercept as much of the crazy as possible. It’s also on the studio head to trust his expert and back their call when they start to raise yellow flags," Fuller said.
There are plenty of good teams out there with great management, but this video gives you a good idea of how frustrating it can be when things begin to go wrong.
"If leaders don’t trust and protect their teams it quickly gets very expensive," Fuller continued. "There’s an ever-growing list of studios that have shuttered while trying to get their people to draw green lines that are red."