Friday, February 24, 2006

blogs and credits

Reading Sree’s blog got me thinking about credits at about the same time that I succumbed (succame?) to the urge to begin blogging.

In my former life, I was a PC game developer... according to
Moby Games, I helped create about 19 PC games (not including CD-ROM versions of early 3.5” releases, compilations, and an Xbox port). Among the experiences associated with building these games were the activities of defining credits, and communicating with the gamer community.

Some folks at
Legend looked at credits as a necessary evil. I, for the most part, always enjoyed them as an opportunity to celebrate all the cool elements of the work we were doing, and all of the ways in which people on the team contributed.

After a working with a brilliant group of developers on an advanced research project in 1988, I decided that my career goal would be to work with a group of incredibly talented developers, who each was expert in a domain that went far beyond my own knowledge, to accomplish something beyond what any of us could accomplish alone. For me, the pinnacle of that effort was
Unreal II.

Aaron Leiby and a few cohorts went absolutely crazy with the implementation of the credits – they’re awesome, and are fun to watch just to see “what’s next.” [editors note - both interpretations apply] In terms of the content, I think it’s fair to say that the credits for Unreal II were more extensive than for any other game in Legend’s history. Extensive, in spite of the fact that were also in the most terse form in Legend’s history.

The down side of credits, a pattern that I witnessed from some of our very first games, is that giving credit to some, implicitly takes credit away form others (i.e., shared credit). In my opinion, a warped way of looking at it… but without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that that is the way that some people at some points in time have seen it.

So, I have mixed emotions about credits. I love the celebration of a job well done, and the teamwork that it took to complete a project that is both a technical and artistic masterpiece. But, I hate the infighting and negativity that is sometimes associated with the desire to hold onto credit, or withhold credit from others.

I have a similar reaction to blogs. I love the opportunity for information sharing, the arbitrary links to esoteric topics, and the insights into the author’s worldview. But, I am extremely wary of the effect the limelight has on egos.

The observation that “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” must have a counterpart for blogs; something related to the idea that “the larger the audience, the greater the self control required to keep one’s ego in check.”

I mentioned, we maintained .plan files at Legend. On more than one occasion, going public with information that should have been kept private caused major explosions, both within our own teams, and in the companies associated with Legend. I am pleased to say that through the efforts of a variety of people, the periodic explosions were ultimately sufficiently contained that our company / studio and our products survived. But the containment efforts consumed a lot of energy.

Blogs also consume time. During certain projects whose names will go unmentioned (and un-hyperlinked), I’ve been frustrated to no end by the level of effort lavished on the community, while the team was starved of similar attention. It’s a challenge to say something meaningful, and it’s an even bigger challenge to write or create something meaningful, quickly!

So, I’ll close today’s update with
a quote that I think offers food for thought for bloggers (including myself):

“It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.” – Aristotle

1 comment:

Ben said...

Hey, Zog, I actually found your blog from MobyGames! I don't know if you've ever heard of the open-source project called SCUMMVM, but its goal is be a platform-neutral system for preserving old adventure games (the user still has to provide a copy of the game files to play). It's very far along, but I've always thought that one glaring gap in its repertoire was the Legend games (personally, I'm especially thinking of Callahan and Death Gate). I was wondering if you knew of any way to obtain the source code for any of those games to make it easier to recreate the game engine. It looks to me like all those games shared just a few engines between them, so the source code from even just one could make it much easier. Just to be clear, I'm not actually associated with SCUMMVM, nor do I have enough programming skill myself to make use of the source code, but I'm positive I could get them interested if I could link them up with the source code. If you think you'd be able to help me in any way with this, please contact me at And obviously, if you're not interested in this at all, then sorry for bothering you!