Secondary Values

9 Jun

Last time, I posted the first part of the JPS studio mission. That covered our reason for being and our Primary Values:

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

A couple of folks commented that those Primary Values seemed surprisingly Profit and/or Business oriented, rather than Art oriented. I’m going to have to come back to that some time, in a later post, but before that, I want to talk about the Junction Point “Secondary Values .” These support the Primaries (obviously) and, if you were surprised at how conscious we were about Business before, fasten your seatbelts. The studio’s Secondary Values are

  • Innovation (all right–one for the Art crowd!)
  • Partnership (huh?)
  • Profitability (uh oh…)

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Innovation

For some developers, it may be enough to refine and polish. We strive for something different, something more—we want to change things.

As an adjunct to “Quality,” and as a natural outgrowth of the value we place on player empowerment, all Junction Point Studios games showcase some feature or combination of features players have never seen before. Each game advances the state of the art in some demonstrable way.

In a business crowded with sequels and “me-too” product, however professionally presented and packaged, we believe the marketplace demands—players demand—novelty in setting, in tone, in graphical style and/or, best of all, in gameplay (notably, for us, the areas of player expression, player experimentation, player choice and obvious, significant consequences). Note that none of this precludes working on sequels, licenses or collaborating with others in the creation of characters, worlds, stories or anything else.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like “Does this game advance the state of the art in any demonstrable way?” and “Is there an approach to this problem or a way to implement this game system that will be new to players while remaining true to our primary values?”

Partnership

Though our internal corporate culture is our primary concern, the business of game development is increasingly one of cooperation and collaboration with groups outside the “home office.” We work, more and more, with individual contractors, outside companies that create assets for us and, of course, funding and publishing partners.

We treat these external resources as much like internal team members as we can—with the same respect and honesty with which we treat each other. In particular, we work closely and openly with publisher representatives in Development, Testing. Marketing, PR and Sales to provide them the information and materials they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible—they’re part of the team, too.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like, “If I had to promote this game, what would I want and can I help deliver that?” or “If I were a tester, would I have the tools I need to help find bugs that will compromise our other values?” or “If I were a contractor, would I feel like part of the Junction Point Studios team?”

Profitability

Our goal is to create high quality, innovative games, but to do so, we must generate sufficient revenue to sustain a viable business. We must, in other words, remain profitable.

In part, we achieve this through a focus on quality. In addition, we achieve this by making our games as accessible to as many players as we possibly can. We strive to reach an ever larger portion of the growing game audience. And we maximize potential sales by giving our publisher the tools to do the best job possible of marketing our work.

(Note: If you’re a publisher or other potential funding partner, you might want to stop reading here or, at least, skip the next paragraph.) 

However, it’s important to note that we do not believe that the only question—or even the most valid question—one can ask about a game concept, or a finished product, is “Will this game generate maximum profit?” Profit, yes, absolutely, but the desire to make money may be tempered, at times, by our other values, as outlined here.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like, “Is there a way to save money on this aspect of development without compromising our other values?” or “Is there a way to increase the revenue-generating potential of this game without increasing cost or risk?”

Three Contracts

To achieve our goals, we must live up to three implicit “contracts”:

  • We have a contract with each other requiring that we work together to the highest possible standards and with utmost respect. We strive to satisfy our individual and collective creative desires, to advance the state of the art in gameplay and to help our teammates grow as people and as professionals. Collaboration and the unfettered exchange of ideas are paramount.
  • We have a contract with players requiring that we offer them maximum entertainment value. We embrace players as collaborators in the creative process—as much the authors of their own, unique gameplay experience as we are. Our games provide tools to encourage their creativity and active participation in the story. We never lose sight of the fact that our players are as smart and demanding as we are.
  • We have a contract with our publishers requiring that we work to remain solidly in the black. Our decisions may not always result in maximum return on investment but we will always make enough money that our publishers will, without hesitation, continue funding our efforts.

So there you have it. The full version of the JPS mission statement—the one I probably should have kept to myself. Let me know what you think. Am I crazy? Does this sound like a reasonable set of values? Does JPS sound like a cool place to you? Talk to me, people!

