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How Google’s big plan to make Stadia games fall apart



Eventually, Stadia Games and the Entertainment team got the software and people it needed to speed up the prototyping of Stadia games. The lure of a Google-sized paycheck and an exit ramp from the crunchy powered hamster wheel was enough to draw a critical mass of developers to Stadia Games and Entertainment. Artists, producers, sound experts, programmers had been carried forward with the promise of creating unique games for a revolutionary software – and many believed, without the threat of layoffs hanging like Damocles’ sword, as is often the case with traditional gaming companies. The teams investigated what Google games could look like, how to best harness the power of Google̵

7;s large data centers and showcase shooters. Then Covid-19 struck.

In April 2020 – a month after the Los Angeles studio was announced – Google implemented a hiring freeze. “Now is the time to significantly reduce the pace of hiring,” Pichai said in an internal message, “while maintaining momentum in a small number of strategic areas where users and businesses rely on Google for continuous support, and where our growth is critical. According to four sources, gaming was not one of those “strategic areas.”

“If the company was happy to put us on a hiring freeze, they were also OK with hurting our ability to build content,” says one source. “The studio was not yet fully formed and ready to produce games. It slowed down, and was a statement. We interpreted this as a lack of commitment on the part of Google to create content. ”

Google is not the first technology giant to face these difficulties. Amazon followed a similar arc. In 2020, THE CABLE explored the enormous challenges Jeff Bezos’ empire has faced in producing first-rate games in Amazon Game Studios. Like Google, Amazon hired the best of the best: trusted developers like it Far Cry 2Clint Hocking, System Support 2Ian Vogel, EverQuestJohn Smedley, and PortalKim Swift, many of whom were enthusiastic about the stability and relatively higher pay cuts associated with the technology giant. According to several sources, Amazon’s goal was to create a billion-dollar franchise that would help market the company’s cloud technology, proprietary game engine and Twitch streaming service.

The approach, sources say, was hubris. Amazon wanted to “win on games” and develop several AAA games at the same time despite its non-existent track record in the industry. Mike Frazzini, head of Amazon Game Studios, has no previous professional gaming experience. High expectations combined with Amazon peculiarities – such as an obsession with in-house software and a fixation to measure data success – have led to failure after failure. Amazon has canceled at least three of its games: Project Nova, Detach, and Meltedof which the last one was canceled only five months after its release.

AAA game development can cost between $ 100 million and $ 200 million. Successes like Blizzards Overwatch comes from the ashes of error, as the company’s scrapped massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan. Product design at large technology companies may not always be straightforward, but game design is a resource- and money-intensive maze.

“I think there is a lack of understanding of the process,” said a source working at Stadia. “It seemed like there were people at the executive level who did not fully understand how to navigate through a room that is very creative, interdisciplinary.”

Through Google’s hiring freeze, game developers felt barred from reaching their goals. Prototypes were developed without full resources; the studios did not work at full capacity. When the performance came, three sources said that Google rated game developers against references created for UX or visual designers. It’s not a number associated with “fun to play” or a process-based workflow to create creativity. Veteran game developers lobbied for the work culture as much as they could. Over time, Google seemed to soften. Developers were given the tools they needed, the relevant review processes. But not the number of employees. The frustration persisted.


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