Kelly Zmak on the Myths of Game Development

Kelly Zmak, the Chief Operating Officer of Radical Entertainment, is always a favorite speaker at the Game Design Expo, most recently held this past weekend at the Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver. Zmak’s latest talk was on the “Myths of Development” and he covered a lot of ground to illustrate the pitfalls and possibilities inherent when building Triple A games for an expanding market.

Smak pointed to attitudes such as “Making games is fun! I don’t care if I get paid!” or “all I need is a great idea!” as misconceptions held by those looking to get into game development. But a bigger problem is when people use the same methods over and over, even after they’ve ceased to get results.

“There are those processes that work and those that don’t but all of them depnd on the people involved,” Zmak said. “I’ve never seen a game made via process, but I have seen process help people make a better game.”

One of the most important things to do while in the development process is to ask questions, something Zmak said happens all too rarely.

“Your team should be able to ask tough questions and every leader (at all levels of the studio) has the responsibility to get them an answer, although we make no promises that folks will like the answer,” he said.

Some of the current problems facing the game industry include rising costs, larger teams, ever-rising customer expectations and a multiplicity of platforms.

The current economic crisis has also affected the gaming industry, both in Vancouver and elsewhere, but Zmak said there is an upside to an otherwise miserable situation.

“Chaos brings opportunity for those in the right place at the right time,” he said. “There are a lot of good people out of work. unrelated to their talents and skills.”

He added that in Vancouver this will likely lead both to new startups and new publisher-funded studios, and that if the industry can get past this crisis, new opportunities will present themselves.

“But making games is what we do, and that doesn’t change in a crisis. We still have to make great games,” Zmak said.