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Communication in Obsidian

Posted by Chris Avellone , 03 March 2007 · 1160 views

My Obsidian message inbox is full, and itís hard to find the time to clear it out. Still, every once in a while, some questions slip through to my work address. Here are some for the week before I head off to GDC:

Do you ever talk with other gaming studios? Is there a networking system that connects everyone together? Do you have a rival studio or even a friendly studio?

We do talk with other gaming studios, both formally and informally, about projects, share development war stories, discuss our working relationships with past, current, and potential publishers, and a variety of other topics. Sometimes we discuss sharing technology, assets (if we work closely), or using each otherís game engines. Developers will chat over lunch, emails, and even through a few forums just for game developers Ė it's a pretty small industry, so word gets around pretty fast. We don't usually have rival studios unless they are in the same genre we are, but even then, it tends to be a friendly rivalry.

As an example, a lot of people at Obsidian used to work for Interplay, and once Interplay had its series of layoffs, suddenly everyone knew about 300+ people that were now scattered at other companies around the industry once they got new jobs. Usually, we know people at just about every studio that we can just chat with, and it doesnít always break down across department lines (programmers, artists, designers).

How does your team flush out new ideas? Meetings, independently, impromptu group study?

One person is given ownership of an idea or concept to pitch (even for developing new game proposals). They are given whatever parameters they need for the idea, then they do a first draft of the idea (either art concept, design concept, whatever), then post it or present it publicly to be reviewed by everyone else for iterations. If there are a lot of issues with the idea, a meeting is arranged, but if everyone seems good with it, then we move on to implementation and prototyping the idea (the sooner it's in the game, the better).

With new game proposals, everyone in the studio pitched in with pitches for our next series of games, and then we discussed those to see which ones would be the best direction for the company.

How is the bulk of your studio laid out? Private cubes or shared offices? Is there an advantage to the way it is? (Less distraction in a cube as opposed to more communication in a shared office.)

We typically have 2 people to an office (unless the person is a lead or producer, because those offices tend to have a lot of traffic and sometimes those folks need to have private calls or private meetings with other people), but game studios are laid out both in the office format and in cubeland format... Pandemic, for example, probably has one of the best cubeland set-ups Iíve seen in a game studio. There are advantages and disadvantages to both Ė office format allows people to concentrate easier and get more work done, while cube format allows more constant communication between team members, which can prevent wasted work.

Anyway, thatís a brief slice of what lifeís like inside Obsidian-land. This was only a few of the questions, Iíll try to post more as the weeks go on.

April 2019

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