Conversations around Metroid dread have been mostly positive since its launch, but a recent topic that has generated a lot of controversy and criticism from developer MercurySteam has been the game’s credits. Many participants in the game said they were not listed, and the developer responded to clarify their internal policies. His statement is below.
Studio policy requires everyone to work on the project. [for] at least 25% of the overall development of the game should appear in the end credits … sometimes exceptions are made for exceptional contributions.
There are problems with this policy, so let’s summarize a few points of view. The two contributors who reported their case online listed their periods at the company as 8 and 11 months, so the latter is probably overlooked as the project has been in development for about four years or more.
The problem with a threshold like “25% of total development” is how vague and open to abuse it is – when does a development project start? When did MercurySteam first discuss Dread with Nintendo, or perhaps they took the initiative to create the presentation? Or perhaps it dates back to the moment when the most detailed thinking and planning of the game begins. The fact is that all of them, perhaps, are “starting points” and can greatly influence the definition of the period of its development.
Another problem is that you can work 11 months on a project when it is at full speed, in its most productive phase, contributing a lot to the wider game, and this metric cannot be counted on. It is also a very common practice in game development to attract new employees and contractors on fixed and short-term contracts. Temporary staff play an important role in all areas of working life, of course, but when producing large games, the size of a studio can increase dramatically in a relatively short period of time to propel it forward, and then those contracts expire and many workers then look for the next opportunity. We don’t know if it was here, but it is an general.
As outlined in Eurogamer article on this topic, this has happened in various companies, so it would be inappropriate to portray MercurySteam as a lone intruder in this regard; in many ways, the company follows its own industry code. And it’s not just retail / triple tier; Me and Keith Gray on the NL team have worked in the development and publishing of indie games in the past and discussed the loan issue earlier this year. Even in very small teams, there is controversy around these confessions, and those who fill multiple roles or contribute but then move on are sometimes ignored or placed in a generic “Special Thanks” section. Discussing the name of a loan can be as difficult as including the name in the first place.
Why is it important? Well, first of all, the lack of proper assessment may be hurting someone’s career. For anyone in the industry, every job, every contract contributes to a portfolio that helps them move up the career ladder. It seems unfair that someone would say they’ve been working on a game for almost a year, only to potential employers who then watch the credits and don’t see their name. To find the equivalent in the website space, it would be like having my articles from my first time at Nintendo Life removed when I went to publish for 3 years. It would be unfair (and of course it didn’t!).
The problem is how normal it has become for publishers and game developers of all sizes to ignore or play down the contributions to their games. This does happen in other creative industries (movies, music, books, the same debate arises in these areas), but perhaps worse in games, because it is still a young and somewhat immature industry. There are trade unions and representative bodies that try to protect creators of all stripes in other industries, but in the gaming industry we are still at a stage where we mainly rely on organizations that provide protection and awareness but do not have strong influence. There is no real control or universal standards for how depositor loans work, so every company manages it effectively. The problem is that not all industry leaders are inclined towards fair policies.
What solution? In the absence of industry standards, we have to rely on business owners and project managers to “do the right thing”. As we emphasized above, MercurySteam’s policies (for example, they are certainly not the worst) are too vague and potentially unfair. Ultimately, the fixed window should be enough, just as the trial period works when you start a new job. Should it be 3 months or 6 months? Is this long enough for someone to definitely make a contribution that deserves full gratitude?
I think so, but I also think that I should discuss this with some developers and project managers and learn from their experiences. Either way, a fixed time frame, rather than a clumsy unconventional policy, seems fairer for creators of all stripes. Whether it’s scripting, editing, coding, concept art, whatever, too many creators of their favorite games go unnoticed.
After all, this is an industry-wide problem. Undoubtedly, there are game developers and publishers who properly trust people, so the industry needs to learn from them. Everyone is trying to create and enjoy awesome video games, it’s a passion and a way of life. When someone contributes to this wonderful environment, they deserve recognition.