Game Development adopting Hollywood Culture

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Brian "Panda" Choi sublime tool
Hey ya'll,

Living in SoCal, the presence of Hollywood becomes admittedly a slow and steady reality.  Rag mag and hijinks on TMZ get pretty regular.  Celebrity sightings included.  To the point where me meeting Hideo Kojima was less fanboy and more deference to a better experienced developer.

I'm wondering if any of you older artists have seen in any way "Hollywood culture" rearing its head in game development?  Are there things you wish we did adopt, or kept far away?  I mean this both at a qualtiative culture level, and quantiative issues like "unionizing" or "child labor laws."

I know egos have always been a thing, as well as substance abuse, alcoholism, relationships being strained, and neurotic work cultures, but has there been anything particularly "This is some film industry bullcrap going on here" that you've observed/.

I'm personally anticipating more conversations soon about what fair pay will look like as we hire more A to B list celebrities for their performace captures and likenesses, as we have the likes of Norman Reedus, Mad Mikkelson, and others front and center on some upcoming titles.  What that debate will look like, I do not know.


  • TeriyakiStyle
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    TeriyakiStyle insane polycounter
    not sure I understand the topic - can "Hollywood Culture" be better defined?  Involving celebrities via scans and voice acting seems interesting and could have an effect on being involved with them - but currently not much more than a few studio visits.

    I do see more entertainment artists trying (with limited success) at being industry celebrities which can play off as kind of gross (imo) and hope the desire for being a popular personality doesn't eclipse the desire to develop as an artist.
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi sublime tool
    I am perhaps making too many assumptions with the phrase, Matt.

    I guess as examples of Hollywood Culture:

    1) Showrunners having always final say.  Like always.
    2) Actors being incredibly flaky and tempermental(not just the good ones, all of them collectively)
    3) The "do anything for fame/a chance."  Could be sexual favors, crime, etc.
    4) Further insane work hours.  (Wake up at 5 am, come back home at 2 am)
    5) A sense that everyone is really looking out for themselves.
    6) Interns are really just there to grab coffee and dry cleaning.
    7) Assistants being asked to do tasks like "take my kids to school."

    The above are just one of several threads I hear bandied about at places like Reality LA, at various non game-dev parties and bar events, from Hollywood professional friends, etc.

    Hopefully that clarifies.
  • Deathstick
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    Deathstick polycounter lvl 4
    Probably depends on what company you work at, but I personally feel like game development will always more closely resemble the software development culture (since that is what it is anyways) and not some dramatic hollywood/music industry culture. 

    There are exceptions to the rule; like Notch's ridiculous mansion and party life-style after making a fuckton of money, Phil Fish's tabloidish fuck-dah-man nature, various company drama over marketing or hiring/firing/working standards, etc. but for the most part I feel like it's a bunch of people sitting at a computer, drinking coffee, and trying to get shit done. Sure, you have the whole "gaming journalist" website stuff, but honestly what field doesn't have journalists? Pharmaceutical companies, military, construction, engineering, marketing, whatevah all have their own dedicated special magazines/reporters/followers. 

    Unless actors in hollywood attend daily scrum meetings, attend corporate powerpoint presentations while drinking coffee to prevent themselves from falling asleep, or drink beer on company bowling night wednesdays after baking lightmaps all day; in which case I guess it's more hollywood than I thought!

     As for "sexual favors," if a company employee tries to pull that shit report it right away to HR. This is 2017 for christ's sake. If nothing is done, consult a lawyer and abandon ship.

    Pretty sure interns grabbing coffee though is a generic/not-hollywood only thing. Sucks when a company has a shitty internship where all they do is have the intern fetch coffee, but that's every industry.  

    I have yet to have a girl sexually attracted to me for my polygons-alone. Though I do get excited when my g/f talks about c++!!! My god the hotness of her talking about backend-programming!
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi sublime tool
    Backend programming?

    You mean lube?

    I digress.

  • Deathstick
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    Deathstick polycounter lvl 4
    Negative, I mean database infrastructure :)
  • djwaglmuffin
    mmm; I always saw Video games and comics as a way to kick back against that Hollywood structure. There's so much more freedom in that and the internet makes that even better. IF, of course, I'm understanding what you mean.
  • thomasp
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    thomasp interpolator

    Though I do get excited when my g/f talks about c++!!! My god the hotness of her talking about backend-programming!
    sounds like dribbleware to me. at least it's not done in C sharp. B)

    i've never seen interns fetching coffee anywhere. would that be like the 'runner' position that some vfx studios (ab)use?