About these ads

10 Responses to “Secondary Values”

  1. crasht June 9, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    Hi;

    It’s good to see somebody explicitly acknowledging that for all the high concept ideals about Shared Authorship and Player-driven Narrative, Game Development is still in a business and you need to remain solvent in order to keep making the kind of games that will fulfil those high concept ideals.

    Good luck. Myself, and I’m sure many others, are already eagerly awaiting you first title.

  2. tinod June 10, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    This sounds all right to me! Quality is one big thing that must be focused (as you mentioned). We all saw a lot of great/innovative games, that did have all potential but by the lack of quality they just loosed on the market quickly. Because games are expensive for the mass market customer, they just have to work perfectly.

    And I can see, that you are on the right way with this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this.

  3. c144 June 11, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    Interesting!

    I have looked at the junction point studios webpage for a long time… and finally when it seamed that I will never see any change there, suddenly to my surprise the webpage been updated.

    Finally I say! As I am a great fan of games like System Shock, Thief and Deus Ex I am happy that Warren Spector is still involved in making games.

    Re: Secondary Values

    I mostly like when something new in the game industry is being developed. (For example Supreme Commander or the Total war series) Fundamental changes in gameplay enriches both the player experience and the PC-game-industry as a whole. I can’t see the 100 WWII RTS Game – with each a little different than the other – anymore.

    Of course it is important to generate profits so that companies can survive and provide customers for a longer period with games. However it is very reassuring that making money at JPG doesn’t become the only goal for a company in which other goal like gameplay or customer support become only tools to maximise the former one.

    Furthermore I can only say that that I approve these values. Thanks for updating the site and providing some information. I hope some will follow in the not so distant future.

    – Greetings from Germany

  4. giopione June 14, 2007 at 5:37 pm #

    After a long time, Junction point studios is here. Your ‘pedigree’ is really important, so everyone is just at the door waiting.
    And like every important adventure, this one begins with your ‘We will do… we won’t do…’.
    What a reader can notice is that the position of the studio (you can imagine all the employees every morning repeating the mantras in front of Mr. Spector ;)) is really ‘ultras’, extreme and directed to specific goals. It is also true that some element (innovation vs profit, for example) needs to be balanced carefully to work together, so we’ll expect until the next E3 (this is a subliminal message) for REAL news.
    JPS arrives in a crucial moment, in the wake of the next-generation hardware, the first one able, in my humble opinion, to give the media the dignity it deserves. You (we) developers have a lot of responsability about this subject, because there is a huge audience in front of you waiting for a littlebig revolution.

    Revolution – take 1: action!
    Something that in videogame world is happening now is that almost every AAA-developer decided to look at cinema.
    Market is already full, there is a lot of competitors and the only way to broaden its boundary is broaden the target. So, someone does that looking at non-players by non-games (Nintendo) and someone else decides to speak to the new market by its own language, the one that knows better:
    emotion.
    And the best and closest media able to push emotions to a huge audience is cinema.
    So there is a flow of techs moving from a media to other (all the
    MO-CAP people, for example), directors that what to develope a VG (Spielberg, Woo, Jackson, Cameron…), software born to share resources (Zeno by ILM and Lucasarts), designers that want to look at cinema to create more compelling stories.
    Everyone has the Holy Graal, it seems.

    There are also a lot of projects born as videogame and movie in the same time.
    Lorne Lanning has (finally!) decided to come back with ‘Citizen siege’, David Braben is working on ‘The Outsider’, JPS and Woo develope ‘Ninja gold’.
    From a technical POV, this convergence let such features as real-time image processing, autofocus, and so on being considered ‘next-gen’. But ready or not, here JPS comes and its iconic characters and its focus not only to the graphics.
    I’d like seeing a Celebrity deathmatch like ‘Warren Spector vs David Cage’!
    Photorealism is not necessary to create emotion (a lot of Hollywood movies has ‘photorealistic characters’ but zero emotions) and it’s also possible using objects to do that (Luxo JR, anyone?).
    Also, a non-human character with some human features is more acceptable than a human character with unrealistic behaviours.
    We’ll see.
    But let me share with you the thought that I’m waiting more eagerly your experimental VG rather than what seems to be tied with old concepts (NG). But I hope (and, inside, I know) that you’ll surprise us also with that.

