Jack Emmert, lead developer on Champions Online, has penned a new journal article about some recent changes in the development cycle at Cryptic Studios. Check out some of what he has to say:
Something's Different at Cryptic
Cryptic was founded way back in July 2000 and has developed and released two MMORPG products and we are currently working on three projects right now. Champions Online is the closest to release and has the largest team by far. But what's changed over the years? What have we learned from developing and maintaining City of Heroes?
I was inspired to write this short entry because we just got done with something internally that we'd never, never done before. We finished a zone and were just about to head into working on something new. But we felt that the zone needed some attention. Sure, QA had identified some bugs in it, but the zone did "work." But the one thing we weren't entirely sure about was whether the zone was fun.
So we shut down the Champions team for two weeks. And everyone played the game. Each person was required to play for at least an hour each day, and a goal for the whole team was set for at-home play hours. As a reward, if the team played for 600 total hours for the month of June, the company directors would hold a BBQ for them. As people played, we expected them to use an in-game tool to log bugs, comments, suggestions and criticisms.
We generated several thousand entries. Our lead designer, Randy Mosiondz, and producer, Chris Lena, triaged these bugs every day and assigned them out to individuals on the team. If someone didn't have anything to fix, he or she would then try to tackle someone else's bugs. We wanted the whole team focused on just one thing: making this zone great.
One of the reasons for doing this was that earlier I had a meeting with my designers. We wrote up on a white board all the qualities that the designers believed they should be evaluated against. Innovative. Creative. Thoughtful. One of these characteristics stood out: Polished. We, as a Design team, wanted to be known for polished content. Using that as inspiration, I really wanted to this zone to reach a new quality level.
It's not that we hadn't playtested our previous games. Not at all. But I think we were more focused on getting it done. Remember, just the act of making Cryptic's first MMO was incredibly challenging. We certainly stayed late at night and played together. But we never stopped development for two weeks and said - "stop making new things and just make what we've got GREAT."
So that's just one change that's happened here at Cryptic. And since we just went through this, I thought I'd share it.
The shutdown of development allowing team members to -play- the game is unique and different. It will be fascinating to watch what comes out of this 2 week long brainstorming session!