  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    I met Gary Coleman at E3.  He was sitting by himself on a stool looking sad.  He yelled at me when I didn't take a picture of him fast enough.  

  • jonpolygon
    Interesting thought.

    I do think there are parallels to the Hollywood Culture.

    To your points:
    1) Showrunners always have the say -  Major game publishers do have a disproportionate amount of say. This only increases with the budget, like Hollywood the costs are only getting higher putting pressure on the publishers to make a return. This pressure is pushed down the chain. This is a major issue faced in the VFX industry and is not helped when the budget for the "talent" is also disproportionate to the artists producing the work.

    2) Actors being flaky - There are superstars in the games industry, but there is significantly more talent to keep everyone honest. There are crazy few A list celebs, if they flake out chances are there is other opportunities on the table. With that said, talented artists will move studios if the opportunity is better.

    3) Do anything for fame - The games industry does bring a lot of glamour. Some of my close friends have been lured in only to find it is anything but glamours, especially with the soul crushing deadlines. I was one of those people, after graduating I really wanted to be in the games industry and would have done a lot to get my foot in the door baring sexual favors and crime, of course!

    4) Insane hours - It is well known in the games industry. Soul crushing deadlines make for insane hours, but I also wouldn't just blame the studios on this, it has become part of the industry culture to put in long hours. The age of new blood is pretty young, they don't have family commitments, are hungry and hugely competitive. A good manager and studio culture can avoid issues, but the pressure of deadlines often overrides wanting to change that. 

    5) Looking out for yourself - This happens in a lot of industries and is human nature. You've worked hard to get where you want to be and there is a lot of new talent wanting to take your place. It can keep you honest, but can lead to people being guarded and protective of their position. Like Hollywood, I guess the glamour here is driving that to some extent. However, for the most part I think the industry is much more open and sharing.

    6 and 7) Internships & Assistants - There is huge debate over this area. The games industry suffers like others with unpaid internships with the promise of being hired later. Still, there are a lot of people willing to do this for a chance to get a piece of the action.

    I would also add a few other parallels here like how games and movies are marketed, often through celebrity endorsement. 
    The growing budgets are great and it is nice to see the games industry outperforming Hollywood, but the projects have a lot in common, they are hugely complex and there is massive pressure to make the next blockbuster hit film or game to reap those rewards. A lot more is at stake than ever before.

    A major difference mentioned though is that is it far more likely in the games industry that an independent game will become a success than an independent film. I think there is just more outlets for indies to showcase their work in the games industry than in the film industry. Also, broadcasters still have quite a grip on what is shown, often stuff that has come directly out of Hollywood or established studios. Perhaps getting worse now that broadcasters are also now developing their own series / films. 

    Thankfully we don't see as much monopoly over the distribution of content and I would bet that in time Hollywood will see the same thing happen to films. 

    Lots of similarities and also overlapping more over time in my opinion. This could pull Hollywood more towards decentralization or the games industry more towards the Hollywood blockbuster culture. 
  • Felixenfeu
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    Felixenfeu polycounter lvl 6
    ah - well thankfully the games industry is decentralized from the studio system that Hollywood was built on.

    with Amazon and Netflix and others making their own content even that old model is undergoing significant decentralization.  And it's producing some of the best entertainment ever.

    Hollywood = Old studio system controlling distribution - reigning over the plebs - people flocking to the kingdom to try and get a piece.  Things like "you'll never work in this town again!" actually mattered.
    Ok, I'll skip the celebrity stuff and go straight to difference in production. Imma talk about games vs working in VFX shop for hollywood.

    The biggest difference between game and film (hollywood) is bidding. Even with new players this shit never went away.

    Basically in games, big (and small) publisher own their IP and just develop it however they want. You can do your concept, you model, your whole thing in-house if you want. Even when they split it between multiple studios it's still (usually) studios they own with a few freelancers. There is no bidding war. No one really fighting to win a project.

    So you won't see Ubisoft working on a game for Activision, for exemple.

    In films, it's the freaking far west. You have a small number of big film companies (Warner, fox, netflix, disney, etc.). They own the film rights. But they don't create stuff in house. 

    No what they do, you see, is split all the work and then all the studios worldwide have to fight over bidding war to see who will "win" part X of project Y. It's a very weird, complex and fucked up way of working.

