Talking Insomniac and this months capstone update
Happy Halloween to everyone. I hope it treated you well and you ate candy or watched a scary movie, made a jack-o-lantern, etc. However you spent it, I hope it was well.
This month we are talking about Spider-Man 2 and Insomniac Games. How are they able to consistently put out critically acclaimed games? More specifically, how do they consistently put out high-quality games and support a healthy work environment while doing so? This post is also partially inspired by some articles that came out a few years ago such as this one from Peter Glagowski https://www.thegamer.com/ratchet-clank-rift-apart-no-crunch/
I believe it starts with Insomniac’s production team. They plan realistic expectations and set up deliverables, based on the information they are provided by the head creative teams. They’re able to guide the team if any ideas arrive that are extremely out of scope. I believe Insomniac's production team is one of the reasons they’re able to achieve successful high-quality games. But a production team is only as good as the people they support.
The developers, whether that’s designers, artists, programmers, QA, sound designers. They all buy into what they’re making and have a shared aligned vision of the end product. This means they’re able to stick to the schedule that’s laid out in front of them and use the planned iteration time without having to push anything back.
It’s easy to say these things and when I do I'm looking at their track record. I’ll start with the 2018 Spider-Man. They knew exactly what story they were going to tell, and the product to make. Then they put out The City that Never Sleeps DLC about a month and a half later. Insomniac then put out Spider-Man’s Miles Morales in 2020, Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart in 2021, and now Spider-Man 2 in 2023. I'm about 5 hours in very early, no spoilers, please. Also, it's awesome. Improvements from the first game, still teaching and able to catch up new players on the mechanics. I look forward to seeing what else is in store.
Multiple different creative teams all delivered their games because of the production pipeline they have and the amazingly talented designers, artists, programmers, etc. Making large-budget games with minimal to no crunch and supporting the teams that make the games is possible. Doing so and achieving an extreme-quality end product is also in the realm of possibility. Spider-Man 2 inspired me for this month's blog. I hope talking about it and Insomniac's pipeline will raise a conversation about how we as producers and project managers can help to create games, or complete any project, and support the teams that do so in the best way possible.
Time for a little update on how producing one of my university's capstone projects is going. This month we had our milestone 2 build deadline, I wish I could say it went smoothly. However, as a producer and as a person I believe in transparency, so if I’m going to talk about the good, as in the previous months, I also have to talk about the bad. Some assets came in later than expected for this milestone. As such we were unable to have ample testing time for those assets. Specifically, our shader tanked the game. Meaning with the shader turned off the game ran at 140+ fps. When the shader was on the game ran at about 5-40 fps.
The decision had to be made to leave the shader out, to ensure we could still be graded on other aspects of gameplay, audio, interactivity, etc. While the visuals of the game may not have achieved what we hoped for this milestone, the other aspects of the game exceeded it and allowed us to make up those lost points.
I hope to learn from this experience and develop solutions such as certain implementation procedures to help prevent this issue from arising again. I’m learning a lot on this journey and one thing is for certain. I get to work with a great team of individuals, and I look forward to presenting our vertical slice build at the end of November.