When is the earliest moment a game will get put on a disc/blu-ray these days? Some prototype? A test build? Review copies? A test before manufacturing begins? Historical examples of old CD and cartridge games from pre-production are around, so I wonder if any from this era even exist to show up like that.

T'challa says ALT

We don’t really do discs anymore. We used to do them for builds on dev machines, but now that we’ve all got sufficiently fast internet connections and sufficiently large hard drives, all we do are digital builds now. Even our submission candidates are digital now. To my understanding, we really only make discs when we’ve passed cert and we’re going to gold master. Even the physical discs you get today often just contain the same internet-based installer that you’d download from the digital store.

A storybook flips openALT

I don’t think disc builds have been a thing since two console generations ago, the X360/PS3/Wii era. We actually made regular disc builds back then because we had to test things like streaming data off of the optical disc. I remember having to come up with solutions for desynchronized audio issues because data were still being streamed from the disc when we loaded a saved game from a cold boot at a particular place in the game I was working on. Nowadays we can fully install the game to the SSD and we no longer have to worry about those kind of technical issues.

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Balance adjustments in the long term: You have a unit/option/weapon that is too strong/too weak in a way that is negatively affecting the game. What are some of the pros and cons of making a single larger adjustment versus making a serious of small adjustments over multiple updates ?

I think you’re missing something important here. Our overall goal with these balance updates isn’t necessarily to achieve perfectly balanced matchups. It isn’t even to achieve game balance that is “good enough”. The real purpose of balance updates is to keep the game interesting to the community so they want to keep playing it. We’re going to make balance changes even if the game is perfectly balanced already, because an unbalanced game that is interesting is infinitely better than a boring game that is balanced.

From Inception, Eames tells Arthur ALT

Because our goal is player engagement (that is, maintaining interest over time), it behooves us to make periodic large game adjustments so that players have more interesting things to research, experiment with, and discover. We combine these changes with new content (e.g. introducing a new playable character, character class, new kind of build, etc.) that will shake the existing meta up in order to excite and interest players, as well as entice lapsed players to come back and have a look at the new hotness. Whenever we put out a balance update, there’s usually a flurry of testing and theorycrafting to figure out what changed, how much has changed, what the new matchups are, what kind of new play is optimal, and so on.

A time lapse scene of clouds floating over a lake and a mountain.ALT

Player churn over time is normal — even for a perfectly balanced game. Life circumstances change, people drift away or lose interest, these are all normal and expected situations. This is also why it’s perfectly fine for some characters/classes/builds to be low tier. I’ve found that a significant percentage of players like playing with underpowered builds, often because they have something to prove, or they just like the play style even if it is underpowered.

Leslie Knope says ALT

We really only make emergency changes when the meta becomes so unbalanced that it causes the game to lose player engagement — i.e. if the unbalanced gameplay causes players to start quitting the game at a faster rate than normal. In that kind of situation, we try to remove the toxic element and return things to a more stable level of player engagement.

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Never really played Final Fantasy until recently. Ran into my first ever Tonberry. Do me a favor? Change your avatar. Please and thank you. :)

Don’t make me go over there.[Join us on Discord] and/or [Support us on Patreon]Got a burning question you want answered?Short questions: Ask a Game Dev on TwitterLong questions: Ask a Game Dev on TumblrFrequent Questions: The FAQ

On the topic of being forced to listen to people who don’t understand game development, in your experience how often does that happen? How common is it and what contexts does it pop up (for example does it happen often when talking with marketing or with a license holder when developing a licensed game)?

It generally happens mostly when we are dealing with decision-makers who aren’t part of the industry. You are correct that the most common context are the license holders.

Wayne of Wayne's World says ALT

Publishing executives are often less guilty of this than you’d think, they’re actually not so far removed that they lack ideas of what it takes to make a game. They might not know the specifics, but they usually have enough context that explaining things to them isn’t so difficult. Marketing isn’t a big deal either — they often ask for things, but they (typically) cannot force us to do things.

Ron Swanson says ALT

In my experience, the biggest crossover of “don’t understand game dev” and “decision-making powers” that game developers are most commonly exposed to are external license owners and their brand managers. These are people who are usually deep experts on the subject material, have almost no understanding of what makes a game fun, and have supreme veto ability on any decision the dev team makes. This can cause all kinds of disruption on the dev team, primarily from unfeasible requirements (e.g. this game should be open world) and overly harsh restrictions (e.g. no, you can’t use that key supporting character), but can even range to delays because of minute details (e.g. “[the main character] looks too much like an ape!” regarding our 3D scanned actor model). It’s unfortunate, because a bad or extremely picky licensor relationship is like living with a live grenade that might explode at any moment if the dev team cannot secure the license owner’s proper sign-off.

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Follow-up question to your SWtOR example: Returning companions are obviously not the same object as their class story versions. I always assumed this was because they had to make new NPC objects due to exactly the sort of structural issues you brought up the situation to illustrate; original companions weren’t designed to be multiclass, so they made dupes that had that capacity. But as with any additional complexity, the copying process introduces a lot of potential points of inconsistency and failure (several of which do in fact manifest on live, which is how one can tell that’s what’s happening). If the whole system had to be rebuilt from the ground up anyway, such that to give any companion the capacity would require giving every companion the capacity, why the extra NPCs? What quirk made that a better solution than to just keep using the newly revamped base class versions?

Bucky says ALT

The general rule when it comes to live service games is “you (almost always) have to support everything you’ve ever made forever”. You don’t necessarily have to make more of that content, but whatever already exists needs to keep working. If there’s a game mode that you added five expansions ago, it still needs to work. If there’s a feature that’s been there from launch, it still needs to work. And if some number of players paid money for it at some point, it definitely needs to work. This is why long-running MMOGs often have weird redundant gameplay systems like SWTOR’s old spaceship rail shooter with its gear and upgrade path, and its other spaceship shooter game mode (Galactic Starfighter) with its other ships, gear, and upgrade paths.

MiB's Agent J says ALT

To my understanding, the main reason the launch companions have different post-timeskip versions is because the new post-timeskip versions don’t have to support all of the old companion-specific quests and old gift/affection system baggage that were built for launch, so it was much easier to allow them as companions for more player classes.

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hi, how do you deal with people that don’t understand game development but you have to do what they tell you to?

Inigo Montoya says "Let me explain.... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."ALT

I approach those situations the same way that I approach answering questions on this blog. I try to explain the reasonings behind the decisions we make in a way that I think they will understand, and I try to establish our relationship as cooperative. The important thing is the mutual understanding that we’re all working together towards the same goal. Establishing that mutual goal sets a good baseline for communication — we can all agree that we’re operating in good faith.

Jean-Luc Picard says "I have been known to be persuasive."ALT

Once that’s done, if they continue to ask for unfeasible things, I will try to pitch them on a 90% solution — one that does the essence of what they are asking for, but is actually feasible to do. Most of the time, the goal isn’t a specific implementation but an experience or feeling we’re trying to evoke in the player. Those who don’t understand the details of game dev often lack the context and vocabulary to describe what it is they’re asking for, so it’s up to my communication skills to parse what it is they want.

Mark Cuban says ALT

If none of that works and the work environment is too frustrating, I polish my resume and start looking for a new job. I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m very good at what I do. There’s no need for me to put up with an inhospitable work environment if I don’t have to.

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