The issue we face most in our archiving is the lack of information that is given to the public about what happens to their favorite series, so many stories left untold so to speak. The most we ever get are early demonstrations, as security today on what gets left behind is much stricter than that of the 80’s. We had the chance to chat with Manveer Heir from Raven Software and asked him some questions about games’ development!
[Interview by Rowedahelicon]
U64: How much of a game actually is left out? Comparing to movies where things are written into the script but are later left out due to budget? Time constraints?
Manveer Heir: It’s hard to say honestly. Every game is different and every dev comes to realization about scope and schedules at different times. Ideas, concepts, and levels are almost always cut, but that’s not necessarily bad. Often, to put them in would have hurt the overall product, since they may not be at the quality levels from before. I’ve heard of cases where you see a car chase in a cinematic, but originally you would have played that car chase. In cases like this, you aren’t missing any story, you are just losing out on some gameplay.
As devs, we try to cut smart and in ways that don’t affect the entire product. Other times, you make cuts early and save that work for later (DLC or expansion, when you know you have time to do it right). I worked on a RTS game for a short period of time where we knew we weren’t going to be able to make all the sides you can play cool and balanced and so one side was cut, to be saved for the expansion pack. In that case an entire storyline was lost, but it didn’t impact the rest of the game too greatly.
U64: In terms of what is left behind, what actually happens to things you cannot use? Resources, scripts etc, there are cases where things are left in the game files but never used but what about the majority of it? Does it get saved somewhere for reference? Deleted? So on?
Manveer Heir: Usually it’s still in existence on the company’s network drives, but it’s deleted from the main development data path, so it doesn’t cause any issues as we work on the game. Most devs backup all their data for some period of time, so all of that information is saved for some amount of time. One of the issues is, at some point a company may nuke their drives and that information could be lost forever.
U64: What do you specifically do in the industry? And how (if) did you become a developer? Have you ever worked hands on with the beta process of a game?
Manveer Heir: I’m currently the Lead Designer for Raven Software on an unannounced title. I became a developer through a massive amount of hardwork, pain, sacrifice, and most importantly passion to do the thing I love most. I knew I wanted to work in games early, so I learned how to program, then went to Virginia Tech and got a Computer Science degree and minor in Mathematics.
After graduating, I interned as a programmer briefly at Big Huge Games, and then accepted a full-time offer to be a gameplay programmer at Raven Software to work on Wolfenstein. I spent 4.5 years working on Wolfenstein, and in the middle of development I shifted my focus from being gameplay programmer to being a game designer, which is what eventually led to me being promoted to Lead Designer for this new title. I worked hands-on with Wolfenstein throughout all the phases and saw it from it’s infancy to it’s final product, making sure I helped test, balance, and tweak in the beta process.
U64: And finally, a lot of times for more major games the issue of beta testing is a tough one, as a lot of things can be broken / need work, some cases a play test is needed so your audience is aware of how certain things work and so on. Who does the testing normally? And what credentials do they go under as to not reveal missing things to people like us?
Manveer Heir: Since we are owned by Activision, we utilize Activision’s Quality Assurance (QA) department. Basically, we send them builds regularly that they play through with a mass of people, and report bugs on. Those bugs come back to us, we verify them, fix them, and send the bugs back as fixed for verification. We also utilize a few internal QA people throughout the life of the product to do similar things, but at the end of a game there is simply too much going on to rely just on the handful of internal QA testers you have. That helps fix the bugs.
Additionally, we do play tests with users. We work with a company to get local gamers and have them come in and watch them play. We take notes, video tape everything, talk to them, discuss the good and the bad, and make adjustments off of those play tests. We try to do those sorts of tests early in often. This gives us feedback early so we can make adjustments and fixes to the gameplay and level layouts. This goes on throughout the lifetime of a project, in spurts.
On behalf of Unseen 64 we all thank Manveer in taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us, we look forward to your next project!