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Credit Granularity (and dirty secrets)

February 1, 2009

Over the course of the last few weeks, the topic of credits has come up repeatedly. Of course, developers should receive credit for the games they create, whether that credit listing is in the manual, in the game or both. Preferably, the credits should be accessible at the beginning of the game so that one doesn’t need to play clear through it to find out who was involved.

But that’s the reasonable stuff. There are some interesting tales to be told that I’ve heard about over the years. For instance, consider these translations which also have perfectly legitimate meanings:

  • Additional Art/Design/Programming: You assisted with the project in a way that was received favorably, and left on good terms. Your contribution was significant enough to be noted, but not significant enough to warrant you a full credit. Sometimes, zealous producers who fancy themselves as designers force their names in here.
  • Thanks to: You contributed to the project, and they have to list you, but they refuse to give you what’s perceived of as an actual credit in the game. You are listed with the pizza guys and the friends and family.
  • No where to be found: I personally know of a project where an artist’s work was redone so that they could remove his credit from the game since it now included none of his work.
  • “Who the f*ck are these people?”: Upon receiving credits to put into the game from the publisher, this line is almost always heard. They are the people who have never touched so much as a single semi-colon of code, but who typically take up more room in the credits than the actual developers. “Assistant to the Assistant of Marketing for North America…”
8 Comments leave one →
  1. Martyn M permalink
    February 3, 2009 5:00 am

    I’ve worked on games where appearing as “additional design” meant that you game up with the entire concept for the game, or designed the whole game from the ground up, but either a) Left the company before the game was finished
    or b) Were a junior and therefore couldn’t possibly be credited for work you had actually done.

  2. February 3, 2009 5:25 am

    I can understand what you mean. I’m note sure if you’ve ever played “Mass Effect,” but that game had the most credits I had EVER seen in my life (for a game)… I dare say it rivaled many feature films. It should be noted that this was for the PC version, after the… EA, acquisition. BioWare has tended to have very long credits though for it’s games.

    On a side note, wouldn’t you say that video games are becoming the next step in cinematic presentation? Playing through some games (though not a lot) is almost like being in control of a quality movie.

    I agree though that the people who put the most effort in should get the biggest spotlights. Years of work is put in by many of these individuals to bring the world something special.

  3. February 3, 2009 12:53 pm

    I got a credit in Gears of War 2 for just working on the website for the game. *thumbs up*

  4. February 3, 2009 6:17 pm

    “Thanks to:” — don’t forget pets! They can be listed as contributing to the general psychological health of an over-worked developer. 🙂

  5. February 3, 2009 7:12 pm

    Yaaargh. Game crediting is such a train-wreck. I’ve gotten “game design” credits on games I didn’t even know existed because it was based on something else I’d done, and “additional programming” credits on titles where I wrote the cross-platform bridge, the virtual file system, cinematic camera, and a mountain of other code.

    Some of the problem is that the diversity of development models means that the same roles mean genuinely different things to different companies. Everyone’s working from their own frame of reference when they read credits, but your frame of reference is dependent on where you’ve worked in the past. It’s inherently flawed. Sometimes I think Valve has the right idea, don’t list roles at all.

    I saw one game that had a pretty neat answer–instead of listing named roles, everyone got to write a one sentence tagline about who they are\what they did. It was interesting because even in a few words, you got a little feel of the personality of the developer. Probably not the right answer for everybody, but interesting nonetheless.

  6. February 4, 2009 7:30 am

    I don’t know if you remember this, but in Full Throttle the developers gave credit to all their cats. I thought that was awesome.

  7. February 17, 2009 6:40 pm

    A bit of zombie posting since I’ve been busy lately….

    I wrote about this on my own blog a few years ago:

    The issue is even worse for “massively mutiplayer” online games, since they can be in development for a very long time. There have been a few high-profile instances where people who had worked on the product for many (as in 3 or more) years, but were going to be removed from the credits because they didn’t stick to the very end.

    On top of that, people outside online game development don’t really grasp how these projects are different than other games. Having “only” 1 or 2 titles to your name is actually huge, because online game projects have much longer lifespans. Someone who has worked through the development cycles of 2 online game titles has probably worked about as long as someone who has done 4-6 traditional titles.

    It would be nice to see some standardization on how credits are applied. The big problem here is that it’s easy for some cheat to claim they worked on a project “but didn’t get proper credit”. Since this is so rampant in the industry, and because companies turn over people so frequently, it can be really hard to verify such claims.

  8. February 18, 2009 12:44 am

    Insert plug for IGDA Credit Standards Committee here.

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