Developing Entertainment Content on Time?

After hearing Jordan Mechner discuss his experiences with creating the “Prince of Persia” franchise, I have thought how common some of the obstacles he faced are – one in particular has surfaced a few times recently with clients and other industry developers – How tough is it to create something novel for an existing technology in this day and age when technology changes soooooo fas#$% %@#%^ ^$$#… sorry I just had to update my iPhone OS because the WordPress App stopped working (just kidding), but this demonstrates the point well.  Not that this blog is particularly novel, but things like the SMOOTH movement from the original Prince of Persia game certainly was smooth (and remains so to this day on the wicked iPhone Prince of Persia Retro App).  Well, Jordan explained that he filmed his younger brother running, jumping, climbing, and crouching in order to get the right movement for the first game.  Jordan then arduously digitized the movements in creating the now epic game.  Unfortunately, it took him roughly 4 years to finally program the game, at which time it was almost time for the Apple II to be retired and replaced with the Amiga.  Well lucky for us, it made the release in 1989, and despite limited success on its initial platform, it did (in large part thanks to Ubisoft) find a popular audience and has since become one of the most successful transplatform entertainment franchises to date!  Way to go Jordan, and thank you!

So this brings me to my point: With development timelines often spanning years for new technologies, it is not uncommon for a developer to struggle with getting their product out the door in time to be played/operated on the platform they initially develop it for.  It seems to be the case that many such technologies either have to be reworked in order to accommodate a new operating system or platform, or simply just do not get released.  Mobile phones are a prime example – with handsets constantly changing how is a developer expected to get a property made before a new handset comes out?  It is true that increasingly, new generations of the same handset are using the same or similar operating systems , challenges still exist to create for the different manufacturers (wouldn’t it be nice if flash worked across the board…. Ahem, Steve….)

To further complicate matters, it takes money to produce properties for any screen, big, small, fixed, or mobile, and when you add in the challenge of finding financing the task of producing screen based content becomes all the more daunting.  In Canada, financing often takes the form of not only trying to successfully pitch the concept to a VC, publisher, broadcaster or screen content producer, but also requires completing lengthy applications necessary to get additional financing from the government or other funds.  I have to divert for a second to say how lucky we are to have supportive government funds (OMDC, CMF), and the support of such initiatives like Bell Fund.  All this adds to the time it takes for a developer to provide the public with the chance to enjoy new and cutting edge properties.

So I say, “Hats off to developers” for conceiving of great ideas! “Hats off” for all the leg work involved with getting the idea out there and finding the means to get the production underway!  And, “Hats off” for going through all the technical steps of programming, animating, etc… necessary for bringing the idea to life!  All of this in time for the consumer to enjoy it on their current platform!

I think that the unusually lengthy life of the most recent generation of consoles has somewhat helped developers create for these platforms, but this does not take away from my gratitude to them for bringing us the likes of COD Modern Warfare 2 and Wii bowling.

THANK YOU!!!  All developers for your persistence.

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