View Full Version : Long development time... does it pay off?

08-04-09, 07:58 PM
I just wrote a post about Doom 3 that made me realize it has been 5 years since iD has released a real game of their own, and Rage is still not coming for a while yet.

Remedy has taken like 6 years on Alan Wake so far.

We all know the other stories of long development, from Half-Life 2 to Starcraft 2 and everything in between.

My question is: in your opinion, does a long development time automatically mean a better game?

Some of my favorite games of all time were made in a much shorter timespan, like Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, made in two years and change. Fallout 3 was released less than three years after Oblivion... hell Fallout 2 was released a year after the first.

Do you notice a statistical relationship between long development and better quality?

08-04-09, 08:04 PM
Fallout 3 uses the same (or a very similar) engine to Oblivion, and you can't go by time between releases, since a company can potentially be working on many different projects at once. Generally speaking, a longer development time leads to better results in my experience. But sure, there are exceptions of course.

08-04-09, 08:12 PM
I don't think its GOOD to have a long development cycle, but I don't think it means the game will be worse.

IMO, its hard to compare games based on how long they took to develop. For example, Fallout 3 may have taken only 2 1/2 years and has a fairly large game world, but I'm willing to bet that it contains less unique (ie, not reused) art assets and less "hand crafted" content than something like Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

The same with Fallout 2. It basically reused all of the assets from the first game, so they didn't have to spend all that time making new graphics and sounds.

I don't think long development time can always be justified but I think its rather difficult to say whether it effects how "good" a game will turn out to be. You can bet that a game with a long development time would not have been anywhere near as good if it had been pushed out two years early.

So I guess what I'm saying is, some games benefit from long development times, others don't. It depends on the game and the team behind it.

08-04-09, 09:06 PM
id is a lazy boy!

08-04-09, 09:58 PM
It's hard to tell. Yes, a lot of games with long development periods tend to turn up better, because it means way more playtesting and polish, but that's only because most studios that can actually afford to take that long usually already had a massive hit or so that gives them that benefit. (Valve, Blizzard, etc.). Of course it's no guarantee. Valve and Blizzard for instance also have good business sense. One need only look at games like Vanguard or Duke Nukem Forever to see that just working on a game for a long time with a perfectionist attitude alone doesn't guarantee greatness.

You also need to take into account how people have a biased perception. People remember the games that could have used more development time, or the games that become massive critical and sales successes because they chose to wait. But the games that take a long time to make and end up being duds are quickly forgotten from most gamer's mind. For example, Mercenaries 2 was released and most people dismissed it as a potentially fun but buggy, unfinished game, something EA has released in the past. People forget that EA already gave Pandemic an entire 2 extra years of development and they still didn't manage to correct all the bugs. It's doubtful that more time would have solved that problem, or if it did, that it would sell enough to justify that amount of extra time, especially with how dated both the graphics and mechanics would have become.

08-04-09, 10:11 PM
I'm sure there is some correlation between the rush = crap, take time = quality, however I believe it really boils down to the skill, discipline and unity of the development team.

Good development practices ensure the best quality possible is ready at almost any time. Teams with a shared vision and complimentary skills will be highly productive. A short development period with realistic goals and risk management can produce reasonable software.

Schedules can also depend on how much technology is ready and known from previous successful projects, and how long the team has worked together. Finally, management has to allow a development team to succeed rather than obstruct it. This is really a massive subject to discuss, so I'll just leave you with those thoughts to prevent a long winded rant.

08-05-09, 01:06 AM
Duke is the ultimate example of this, but not the only one, Vanguard had potential which would have been better if it got more funding and wasnt forced to release, but honestly, would things have changed if they had of gotten the funding? probably not, shorter development cycles can be limiting but it can also keep developers focused, though sometimes longer development times can only be for the better, it really depends on the dev team and the manager.
I mean look at Blizzard and Valve, long development times, but I cant say a single game they have done is bad, I have loved them all.

08-05-09, 01:26 AM
I wouldn't say longer would always imply better. SC1, HL1 only took about 2 years to make whereas their respective sequels took and will likely to take 6 years or more. The general trend in the industry seems that an anticipated sequel must be as good as or better than the predecessor, hence it takes longer to make as a result of players' as well as developers' expectations. But there're some outstanding games that were made in 4 years or less like GW, Crysis, not to mention MW1, which was only 2 years in the making. Games like Q3A, Doom 3, Mass Effect, Diablo 2, Fallout 3, SF4, GTA4 are excellent excellent games which I don't know of their development cycles.

08-05-09, 02:01 AM
For small teams it may be the only choice like in case of Remedy and Alan Wake.

08-05-09, 03:15 AM
shorter development cycles can be limiting but it can also keep developers focused

I think keeping developers focused is a great point... if you feel like you have all the time in the world, you might shoot for the stars and try to create something too grand... then a few years later you realize it is unmanageable and you spend another couple years cutting things down and refocusing.

Knowing you have 2 years to make a great game might keep you focused on a single unique idea, or on polishing an old one. Look at Modern Warfare... the focus was basically "take Call of Duty and make it modern"... simple and clear focus, 2 years, great results.