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LucasArts: inflating budgets and delays are "inexcusable"

Ross Miller

Speaking to MCV, LucasArts president Jim Ward has expressed his frustration in the ever-expanding budgets given to developers, and their willingness to let titles get delayed for indefinite amounts of time.

Ward warns that the current mentality -- that making great games takes "whatever time it takes and ... whatever money it takes" -- is bad business. "It's not okay in other entertainment businesses," he said. "In other businesses it's big trouble." Ward is calling for a major overhaul in publisher philosophy, one which LucasArts adopting, to curb development inflation.

The money issue is understandable, especially from a business perspective. Games have inflated to multimillion dollar projects, and many titles suffer from high polish but low gameplay value. Time, however, is a double-edged sword. Many games can benefit from time delays and extensions. As programming becomes more complex and nightmarish, developers sometimes need (and hopefully use) the extra time allowed to fine tune the game engines and reduce long load times and sloppy frame rates.

Then again, some of the best works of art -- be it movies, music, or literature -- have spawned from situations where budget was tight and time was short. The earliest video games shared these constraints, and many have become timeless classics, where the creativity spurs longevity. Of course, Ward's comments are pure business (remember, the company hasn't released an adventure game since 2000, opting instead to focus on guaranteed hits based on the Star Wars universe), but could these financial restraints inadvertently force developers to look past gaming fluff (extra shiny graphics, for example) and focus on simple-yet-innovative gameplay ideas?

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