Thinking Ahead

By: Trevor Shanahan

 

Do you plan ahead? If so, how far?  Do you ever have to change your plans once they are made or augment them?  Have you ever been in a position that you wish you had planned for?  These are all questions video game developers and publishers face.  These questions guide (in some part) the development process, and (in many current cases) post-launch support via DLC, patching, and expansions.  There are two great examples of “thinking ahead” in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm and Nintendo’s Smash Bros.

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Top: The Butcher, the first new character released in the Eternal Conflict event update.  Bottom: Screenshot of the new map.

 

Heroes of the Storm, which officially launched in early June of this year, has just released the first content for its Eternal Conflict event.  This event sees the release of three new characters for the game plus a new map – and all for free.  The map and The Butcher (an assasing-type) are out now.  With this event, which doubles as a game update, Blizzard has altered several characters and their abilities.  This is a perfect example of long-term post-launch planning in the Eternal Conflict event AND reactionary updates to characters via community feedback.  The former was almost assuredly planned in advance given the immensity of the content.  The latter, taking the form of character updates, may have been something that was planned for but the specifics of the changes and characters to be changed may have been unknown.  Regardless, both showcase developmental obstacles and opportunities in modern game launches.

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Smash Bros. is another great example of developmentally “thinking ahead”.  Like Heroes of the Storm, Smash Bros. is a cornerstone of casual and competitive eSport play.  As such, game balance in the form of level environments and character abilities must be constantly monitored and maintained to keep the title in its enviable position.  Since launch however, the game has seen additional fighters released; adding new variables in the existing world and potentially upsetting homeostasis.  Nintendo thought ahead.  Representatives at Nintendo have stated that these fighters, despite being part of fan surveys, have been planned parts of development for some time.  This has permitted Nintendo to plan for their eventual release without destroying the game’s balance in fighter capabilities.

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Ryu, and Roy; two of the new fighters available for optional download in Smash Bros.

Game development is about planning.  Whether that means long-term strategies and tactics for the pre through post launch periods of a title or simply being prepared to allot resources to patching to catch imbalances.  Take the time to see the brilliance in games and the time, energy, and resources used to maintain them – you’ll appreciate them a little bit more.

About the blogger

ccccccMy name is Trevor Shanahan and I am finishing my undergraduate degree in Marketing with a minor in Media Studies.  I am interested in video games and everything they touch (their industry, development, games as art, psychology of games – like gamification, industry issues, cutlure, etc.).  I have come to realize that the more I learn ( and learning is so important) the more I do not know.  Learn as much as you can about what you love and   try to give back to it.