By Ben Ahroni
I’m not one of the usual writers for the PopCap blog but given all that’s been going on recently, both at PopCap and otherwise, I wanted to take the time to do something radical for you:
The last couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve been involved with a couple new projects at PopCap (none of which are announced yet, but stay tuned!) as well as spending some time on the side with my band working on finishing, launching, and promoting our new album. I’ve been thinking recently about how the creative process for games compares to the creative process for music and found the similarities to be pretty interesting.
At PopCap, there are established roles that people are interviewed for, hired for, and expected to execute against: designers, software developers, artists, project managers, marketers, and the like. Each person has a role to play, and there’s a reporting structure in place so it’s clear who’s tracking the status of everything, and schedules in place so everyone can tell if the team is on track to complete their shared goals.
This is analogous to being in a band and playing a show. Everyone has their own role – or instrument – with a part they’ve practiced. It’s clear who’s supposed to do what. However, there’s lots of exciting ambiguity behind the scenes. Who creates the music? Who writes each part for each instrument and comes up with the lyrics? Who has the final say in whether that note really should be played an octave up or whether those couple of strums should be palm-muted? There’s no music designer who’s been vetted and hired to answer these questions, and there’s no band manager who’s been put in place to have the final say.
This can be a tricky problem to solve, and I think is one of the biggest differences between creating games for a company and creating music with friends. Friends… Yeah. That turns out to be the answer we came up with to address that issue of ownership. Our band, Out Like Pluto, doesn’t have a monarch in charge of making final decisions and telling people “no.” Instead, we’ve landed on a collaborative process where everyone contributes ideas. Sometimes yours will win, but sometimes they won’t and when that happens it’s because there’s been a discussion about it and there are good reasons for going in a different direction. Keeping those personal relationships strong makes it much easier to collaborate and end up creating something awesome.
So, maybe it’s not so different from making games at PopCap after all…
Here’s the video for the first single on the new album, ‘Bridge’:
Lastly, for you Seattle readers, we’re having an album release party on Friday, January 13th at the King Cat Theatre. (Sorry kiddos, this one is 21+… hang in there!)
Producer, PopCap Games
Guitarist, Out Like Pluto
Ben Ahroni has been a producer in PopCap’s Seattle studio for 3.5 years. He’s received credits across a number of games and platforms including Plants vs. Zombies for iPhone and Peggle for Xbox LIVE Arcade. He can be found on Twitter at @ahroni.