The JPS Mission (Director’s Cut)

5 Jun

If you check out the Junction Point Studios website, you’ll find a page outlining the company mission. It’s short, pithy, straight to the point and accurate, as far as it goes. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am one wordy bastard, and I don’t think the web version of the mission statement goes far enough. The website guys gave me two paragraphs to describe the company mission and I was, frankly, a little lost. I need more elbow room than that—a LOT more.

Below, you’ll find the first part of my longer version of the mission statement–long enough that I’m splitting it into two parts. The first part, below, covers the overview and our Primary Values. A second part, which I’ll post soon, will cover the Secondary Values and wrap things up.

As you’ll soon see, this was written for internal use and, to be honest, I’m not really sure anyone who doesn’t work here—or is thinking about working here—will find it interesting (though I hope so!). Still, the short version left me frustrated enough that I figured I’d use my bully pulpit to get the long version out there.

So, brave reader, continue on, settle into your comfiest web-surfing chair, grab a snack and let’s talk more about what makes Junction Point Studios tick. (You not-so-brave types should click on another link now…)

Putting Power in Player’s Hand

Junction Point Studios is an independent developer of innovative electronic games that feature strong, player-driven narratives.

We believe long-term success can best be achieved by delivering games of the highest quality—in gameplay and presentation—within the limits imposed by the reality of time and budget.

We seek the most talented and dedicated practitioners of the art of game development to join us in a company culture that is positive, friendly, and team-oriented—a culture built on a foundation of cross-disciplinary collaboration, open communication and life-long learning.

Our success—creative and commercial—rests on these mutually supporting pillars:

  • Player-driven narrative
  • Quality gameplay and quality presentation
  • Collaborative company culture

Primary Values

Player-Driven, Narrative Games

Junction Point Studios focuses on the creation of games unique in their combination of strong narrative plot arcs and freeform, player-driven minute-to-minute gameplay. We may occasionally venture out into the world of abstract games or some other non-narrative form, but only as a “palette cleanser” before returning to our first love—story games.

Story or no-story, our efforts are driven by one critical concept: Unique player experience is as important as developer creativity. By “unique player experience” we mean that, rather than being funneled down a predetermined, puzzle-strewn path, players are confronted with problems solvable in a variety of ways. Our games allow players to explore, experiment and express themselves through their solution choices—and we show them the consequences of those choices. If we remain true to these ideas, no two players will end a JPS game having had the same experience.

Our goal, then, is to deliver on the promise of “shared authorship” and “emergent gameplay,” ensuring that players feel they have crafted their own experience through their in-game choices. The story we craft exists largely to provide context and significance for player choices and lends predictability and the impression of inevitability to the consequences associated with those choices.

This hybrid narrative/freeform player experience, a hallmark of the Junction Point Studios “style,” is delivered in a variety of ways:

  • Through player tools and interconnected game systems that allow and encourage emergent behaviors
  • Through player interaction with those systems and with the gameworld
  • Through traditional story-structure and preplanned and/or scripted “magic moments”

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in questions each JPS employee should ask him- or herself regularly: “Will this decision empower players more fully? Is what I’m doing putting power to shape the experience in the player’s hands or am I taking power from the player?” The preferred answer is to favor decisions that allow players to shape their own, unique experience.

Quality – Gameplay and Presentation

In game development, quality matters—it affects everything from sales to review scores to awards to fan support and even employee satisfaction and retention.

Great games matter.

Our goal is, then, to create great videogames. We define “great” or “quality” as:

  • A game that hooks players quickly and keeps them playing—and replaying—from start to finish
  • A game that has broad appeal, meaning we make games about things for which there is already an audience rather than believing we can manufacture interest and create an audience
  • A game that is as accessible as we can make it, in terms of player training and user interface
  • A game that looks as good as it plays
  • A game that reviews well—90+ review scores are always our goal
  • A game that generates positive fan response and competes for Best of Genre and Game of the Year
  • A game that we believe is better than the last one we made

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in questions like, “Will this decision make the game empirically, measurably better, as measured by observable playtest results and/or by review scores?” We are less concerned with questions like “will I like the game better, personally, if we do thing X?”

Positive, collaborative company culture

To create great games we must create a great work environment. For us, a quality workplace is one which is positive, warm, friendly, respectful, healthy and smart. Specifically, our culture embodies the following ideals:

  • We value collaboration among members of the same discipline but also across disciplines
  • We encourage everyone to speak his or her mind without fear of judgment or ridicule
  • We talk talking openly about any problems we see and work to ensure that problems are addressed quickly and don’t linger
  • We recognize that everyone can contribute to the creative process and actively encourage everyone to do so, regardless of title or position on the org chart
  • We hire the most talented, dedicated practitioners of the art of game development but, as important, we look for people with the potential to grow during their tenure with us and/or who can contribute to our own growth and the enhancement of our development culture
  • We encourage personal and professional growth, helping one another to grow, both personally and professionally—we are all teachers and students

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in each employee asking “Am I thinking of team and project, first, and putting personal goals second?” It lies in hiring the people who seem likely to fit into or enhance our culture and who buy into our primary and secondary values. It lies in finding ways to involve more people, rather than fewer, in all aspects of the game’s development, asking “If roles were reversed, would I feel a sense of ownership in this situation?” It lies in asking, “Now that I’ve finished my work, is there anything I can do to help that other guy?” It lies in asking whether you can help someone do or be better, regardless of the circumstances.

