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sadkkf
09-06-2009, 09:35 AM
Hey!

I've got a nightmare client who's trying to make a game and has been trying for a couple of years (though I only stepped in at the beginning of the summer).

She's been consulting with full-time game companies who tell her to build a little bit of it, test it, change it based on feedback and so on until each piece tests perfectly.

Trouble is, I was given 3 months to deliver the final working game and she won't pay additionally for changes.

When this became clear that she wanted to make unlimited changes with a fixed budget and deadline, I had to stifle a laugh, but now she's all horked off that her deadline isn't being met (because she didn't give me the interface until 1 week AFTER I told her I needed it).

My question, finally, is how does this really work? I told her I'd love to follow her plan, but months wasn't even close to enough time, but she didn't believe me until I asked how long her contacts at the game company take. Not surprisingly, she told me 1-2 years.

Is this common to build and test small pieces? If it is, how long should we do this before actually moving forward?

Thanks tons for the input!

-kevin

Dodgy
09-06-2009, 10:30 AM
I worked for a game company for 10 years. What usually happens is the programmers start on the engine, whilst the artists concept the art. You kind of need to know rough limits for how many polys you can throw around, which means testing the base engine, which means you need the engine built, but because of time constraints that doesn't usually happen, you just get conservative estimates, which the game designers/artists inevitably go over :) The programmers usually test as much as they can as they build it. This means assets are having to be revised to lessen or increase poly counts, though it's not too bad if they are lower but still look reasonable.

This all means an A grade title can take upwards of 1.5 years, with budgets of millions :) A two man dev team should be able to throw out something relatively simple in 3 months, but it is going to be simple, even with a prebuilt engine, as long as the limits are strictly defined, ie all the assets needed are known, which means the game has been fully designed. What kind of a game does she want to make?

shrox
09-06-2009, 01:02 PM
I worked for a game company for 10 years. What usually happens is the programmers start on the engine, whilst the artists concept the art. You kind of need to know rough limits for how many polys you can throw around, which means testing the base engine, which means you need the engine built, but because of time constraints that doesn't usually happen, you just get conservative estimates, which the game designers/artists inevitably go over :) The programmers usually test as much as they can as they build it. This means assets are having to be revised to lessen or increase poly counts, though it's not too bad if they are lower but still look reasonable.

This all means an A grade title can take upwards of 1.5 years, with budgets of millions :) A two man dev team should be able to throw out something relatively simple in 3 months, but it is going to be simple, even with a prebuilt engine, as long as the limits are strictly defined, ie all the assets needed are known, which means the game has been fully designed. What kind of a game does she want to make?

Everything he said, then there is crunch mode when just three weeks before deadline, suddenly a bunch of changes and fixes you didn't know about appear. I've been art director at Sega, EA, Maxis for 12 years, and it happened every time. Usually because someone didn't think it would be that big a deal to make them, and thought they could just wait until the end...because they didn't want to "disturb" us.

Oh, we got disturbed.

Nicolas Jordan
09-06-2009, 02:04 PM
Sounds like your client has never been involved with making a game before and is ignorant of the game development process. I did some game development years ago at school and that little bit of experience gave me a better understanding of the process game developers go through.

probiner
09-06-2009, 02:08 PM
because they didn't want to "disturb" us.


I imagine the photos in your dart target at home =)

shrox
09-06-2009, 02:18 PM
I imagine the photos in your dart target at home =)

After we got disturbed we went and got drunk.

sadkkf
09-06-2009, 02:50 PM
Sounds like your client has never been involved with making a game before and is ignorant of the game development process.

EXACTLY!

First, this game isn't Uncharted or Resistance or anything...it's basically Zork with an animated interface. Nothing at all difficult to code. I can do it in three weeks and quoted that.

Trouble is, I'm being blamed for missing deadlines, charging too much for changes and all kinds of nonsense. All of my responses are ignored even when I explain they're trying to pack unlimited changes into a project with a fixed budget and near-impossible deadline and that no one would ever agree to that.

All I can say is document everything. Hold hands all through the process and never hand over anything until you're paid.

jameswillmott
09-06-2009, 03:00 PM
Sounds like a 'poisonous' client, not someone you want to continue doing business with as they suck time and energy away from jobs you'll get paid a reasonable amount for with less hassle. Bad clients always blame you for missed deadlines, complain about paying for changes they request etc.

Ask yourself, is it worth continuing with?

I agree with your comment about documenting everything, it's vital in case a job goes bad and you need to justify yourself.

Good luck with it.

sadkkf
09-06-2009, 03:12 PM
Poison is right. We've sort of reached a mutual understanding where I meet their deadline with the current specs and I walk away.

I bite my tongue, maintain my professionalism and protect my reputation.

cc3d
09-06-2009, 04:26 PM
I know this doesn't help now, but it sounds like there was no contract agreement beforehand. It's easy to get into projects this way, but it always complicates things when schedules get tight. I am a crazed beast about locking down a contract before I start work because it's easier to do when everybody is not under a lot of pressure. It certainly sets up a road-map for when this situation arrises. Bidness is bidness! Good luck.

sadkkf
09-06-2009, 05:58 PM
My first iteration through didn't have a contract; it seemed at first they knew what they wanted and we went for it.

Second time through, I wanted to take charge and "contract" was the first word out of my mouth. They refused and just wanted a simple document instead. I said fine, but included language from my contract anyway and provided blanks for signatures.

After I don't know how many changes, they told me they didn't want to sign any more documents (even though only 1 person signed only 1 document).

All I feel bad about with this project is I never got to do my best work. I have no regrets about how I handled it (though I did learn documentation can never be detailed enough) and never will accept responsibility for missing their deadlines.

shrox
09-06-2009, 06:33 PM
My first iteration through didn't have a contract; it seemed at first they knew what they wanted and we went for it.

Second time through, I wanted to take charge and "contract" was the first word out of my mouth. They refused and just wanted a simple document instead. I said fine, but included language from my contract anyway and provided blanks for signatures.

After I don't know how many changes, they told me they didn't want to sign any more documents (even though only 1 person signed only 1 document).

All I feel bad about with this project is I never got to do my best work. I have no regrets about how I handled it (though I did learn documentation can never be detailed enough) and never will accept responsibility for missing their deadlines.

Their lack of planning is not your emergency.

oobievision
09-07-2009, 06:46 AM
always have a right to terminate clause in the contract or document if your being pressured for changes and you know you arent getting more money and the customer is becoming belligerent then its time to bite the bullet keep the initial down payment and part ways.

sadkkf
09-07-2009, 08:21 AM
There are two problems with this project:

1) the client has been told by another game dev company to build and test, build and test

2) the client doesn't listen to me

The first thing, yes, of course I'd love to build and test, but 3-4 months is not even close to enough time for this project.

The second thing, they don't listen to my advice or say "we never talked about that" or never read the documents I've written.

I'm going to finish the game as our last doc describes it and put it online for them to test. I will also not move it from my server and I will pull it offline if I'm not paid in full.


Their lack of planning is not your emergency.

You got it.