Another step in my career, and this time in a direction that I had been hoping to experience – AAA game development. I’ve started a position as an Associate Producer at Treyarch.
As to what I am working on, there’s no news just yet, but hopefully when I can discuss it, I will. Historically, Treyarch has been working on the Call of Duty franchise with Activision, and they have become Very Good at making first-person shooters.
It’s curious, whenever I am asked what makes a AAA game or a AAA studio, I don’t fully have an answer, and it seems those that I have asked don’t fully share the same answers either. Perhaps I will be corrected, but I believe AAA stems from the size of the studio (in the hundreds of developers), and the amount of money the game is trying to shoot for (as in, the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars). The latter could also be related to the desire for the publisher or even the development studio to build a brand around the IP of the game, new or otherwise, which then feeds into marketing costs, targets for units to be sold, etc. etc.
The reason why I am eager to get experience here is because with the expectations of what a AAA is as I very loosely defined above, with it comes a totally different set of expectations on production. Things like the quality of the game, especially one that has reputation before it like Call of Duty – there is a specific image that comes to mind when people think of that brand, and the development studio must meet that level of quality and expectation from the players with every game. Another is deadlines. You see games like Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, and Battlefield always come out around Thanksgiving. The reasons why merit a whole separate blog post, or I’m sure there is already an article written somewhere, but the point at least for production is that for these grandiose games, that release date will never change. As a result, producers have to look at the other two points on the production triangle, quality and money, in order to decide how to map out the development timeline, and what the team can achieve and what it will need to cut. To go back to the quality aspect, there is already a brand image connected to a franchise like Call of Duty, so one may argue even that point can’t be negotiated, and all that is left is money (or resources, if you take the perspective of an Associate Producer). And here we are. It’s no cakewalk, and certainly presents a mountain of challenges that I did not get to experience at Loot Crate. Loot Crate was much more of an ‘indie’ structure (again, what exactly the definition of that is may very person to person), which meant the millions of dollars in costs (resources) and profit was not there, but the ability to be flexible on WHAT you were creating and WHEN you were delivering it was certainly negotiable.
I look forward to seeing the other side of game development and making up my own mind about which kind of studio I prefer.