Reflections on Finaling

Finaling a video game is always tough work. A lot of late hours and a lot of pressure as the deadline looms it’s ugly head. Right now I’m wrapping up Madden NFL 11, where I’m the Development Director for our features that are server dependent. For example, Online Franchise or Madden Ultimate Team from Madden NFL 10, which are game modes which are completely dependent on our game servers. If the servers are down, you don’t play those game modes. All the features that I worked on aren’t announced yet, so I can’t go into the details on what’s new for Madden NFL 11.

This is the seventh game I’ve finaled at Electronic Arts – Tiburon (if you don’t include Madden Ultimate Team) and I do have to say that this has been the smoothest one so far. Now, I have been working until 8 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. for the past four weeks, but that’s not near as bad as some projects where I’ve greeted the sunrise on many an occasion. In fact, that’s one of my metrics for how bad a finaling went: number of sunrises seen. (Worst was Madden NFL 2006 Xbox 360. It was the launch title for the 360 and I saw at least 5 – 6 sunrises).

One of the things I like about working at Tiburon is that we are always striving to improve the processes by which we make games. Sometime is doesn’t happen as fast as people would like, but I see the effort. I can say that the way we make video games now is a lot different than it was on Madden NFL 2002 PC. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to move from programmer to manager was to be part of the improvement.

Now we are seeing the rise of companies like Zynga and EA-Playfish. Who have a new casual take on gaming which is turning traditional game development on its heels. It’s similar to how we developed Madden Ultimate Team. A small team that was brought together to bring a new gaming experience to Madden. With this new take on gaming, comes smaller compact games, which are constantly being updated and not just once a year. It’s an interesting time to be in the game industry.