Friday, August 22, 2008

An Open Letter To Mark Jacobs

This is an open-letter to Mark Jacobs, Vice President of EA Mythic, working on the upcoming MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, who's remarks about giving developers credits for the game has sparked debate and controversy.

Dear Mr. Jacobs,

EA Mythic is certainly not the first company to have controversy concerning their credits and you won't be the last. Credits are a tough thing. Development costs and scope have skyrocketed. People go on and off of the team and perform so many roles that it can be tough to track all of it. Credits are not easy.

However, it is still the responsibility of an organization to correctly credit people who worked on the development of the game. You are quoted as saying "I’ll worry more about the people who are with me right now, then those who decided that they didn’t like the company or they wanted to take a better job somewhere else." No one is asking you not to worry about the people that are with you right now. Your allegiance absolutely should be to your current team. You can, however, have allegiance to the current team and still credit those who worked hard to get the game to where it is today.

I'm sure not everyone who has left during development has left for the same reasons. Some were probably fired, others quit in anger, others may have decided MMO games weren't the right thing for them, others may have had personal issues. No matter why they left, at the end of the day they worked on the game and helped you get to where you are now. To not give these people credit seems petty and filled with spite. It is to say "It doesn't matter what you did for us then, you're not here now, so you're dead to us".

You state "If all the game companies agree on [a standard for credits] — on that day, I’ll be thrilled." You're right, all the companies have not agreed. However, the IGDA is trying to make a standard and many companies are starting to test out their credits standard. Why not be part of the solution and try that? What harm comes to you from giving credit to people who worked on the game that are no longer there? How does that possible damage the image of EA Mythic? 20-page credits in the manual is not the issue; it's an excuse. Credits aren't even printed in manuals half the time anymore.

"No one else does it" isn't a good reason either. Just because others are in the wrong, doesn't mean you should be too. "Credits are to reflect the role served, not the condition in which the role was served." according to the IGDA.

Give credit where it is due, and I can guarantee your organization will be held in a much higher regard with developers, including ones you will try to employ some day. In the end, it's a win for you, developers, and the industry as a whole. So why not do it?

Be proactive. Be a leader in this industry. I challenge you to step up and "always do the right thing", as Da Mayor said. Give credit where it is due, now and in the future.

Manveer Heir


  1. Why should computer game designers get a credit?

    Like millions of other people I have worked in the software development industry. Creating dull, boring things like patient management systems for hospitals and accountancy software. I did not a get credit for it and nor do I expect to.

    Games are a product that are designed for a purpose, to entertain. Anything in the game that detracts from that purpose is bad design and a waste of everyones time.

    Game credits listing hundreds of people add nothing to the enjoyment of the game anyone except for, possibly, the Mothers / girlfriends of the people credited.

    There may be some justification for listing the names of voice artists because players might genuinely want to know who voiced a major character but no one wants to know the names of the 30 people who managed the company's network.

    If the company wants to list anyone and everyone involved in the game, they can place it on the web site so that anyone interested can easily find the information.

    There is no justification for making people who brought the game for entertain purposes being made to sit through a credit sequence.

  2. Games are more than just products. They are labors of love and works of art. Like in other artistic mediums, the men & women responsible for the creation of the work need to be credited for it.

    Adding to the enjoyment of others is not the point. Many movies have credits exclusively at the end, which people walk out of.

    Just because you don't care who these people are, doesn't mean other people don't. Even moreso, getting a credit is one of the only ways to get a job in this industry. People want to know, with proof, what other games you've worked on. Job requirements will often say "5 years of experience and 2 shipped credited titles"

    Being forced to sit through credits and credits are 2 different issues which you are mixing.

  3. Hear, hear, Manveer. Credit where credit is due has long been a standard in other highly collaborative creative industries, such as film and television. Authors routinely acknowledge those that were a help to them, and comics list who did what. Manveer correctly points out that a) you are rarely (if ever, these days) forced to sit through a credits sequence, and b) industry verification of work is common, though of course, it often happens through other channels as well, it being still a relatively small industry.

    I've never been on the receiving end of poor crediting standards, and I hope I never will. Knowing a company's track record on these issues is important, and I'm glad that these issues come to light. Hopefully, we can shame companies into better behavior.

  4. Hear hear... Chris is completely discussing an irrelevant point. The problem here is not the exhibition of the credits but rather the content of those credits. I.e. this is not a consumer issue we are talking about but rather developmental, career, and business issue.

    In game development, careers revolve around your past work. No duh. However, most times the only way someone will acknowledge your work on a particular project is if you are credited with that work in a public space i.e. credits.

    In the general software industry, this may not hold true but let us make this clear: we, in game development are closer to the Entertainment Media business and not general software business. When I meet even with web 2.0 people I still the the vast difference in the ways our industries work

    Chris you even make the point that "games are made to entertain". Thus you make the point for us.

    The same thing that holds for movies and TV careers: if you aren't credited then it essentially means you cannot claim that as part of your portfolio, track record...etc.

    If you did (above a certain threshold specified by the various guilds)the work in movies and TV but left the project before completion you are still credited.

    The problem is that we in the game industry are not very unionized so that we run into these issues. Movie scriptwriters, grips, cameramen do not rely on Fox or Paramount or WB to determine who recieves is the guilds from the Actor's guild to the Writer's guild who determine these issues.

    IGDA is the closest thing we in the game dev biz have to a Writer's guild or Actor's Guild and as such publishers should be following their lead on this.

    EA Mythic is essentially flaunting this to the detriment of the people who work in this industry and especially in MMO's.

    I have seen here in Korea what happens when people are not credited with work that they did simply because a company arbitrarily deems their contributions as being individually nonexistent. It doesn't just rot an industry in terms of careers, retention but also impacts on biz,creative and technical as well.

  5. There are plenty of ways to handle this situation. One is to include extensive "Additional Programming/Art/Design" headings for people who weren't on the team at ship. Another is to put the full credits in the manual and only list the core team in the in-game credits if differentiation is really that terribly important to you. "Just don't credit people for working on your game" is not a valid choice.

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