    Giopione

  5. geloman June 14, 2007 at 10:34 pm #

    Sounds interesting, as a big fan of Deus Ex, I’m looking forward to the fruits of your newest venture :-).

  6. jbragg July 12, 2007 at 4:01 pm #

    Love the vision and wish you all only the best. I know you have emphasized quality but reading this, and having dabbled in the gaming industry, a fear began to form in my mind so I figured I’d bring it up. Specter is a big name in the industry and will bring funding but like other big names, it will be understood by publishers/investors that pretty much anything you ship will sell. To quote and unnamed IBM exec I once knew “we can ship shit in a box and people would buy it”. My fear is that your publishers and investors, quite naturally, will care more about shipping and making a profit and be less concerned about what affect the products have on your standing. To them you are a product to sell like any other and if you loose face in the industry they will just grab the next big name and continue on like nothing happened. I guess all I’m saying is if you really want to ship a good game, which is really the only way for you to keep your name and the funding that it brings, be ready to fight to do it, because they know they’ll make money off anything you ship.

  7. monkeyenterprises July 16, 2007 at 4:53 pm #

    Nice. I’m glad to see that JPS isn’t the mysterious black website I was getting used to. I have a few questions about your “collaborative authorship” thing.

    Let me say, first of all, that I love the idea. I think its amazing. I have performed and trained improvised theatre for the past 7 years (http://www.kingstonimprov.com/) and I love it. An interactive experience is a more enriching experience.

    However, being good at improv takes training. Beginner improvisors have trouble, above all, in making exciting choices. We, as human beings, are influenced by (school, society, evolution, whatever) to make boring, safe choices. The first thing you do in training a improvisor is teach them how to make risky choices.

    This is what scares me about audience interaction. In my experience with, often audience will choose a gag (what’s in the mysterious box…dog poopie!) or something uninteresting (a letter from your mother! what’s in the letter? she is turning into a dog! [laughs]).

    So I’m curious how, in the gaming experience you’re creating, do you train people to make the really dangerous choices.

    To reminisce, one of my best game experiences ever was during Deus Ex. I remember reading it was a “fully open” world or something like that before I started playing with it, so, as I usually do, I tried to stir up shit, retreating to a save point when I had gone past the point of no return. One of my first attempts was pulling a gun on the UNATCO director in his office and shooting him. No matter what I did, I was dead within seconds from his fire or someone else’s. This makes perfect sense – that would be a stupid and unrealistic thing to do and the player character should have died.

    Much later in the game, I had tracked down one of the members of the NSF in an airplane and was interrogating him. As this was happening, the evil robot cyborg lady (I can’t remember her name) joined me and insisted that I shoot him. I was still interested in what he was saying, but she pushed me to do it right away. After some angry conversation back and forth, she shot him. Without even knowing what I was doing, I reacted in rage and chased her down throughout the airplane and killed her (not without significant sacrifice myself) My pulse and excitement had just shot through the roof. Oh no! I had done something stupid again! I walked out of the airplane, expecting to be showered with a rain of unavoidable death again. But no, I talked my way past everyone and got into my helicopter and got the hell out of there. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a gaming experience and a half.

    So, how are you going to train/make people make the scary choices?

    Oh yes, and thanks so much JPS for expanding the realm of gaming. I have so much respect for you for undertaking this. One day, I hope I can join your cause.

  8. rustedapple November 23, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    It’s inspiring to read these values – a lot of them I feel like I can relate to. As someone who is learning level design, I’ve gone through creating my own primary and secondary values that I feel are necessary to creating an enjoyable level. They’ve helped tremendously in being that ever present guiding light for those days I go off on a tangent.

    In that regard, are there internship opportunities at JPS for an intern level designer?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. narrative writing examples - October 20, 2011

    narrative writing examples…

    […]Secondary Values « Warren Spector’s blog[…]…

  2. ulta black friday - November 15, 2011

    ulta black friday…

    […]Secondary Values « Warren Spector’s blog[…]…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: