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Heroes Community > Heroes 6 - The New Beginning > Thread: The End of Black Hole Games?
Thread: The End of Black Hole Games? [ This thread is 18 pages long: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (11) 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 ]
bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 12:09 PM

Quote:
Ubisoft have the final say about the game design in any case, it is ultimately their game that Black Hole are developing. Being the boss, Ubisoft also decides how long certain thing will be under development. Black Hole can be held responsible if they were inefficiently slow but not if they had been given new tasks on regular basis and told to get them done by yesterday.


I have never heard of such a concept in IT (or anywhere else) where the customer does the effort estimation instead of the development company. Normally, the customer only specifies a final deadline (product delivery end date). And this deadline is specified in the contract. Intermediate (module based) deadlines are based on effort estimations of the developer which is part of the specification attached to the frame contract. If the contract is signed, these are accepted.

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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted April 12, 2012 12:52 PM

It's rather clear that Ubisoft didn't just tell Black Hole (or Nival for that matter) "You have X months to come up with the game, do whatever you like but get it done by then". At the very least, Ubisoft approved the design decisions made by Black Hole but whether they did so in advance or during the development remains unclear. If the things said by the self-alleged Black Hole employee are true, Ubisoft more than monitored the project and interfered on regular basis.

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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted April 12, 2012 01:41 PM

Publishing companies almost always micromanage the content of the final product at all stages of development.  This goes in the video gaming industry as well as the film industry, as well as several others.  History is full of examples of projects that failed because of meddling by producers.
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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 01:44 PM

Quote:
It's rather clear that Ubisoft didn't just tell Black Hole (or Nival for that matter) "You have X months to come up with the game, do whatever you like but get it done by then". At the very least, Ubisoft approved the design decisions made by Black Hole but whether they did so in advance or during the development remains unclear. If the things said by the self-alleged Black Hole employee are true, Ubisoft more than monitored the project and interfered on regular basis.


Yes, we are talking about the same thing. UBI approves base specification at the beginning then approves estimations and specificaions for each change request during development. For each of these approvals there should be a signed contract or a signed order. Each must have agreed deadlines. Unless BH was working without the orders being first signed there can be no problems if they keep the deadlines and the specifications are sufficiently detailed. The other version could be that BH signed a suicidical contract with UBI where work goes without deadlines and specifications openly accepting that UBI can make up his mind anytime he wants. But companies normally do not go against their own interest, unless there is some malevolent personal intent behind it, which is called corruption.

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Quique30
Quique30


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 02:05 PM

I too tend to belive to what this mysterious poster says, simply because it contains a level of detail with facts that make sense and that should be easily refuted if untrue - which hasn't happened yet - and because what he says doesn't leave BH in a very defendable position. They seemed to have acted with a lot of informality and naivety, making them look rather amateurish. From accepting to sign a contract exonerating UBI for possible delays, to admitting to what seems to be verbal promises, they only have themselves to blame. But, if rumors about their bankruptcy hold truth, they have payed the price.

What I'm more concerned of is that, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no repercussions on UBI's side. And they are, and have always been, the ultimate responsible for the game. They, for once, are the ones to blame for letting a game in this condition out of the door, sold at full price. And they remain in charge. What's to say the story won't repeat itself?

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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 02:05 PM

Quote:
Publishing companies almost always micromanage the content of the final product at all stages of development.  This goes in the video gaming industry as well as the film industry, as well as several others.  History is full of examples of projects that failed because of meddling by producers.


Yes, in certain cases, but normally amendmends, unless very small, are assessed and incorporated into change requests which manifests in a new order. (A project leader can make exceptions in case of small changes on his own risk.) Any change to the original plan may be rejected by the developer - I mean seriously, Ive never seen a contract where the developer company would freely expose himself to the random will of a customer -, but the developer rejects it only if it endangers already established deadlines. (I know only IT, most likely this is not applicable for every type of business)

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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted April 12, 2012 02:44 PM

Apparently this is not the case. Black Hole is a small studio, Heroes is a big game - this probably seemed like a dream come true to them so they didn't want to miss the opportunity by insisting on (too many) contract safeguards. Or they were just naive indeed.
By the way it's not that uncommon to implement major changes without contract amendments. I work for a support company myself and for a few years I've seen several big changes in the work process (additional tasks, responsibilities, quality standards, etc.) all based on the same contract with the client. In the end some people certainly feel f***** up but if it is a major client, you are far more inclined to swallow some whining from the staff than to lose the client altogether.

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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 03:12 PM

Quote:
Apparently this is not the case. Black Hole is a small studio, Heroes is a big game - this probably seemed like a dream come true to them so they didn't want to miss the opportunity by insisting on (too many) contract safeguards. Or they were just naive indeed.
By the way it's not that uncommon to implement major changes without contract amendments. I work for a support company myself and for a few years I've seen several big changes in the work process (additional tasks, responsibilities, quality standards, etc.) all based on the same contract with the client. In the end some people certainly feel f***** up but if it is a major client, you are far more inclined to swallow some whining from the staff than to lose the client altogether.


