Game Studio Takeover Nightmare Impossible
There’s a sub-genre of reality television that contains shows where experts come into a failing business and implement changes to fix things. Three of the most well known are Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible, and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover (totally awesome show, btw). I’ve wondered what it’d be like to get a games industry version of one of these experts into a studio to see what she could do. Fortunately, the programs all follow a very obvious (and repetitive) pattern to find and fix the problems- so you can really just do it yourself (most problems the experts find are obvious anyway- the people in charge are just ignorant or in denial).
Follow these steps at your studio and imagine how things would go down.
Part 1: The initial personnel observation
The experts observe how things run without interferring. They sit down to eat, watch hidden cameras, whatever.
- How do the employees get along? Are they friendly to each other, do they enjoy work, do they hang out, do they do work?
- How does management interact with the employees?
- How many employees and managers are there, and what’s the ratio?
- Is there anything else fishy (nepotism, unqualified people, etc.)?
Part 2: The facilities inspection
The experts tour the facilities and inspect how things look, especially cleanliness.
- Do people have the right computer equipment and licenses?
- Are the bathrooms and structure in good shape? AC working well?
- Are the employees treated well physically? Are there drinks and food available?
- Where’s the studio located and where would people rather have it?
Part 3: The tragedy and shutdown
The expert does some minor changes and does a more formal observation, providing minor interventions. Involves some sort of disaster. Place eventually closes up and the expert begins to work his or her magic.
- What tools and processes go right? What are the worst? How far to which side is every tool and process in the middle?
- Do you have managers who crack under pressure, or do really obviously wrong things?
- Are there people seriously misbehaving? Are there people seriously crunching?
- And the biggest question is: does the studio’s project suck, and what are the major problems with the game (is it not fun, has it taken way too long)?
Part 4: The personnel rebuilding
Relationships are worked on, especially between employees and management. Lots of training is provided.
- What training opportunities exist at your studio? Are people encouraged to look outside for education? Is ample opportunity provided internally?
- What are your employees biggest grievances? What has changed the most in the past few years and how do your veterans feel about it?
- How are you dealing with your poor performers and rewarding your best?
- Figure out why the project/game is in the state it’s in, and put a plan in action to fix it and make sure it doesn’t keep happening.
Part 5: The facilities rebuild unveil
New and improved facilities are unveiled to the team.
- Your studio should be feeding you. There’s no reason, financial or otherwise, not to provide developers with at least lunch every day.
- You should have enough bathrooms and they should be clean.
Part 6: First day reopening
The business runs for a day, usually with much better results (and generally a couple hiccups).
With the grievances solved, or at least in the open and being worked on, studio culture should be improved and you can concentrate on building a great product.
Part 7: Checkin later
Expert comes back to check up on how things have come along.
Inevitably, some managers will devolve back into madness; or perhaps things were too far along to stop the studio’s shutdown or crappy project. If you see this happening, you should leave.
I wonder how something like this would fare in the games industry, and who the hell we could find to do it.