This brings us to end of Mission Statement, Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 later this week and then try to get myself on a weekly blogging schedule. (We’ll see how long that lasts!) For now, though, let me know what you think about Part 1…

9 Responses to “The JPS Mission (Director’s Cut)”

  1. giopione June 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm #

    Is it mine the first comment?
    Ok. Good luck to everybody, boys!
    We’re waiting!!!

    Giopione

  2. raekkeri June 6, 2007 at 9:33 pm #

    It’s very interesting to read about your corporation, since there hasn’t been that much information on your webpage before the update. I’m certainly looking forward to the development on the new project (assuming it’s “new” ;-).

    – finnish gamer

  3. John June 7, 2007 at 5:49 am #

    It’s interesting to hear you say JP will be concentrating on high review scores rather than the game you’d personally want to play (not that it’s an either/or, I’m sure). As a fan that makes me immediately nervous, because I’ve always seen games like Deus Ex as labours of love rather than simply commercial products. But still as a fan I’m not sure how these things work behind the scenes. I will say I’m glad to see so many former Ion Storm people aboard.

    Rest assured there are plenty of us waiting to see what comes out of JP, so don’t be modest posting this sort of stuff.

  4. thephotoshop June 7, 2007 at 6:52 am #

    To Warren and the team at Junction Point Studios,

    Firstly, congratulations on the formation of your new development house. It seems that despite all things you’ve managed to come through relatively unscathed and are back in a position to be doing what you love and do best – making awesome games.

    Secondly, thank you very much for the awesome games that you made happen. Deus Ex is my favourite game; seven years on and I still consider it to be a pinnacle of game design that has yet to see an equal. Thank you also for, against all odds, providing a fitting end to the Thief series in the form of Deadly Shadows. It’s another series that I regularly revisit thanks to it’s incredible atmosphere and I can sleep easy at night knowing it has closure.

    The idea behind the Ninja Gold game scenario is, quite franky, sheer awesome – but to have this level of player-driven design philosophy driving it brings it up another level altogether. It’s reassuring to see you still have Sheldon on board; his writing is what gave Deus Ex it’s factor of immersion and channelled what I believe is the most important aspect of the entire Mission Statement – the ability for players to express themselves.

    When talking to people about Deus Ex, the conversations usually consist of “How did you do this part?”, an open-endedness that is rarely seen in other games. What made these choices special was the fact it was not driven by any numbering or stat system, but by in-game situations where actual player actions or choices of dialogue are the conduits through which players express how they want things to happen. The player feels emotion when they leave Paul to die, when they lose Jock or even when they’re scolded for peeking into the ladies’. If you are able to create similar situations where choice accompanies emotion with Ninja Gold then you’re already on to a winner.

    Best of luck with Ninja Gold and the other projects you’re working on!
    -ThePhotoshop

  5. drjudym June 7, 2007 at 3:50 pm #

    Well, it’s a nice piece of theory. I guess you know it all too well, that the very process of creating a video game is something different from thinking about this process and writing down your preliminary assumptions. If you managed to gather a team willing enough to help you stick to the goals above, then you’re really lucky man, congratulations :)

    I believe there are many of us waiting for you to show your creation again, good luck! :)

  6. slamelov June 7, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    Hi

    Great to read te mission of Junction Point Studios, it’s the words that many gamers waited to read. I hope you can create games like the “old” Origin and Looking Glass master pieces, and I wish you luck with all your projects..

    Thanks Mr Spector, for the past and the future (I hope).

    Regards

  7. Necros June 9, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    Hi guys

    Wow, it’s great to see that many of the people working on Deus Ex and other amazing games are here. I hope to read a little bit more information about Ninja Gold and the other projects. Ninja seems to be a very good game, can’t wait to see more of it.

    I loved the Deus Ex games, and Thief 3 as well from Ion Storm. I was sad when it closed but JPS gave new hope. :) It’s cool you have Tony Bratton, who’s responsible for the cinematics of Freelancer, those cutscenes look great! Rob Kovach, Monte (oh, those hidden quotes from the first DX, I’ve laughed a lot :)) and of course Sheldon Pacotti, the brilliant writer, good to see them here.

    Good luck with your projects and please, post as many times as you can, this goes for all of the team. :)

    Best regards, a fan from Hungary

  8. Aleksander Kiin June 10, 2007 at 4:19 pm #

    It’s excellent to see you blogging. I hope the other team members will make their voices heard too. I’d love to see frequent updates on what makes the team at Junction Point tick.

    On a side note, you might want to fix the following:

    We talk talking openly about any problems we see and work to ensure that problems are addressed quickly and don’t linger

  9. iqpierce August 7, 2007 at 3:34 pm #

    It’s gratifying to see someone putting quality as first priority. I notice that within that, you have “stickiness” (which could be said to be the greatest measure of quality) as the first priority; with “accessible I.P.” coming second. Very realistic.

    And it’s a refreshing alternative to the, shall we say TOO realistic priorities expressed by Steve Allison, head of marketing for publisher Midway Games… who encourages priorities of “killer concept, great marketing… and quality execution”, in that order. His two-part editorial on Newsweek.com:
    http://ncroal.talk.newsweek.com/default.asp?item=593154
    http://ncroal.talk.newsweek.com/default.asp?item=593219

    I just like to look from Allison’s editorial, then back to Warren’s manifesto above, and then back and forth for several minutes… and then make out with Warren’s manifesto.

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