Yes, I've experienced such case also, but this mostly happens in case of long lived (several years) and fruitful "partnership" between customer and developer, and it is most typical for support projects, where there are for example monthly standby fees or guaranteed yearly pool amounts which compensate these imformal favours. It also happens in the so called "agile" projects where the business parties are friends. Neither is the case of BH I guess. Note, however the extreme naivety and idealism of BH team is a valid possibility. I still find it unlikely though, simply because buisness and idealism do not coexist in practicle life.  

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odium
odium


Known Hero
posted April 12, 2012 03:15 PM
Edited by odium at 15:18, 12 Apr 2012.

Quote:

What I'm more concerned of is that, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no repercussions on UBI's side.


I think there are. In my opinion most of the sane Heroes fans will not buy any content from them unless it's at least very good at the moment of release. No more potential, expectations crap since their trustworthiness is way below zero right now. This will affect Ubisoft since they paid money for the rights and I cannot believe that they achieved the profit they were expecting from the franchise yet.

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Kenishi Online
Kenishi


Known Hero
passed out drunk in Tavern's
posted April 12, 2012 04:07 PM
Edited by Kenishi at 16:08, 12 Apr 2012.

Quote:

That is nothing new to the brand.. even 3DO abused the mark where it could and milked it as long as it could....


  But for there defense the first wear gems from the first Heroes the gameplay got polished and improved till Heroes 3 that still is the King (so to speak), while UBI menage to make 2 games both mediocre do to different reason (either to poor dev or UBI mishandling the development).
 Any way will see what the future holds and wait it out, but hope the fan projects will come to fulfillment like H5 AI (with all the stuff the wish to improve not just the AI) and HoA for H3 (international release) and prolong the life of this games.  
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Quique30
Quique30


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2012 04:34 PM
Edited by Quique30 at 16:48, 12 Apr 2012.

Quote:
Quote:

What I'm more concerned of is that, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no repercussions on UBI's side.


I think there are. In my opinion most of the sane Heroes fans will not buy any content from them unless it's at least very good at the moment of release. No more potential, expectations crap since their trustworthiness is way below zero right now. This will affect Ubisoft since they paid money for the rights and I cannot believe that they achieved the profit they were expecting from the franchise yet.


I totally agree, but that will only materialize in the future. I meant "now", while they are still trying to patch the game. Concretely, what I want to see is Ubi selling the franchise (which in all likelihood, won't happen), and failing that, that the group responsible for this disaster in Ubi quit, and let someone capable run the show.

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 13, 2012 02:22 PM

Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
Apparently this is not the case. Black Hole is a small studio, Heroes is a big game - this probably seemed like a dream come true to them so they didn't want to miss the opportunity by insisting on (too many) contract safeguards. Or they were just naive indeed.
By the way it's not that uncommon to implement major changes without contract amendments. I work for a support company myself and for a few years I've seen several big changes in the work process (additional tasks, responsibilities, quality standards, etc.) all based on the same contract with the client. In the end some people certainly feel f***** up but if it is a major client, you are far more inclined to swallow some whining from the staff than to lose the client altogether.


Yes, I've experienced such case also, but this mostly happens in case of long lived (several years) and fruitful "partnership" between customer and developer, and it is most typical for support projects, where there are for example monthly standby fees or guaranteed yearly pool amounts which compensate these imformal favours. It also happens in the so called "agile" projects where the business parties are friends. Neither is the case of BH I guess. Note, however the extreme naivety and idealism of BH team is a valid possibility. I still find it unlikely though, simply because buisness and idealism do not coexist in practicle life.  


Let's say you are a game developer who works for hire. You have a contract in which it is written that your publisher must give you feedback (this is just a simplified example) on each received item within 7 days. As the development goes, more and more such feedback are delayed, but you have a good relationship with your producers, so you don't run to your attorney immediately, but sit down with your producers and discuss the situation. They assure you that everything will be alright... that is what BH did.

Now let's see your version, Bitula: do I understand correctly that you would have tried to legally threaten UBI based on their contract obligations? What do you think would have happened next? I tell you: they wouldn't have paid you, and you would go bankcrupt. It is this easy. Because the producer is one thing: you communicate with them on a daily basis, but they cover their ass*s so they don't discuss all problems with the business guys. And when the sh*t hits the fan, they will blame you, even if they know they are the guilty ones. Believe me, there is no chance for a work-for-hire developer to force the publisher. No way, even if you are covered by the perfect contract. They pay you, so they can do pretty much whatever they want. And sadly, some publishers do it.


And it is an age-old publisher trick to swap the producers to get rid of all verbal agreements and the liability this entails. Your only chance as a developer is to be better than the publisher expects, management and lead programmer skills are the key.

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Quique30
Quique30


Hired Hero
posted April 13, 2012 02:58 PM

Quote:
Let's say you are a game developer who works for hire. You have a contract in which it is written that your publisher must give you feedback (this is just a simplified example) on each received item within 7 days. As the development goes, more and more such feedback are delayed, but you have a good relationship with your producers, so you don't run to your attorney immediately, but sit down with your producers and discuss the situation. They assure you that everything will be alright... that is what BH did.


