EA CEO explains 'fundamental' changes to dev process

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson explains how the company has made some big changes to its development structure to avoid the situations that have led to complaints recently.

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Electronic Arts has gotten a black eye or two recently. Fortunately CEO Andrew Wilson seems to recognize the problem, and has started making a point of talking about the company's plans to fix the complaints.

"We have... really gone in and fundamentally changed the development process," Wilson told Kotaku. "So the time from alpha to final is now significantly longer. So we're asking teams to be finished earlier. We're also looking at teams and saying, 'You have to maintain a playable build from the very first conceptual phase, so we can be testing stability [and] scalability all the way through the development process."

He also said that the QA testing has been shifted, with a longer phase to get games into testing significantly earlier. And to get feedback, he says he wants to show games earlier so that players can respond while the game is still in the development stages. That means reveals like Battlefield Hardline, which was shown only months before its planned October release, will be less common. Finally, if a game doesn't work as it should, Wilson said the company needs to be more open to delays.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 19, 2014 8:39 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, EA CEO explains 'fundamental' changes to dev process.

    Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson explains how the company has made some big changes to its development structure to avoid the situations that have led to complaints recently.

    • reply
      June 19, 2014 8:54 AM

      This means that EA will release more games that take fewer risks so that they are stabler. Lame.

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        June 19, 2014 8:57 AM

        What risks are they taking now?

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        June 19, 2014 9:21 AM

        It also might mean a lot more overtime for dev teams to try and hit earlier alpha dates. If that's the case i feel for those people and their families.

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          June 19, 2014 1:59 PM

          At this point game developers know what they are getting into.

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            June 19, 2014 2:03 PM

            Yeah, a 9-5 job.

            Sorry, but as a gamedev of seven plus years now I realize that while some companies are still stuck in the old ways, it's a different world now and I know tons of big studios that are all pretty sane in how they work and treat their employees.

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              June 19, 2014 2:05 PM

              My point was people working jobs they know they will get fucked on know the market at this point. I know there are great developers out there.

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        June 20, 2014 3:42 AM

        actually it is the opposite. by using a more iterative/agile approach with stability sooner it means that they will internally greenlight more traditionally risky projects because their new dev process now mitigates part of the risk (compared to the previous waterfall model).

        This is because they are more open to and capable of handling changes during the earlier stages of the project

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      June 19, 2014 1:53 PM

      It sounds like the normal EA bolloxk to me much like MS saying we are working to improve PC gaming same over and over but nothing happens.

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        June 19, 2014 2:05 PM

        No, this development cycle is definitely different than previous cycles. We even staffed more to allow people to actually take vacation time during production.

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      June 19, 2014 2:12 PM

      You should have included a picture from the press conference of this guy. He looks and dresses like a villain.

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      June 19, 2014 2:32 PM

      "So the time from alpha to final is now significantly longer. So we're asking teams to be finished earlier"....really making teams finish coding earlier is going to fix everything. Yes lets change the rush from QA to Dev and every thing will be fixed! stoopid EA!

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        June 19, 2014 3:32 PM

        This move feels like a reaction to shareholder anxiety after the Battlefield 4 release. It's the equivalent of the kid in A Christmas Story preparing for his morning beatdown ahead of time: "Uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle... UNCLE!! UNCLE!!!"

        It doesn't matter whether the QA / dev refocus actually produces better results; it just matters that Andrew Wilson takes action.

        Also, the "be more willing to delay games" thing... I don't know how much of that I believe, since for a megapublisher like EA, it's an outright sin to delay a title's release past its scheduled quarter, unless there's another release to cover it. I think I remember a 2009 EA earnings call where an EA exec joked that they remembered there were 12 months in a year (something like that; I don't remember it verbatim, but Idle Thumbs talked about it back in 2009). EA's release cadence got a little better, but it's still very weighted toward holiday releases, as well as spring releases strategically placed near their end of fiscal year (March 31).

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      June 19, 2014 3:44 PM

      Okay, this part got a laugh out of me:

      "This Hollywood blockbuster mentality of 'keep all of the information to yourself' is not something that makes sense in today's world. And, listen, as you've seen from us in the last few days with Hardline we can't keep a secret anyway so we may as well just start talking about it."

      Yeah, the Hardline leak is one of many, many examples of what has resulted from the cutthroat secrecy of the video games industry. That secrecy is born out of a hybrid of industry convention for physical product R&D, as well as the film industry. Big games usually have a long development cycle, during which there's a "skunk works" phase, where product secrecy is paramount, since it involves art assets and other IP that hasn't been trademarked yet. I'm not really sure how much leeway there could be, because I imagine EA's legal department would have to ensure they're on top of trademark filings and so forth, but if they actually do make a move to announce games a little earlier, hopefully it starts a trend.

      Obviously, they don't want to be caught announcing something too early, which then gets canned... but hell, EA has already canned plenty of titles that have been announced only months before release anyway.

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