    So one or two studios will do concept, then another studio will work on most of the shots (Let's say 500). They are the "Main vendor". Which mean they do the biggest bulk of work. BUT! Another studio might have bid on one character and 30 shots, and sometime one studio will do the characters then another the VFX on top of said characters, then the comp of some shots will be done in another studio and the whole thing  is a big mess IT'S A VERY USELESSLY COMPLICATED AND CONFUSING PROCESS.

    And like ILM could make a movie for Warner, at the same time as one for FOX and one for Disney.

    It's still a very rewarding field though if you can choose where you work wisely. But I hope very much that games never reach anything close to this. The way game is working right now, especially with the rise of indie, I doubt very much that it ever will. And even with people complaining it's never as bad as hollywood that's for sure.

    4) Further insane work hours.  (Wake up at 5 am, come back home at 2 am)
    It's pretty much the same TBH. There is crunch like games in the final hours of projects. It's not better neither is it worst.

    hollywood itself (Like all the actors/director stuff) outside of VFX shops, is on another planet completely and I don't think you can compare both.
  • TeriyakiStyle
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    TeriyakiStyle insane polycounter
    @Felixenfeu - Very interesting I hadn't considered the impact of the bidding battles.  It makes me worry now that I see a ton more Web based freelancing groups forming.  I wonder if they will solidify into a something that parallels for-hire fx houses and then bidding on X amount of characters or environments for a AAA title will happen - or already is?  

    The difference might be that pre-production for a film can be approached more linearly and quantified/broken up into pieces easier than a game.  Deliverables are usually just the composed shots if I'm not mistaken.

    Whereas games are more a whole product where code and assets need to be controlled in house.  And maybe they'll have to stay that way.

  • Felixenfeu
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    Felixenfeu polycounter lvl 6
     Deliverables are usually just the composed shots if I'm not mistaken.

    Whereas games are more a whole product where code and assets need to be controlled in house. 
    Not necessarly just the comped shot.  But definitely it can be delivered in bits and pieces. Some client will ask for turntables, previz, you have Temps (sometime multiple temps) where you will show your current progress, sometime you deliver shots with passes for other shops, you can even deliver asset that another shop will have to rig again and they'll need everything you can give them and sometime you just deliver the final shot that'll get edited.

    But yeah you won't deliver the movie as a whole, even if you are main vendor and do the whole thing, compared to games. You will deliver shots by shots.
    The difference might be that pre-production for a film can be approached more linearly and quantified/broken up into pieces easier than a game.

    Definitely more linear. Even if edits can change a lot and you will have sequences removed and added completely or reshoot, it's still easier to split things up.

    I's nothing like games where you have to deal with the whole thing and everything you do can have an impact on the gameplay. It clearly allows for quicker iterations to do everything in house. Unless the whole game industry somehow change overnight I think it's fair to say that even with outsourcing companies game development is far from the vfx industry.

  • jonpolygon
    But yeah you won't deliver the movie as a whole, even if you are main vendor and do the whole thing, compared to games. You will deliver shots by shots.
    The number of studios delivering for a Hollywood blockbuster is pretty astonishing.
    This is actually happening more in the games industry on AAA tiles as well, but I think that the difference is that it is not as publicized.

    I attended the talk by Maarten Van Der Gaag from Guerrilla Games discussing how they employ 7 outsource studios to produce the assets. Relative to what they outsource, very little art is produced in-house. They have a small team that focuses on the hero assets. The talk is available online in the vault:

    There are some massive overlaps as well with IP ownership as well. TT Games is a great example who license movie rights from publishers like Warner Bros and combine this with the Lego franchise to produce titles. They don't own the IP, but they do profit from it.

    Speaking of Warner Bros, what about when Hollywood film companies branch out into games? 
    Those two works are colliding more and they bring with it working culture, but it is far from the issues the VFX industry is facing. 

    Worth also watching Chris Taylor's chat with Matt Barton about the demise of Gas Powered Games. He talks a lot about some of how the publishers often decide the fate of games companies:

    The worrying thing is that games companies or VFX companies are not too big to fail like other industries. Seeing Rhythm & Hues go bankrupt after 25 years of being in business is insane or Crytek shutting down 5 game studios it seems both have suffered some fate.

    For me the main commonality between them is the instance on working people to death. Quality and quantity are usually at odds but people demand and expect both if they are playing a game or watching a film.  The difference I see is that games have innovated ways to get around this, like adapting the art style of the game to be more forgiving (World of Warcraft Stylized or current styles of VR games) where as in VFX everything is still trending towards being photorealistic and is completely unforgiving to mistakes and is ridiculed in reviews if the VFX are out of place. 
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