The Bard’s Tale Developer Diary #1
Matt Findley, President of inXile entertainment outlines in developing a video game company from the ground up.
Article by (Email)
August 4th 2004, 09:05AM
Designing a Company
Whether you are a huge publisher or a very small developer, kicking off a new product is always a challenge. The decisions you make in those first few months often have a huge effect on the quality, timeliness, and profitability of any product. Commit to the wrong technology, or start building on a bad design or bad plan, and nothing is ever going to help you recover.
The same can be said about starting a new company. The decisions you make in the first few months can shape things for years to come. When we decided to start inXile entertainment we wanted to try to use all of the knowledge and experience that we had gained from all of the of projects and teams we had worked with in the past. We took several months and did nothing more than write a design document for our new company. We felt that it would have been crazy to start hiring people or designing our first game if we didn’t know everything about the company that was going to build it. There were lots of questions that needed to be answered before we started putting the team together. What was our goal? What type of people did we want to work with? What type of project did we want to make? What were our priorities, both professionally and personally? We felt it was important to have a clear vision of what our company was going to be before we would ever have a chance of figuring out what our product was going to be.
For months we designed the company - we developed a clear vision for how it would be structured, how it would be staffed and how it would feel. So with no employees, no office space, no funding, and no game design, we already had a clear picture of what inXile was going to be about.
Designing a Game Plan
Once we had a clear vision for the company it was time to focus on not only the game design, but the implementation plan. Our development philosophy was simple: pre-plan, plan some more, then keep planning as you execute the plan. By producing a well-developed design document before staffing up our team the game design was not a moving target during production. It is one of the key reasons why The Bard’s Tale is hitting all of its production milestones and will not only be on time, but will be highly polished.
One of the other cornerstones of our philosophy as it relates to the implementation plan was to be in the business of making games, not in making technology. As a company, we try to be as risk adverse as possible. By using an existing engine we were able to put all of our efforts into delivering our game experience. It is a proven strategy in PC games, and we don’t see any reason why it can’t be done on the console as well. Being efficient is very critical to us being a small team. We just can’t afford to waste effort.