Is this a customary practice in game development? To trust in what producers verbally tell you?

Quote:
Now let's see your version, Bitula: do I understand correctly that you would have tried to legally threaten UBI based on their contract obligations? What do you think would have happened next? I tell you: they wouldn't have paid you, and you would go bankcrupt.


Well, it seems going the other way didn't change that outcome either, for what you told us. At least you would have saved your image and possibly your company as well, if you won the lawsuit and/or got the chance to work on some other project.

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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted April 13, 2012 03:04 PM

Somehow suing the other party to achieve something doesn't seem the right way when you are developing a game - from a purely customer perspective that is. It sounds like every developer has to arm to the teeth and keep the publisher at gunpoint all the time to make sure that the latter won't f*** up the whole thing at will. If this is the standard for the whole industry, it's a small miracle that people aren't literally killing each other during the development.

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SKPRIMUS
SKPRIMUS


Promising
Supreme Hero
The One and the Prime
posted April 14, 2012 04:35 AM

I don't think bitula meant legal action, at least not straight up immediately, but definitely project management has to be up to the task and have a good plan (with contingencies) of what to do with company owners' support (like Quantomas says).

Anyway, thanks for replies bitula, I agree with much of what you say. It does not apply only in IT. (ofc I still appreciate derpson's responses)

Delay of feedback during contract are usually kept as records & used as reasons for delays etc.  & all these are written...still would like to know contract details & how/when contractor is paid.  I think this is the heart of the matter & enforcement of contract...and yep big companies have very experienced legal teams who have much experience in these matters.

I'm not even certain whether some of the more recent discussions can go ahead due to legalities.
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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted April 15, 2012 07:00 AM

My point is that even the business relationships have to be based on trust, at least partially. Of course the two parties are not friends and the whole thing revolves around interest (and certain interests could be conflicting) but you can't treat the other party as a bunch of scoundrels who will screw you immediately when the opportunity arises. Contract safeguards are more than recommended but the actual work process will certainly deviate from the contract many times and it is up to your discretion to decide whether you are giving more than you are getting and is it worth it. Normally a well-established company will not risk its name just to gain some short-term benefit, however this is not the case with Ubisoft. The damage is now done though so most players will think thrice before bying anything Might & Magic-branded coming from Ubisoft.

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DoubleDeck
DoubleDeck


Promising
Legendary Hero
Look into my eyes...
posted April 16, 2012 10:29 AM

Maybe the moderators can find out if Blackhole is indeed not involved with H6 development anymore....

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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 16, 2012 10:59 AM

Quote:
Now let's see your version, Bitula: do I understand correctly that you would have tried to legally threaten UBI based on their contract obligations?


That's not the point. If a milestone is not accepted by the customer development should stop until issues are resolved, this way loss can be minimized for both sides (contract should be terminated before it is too late). The more detailed is the technical specification the easier it is to find a resolution and go on. The customer is not interested in deliberately foiling the project, because it is their own income being at stake. However what you say sounds like UBI is sort of playing against itself or just foils (boycotts) the project for fun, which is, well possible, but hard to believe... So usually it depends on the project management and developers to make the customer satisfied because customers are somewhat erratic (capricious) in nature as we know. Skrum/Agile projects, where development is just loosley based on user requierments without or just with cursory functional specifications are an other issue, but I guess this is not the case, so no need to discuss this part.

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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 16, 2012 01:20 PM

Quote:
First, most work-for-hire developers must sign one-sided contracts (or else they starve to death), and accept terms like "the final schedule and content list will be created based on mutual agreements of the parties later..."


Thats not a problem if the project is broken down into otherwise well defined and well specified milestones which comprise of signed orders/contracts having concrete deadline, concrete prices. It is a problem only if you get paid once for the whole work at the end. But in the latter case  what else would you call it (signing such a contract) if not naivety, unless you seriously signed it just because you do not want to starve to death? I mean I understand that in the latter case you may have no other choice since poverty and unemployment in Hungary is a problem..., but this is very bad for the game, I mean the one called Heroes 6, lol, dont you think so?

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bitula
bitula


Hired Hero
posted April 16, 2012 04:30 PM

Quote:

Dude. How do you break the project into "otherwise well defined and specified milestones" if you do not have a precise schedule and content list when signing the contract? I feel as if you were not hearing me.


Look, I worked as a PM (in Hungary) and know this business. You do not sign a contract without specifying at least one meaningful milestone and you do not start working before anything is being signed. Additional milestones can be negotiated during development, that is normal. This is not idealism, this is the norm for quality projects.

Quote:
Also, in such a situation, you either sign or you don't have a project...


I know, thats what I am saying, you probably should have not taken it. If UBI has such irrational requirements you should not have taken it, then hopefuly no one will take it and an other publisher makes the game within a rational IT buisness process with routine contracts. But if you need the project no matter how harmful it may turn out, thats your problem, right? And it doesn't do any good to the end product, IMO.

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