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Crowdsourcing Independent Game Development: A Design Process

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An empirical paper focused on the impact of product development of independent game design through

An empirical paper focused on the impact of product development of independent game design through
the utilization of a process known as crowd-sourcing.

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Crowdsourcing Independent Game Development:  A Design Process Crowdsourcing Independent Game Development: A Design Process Document Transcript

  • Empirical Paper Crowdsourcing Independent Game Development: A Design Process James P. Gnau BIZ 2021 Professor Kutch 08 December 2013
  • Abstract This paper focuses on the impact of product development of independent game design through the utilization of a process known as crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing recruits individuals or large groups from outside an industry or firm for the intention of innovation, product development, and design. An example of the process is applied to independent game studio Portalarium, whom has focused on the integration of crowdsourcing at the core of its business model in the development of ‘Shroud of the Avatar.’ A key underlying factor to generating interest in design processes of product development has significant correlation to motivation. Therefore, a framework for motivational theory examines contributing factors to why individuals participate within crowdsourcing initiatives. An economic perspective highlights elements attributable to the factors of production and production functions involved within the independent game industry. Observations in relation to the opportunity cost, marginal cost, and marginal benefit are taken into comparison when considering economic implications. Furthermore, the rewards through the implementation of crowdsourcing are a win/win situation for a majority of consumers and game developers. Consumers are receiving self-fulfillment from their contribution during the design process, while game developers obtain vital feedback during the design process before a products release. A potential risk of asset creation for game design through crowdsourcing involves the rights to intellectual property and can be a detriment to the final product design if the necessary steps in obtaining licensee are not met.
  • I. Introduction The focus of this research paper will observe the impact that Crowdsourcing has had on independent game development. Specifically this paper will look at the design and implementation of sourcing the crowd for development of a current online computer game entitled, ‘Shroud of the Avatar.’ The paper also gives consideration to motivational theory and constructs to why participants involved in crowd source projects choose to participate. The impact of crowdsourcing will be observed through the application of introductory microeconomic principles and theories learned through course objectives during the semester. Crowdsourcing is an interesting aspect in product development as seen in independent game development. Crowdsourcing allows for constructive input and feedback from the people most willing to commit their valuable time and expertise into the completion of a project and assist the production team in completing milestones. Companies must incorporate business models that allow them to adequately integrate consumers into their design and production. A majority of business models define the consumer through the proposition of the value assessed and simply as a source of revenue (Djelassi & Decoopman, 2013). Portalarium Studios, producer for Shroud of the Avatar, has taken a different approach through a process to integrate consumers into their product design and development. Game design and production through input from consumers is not uncommon. However, very few game developers use crowdsourcing throughout the entire creation of their games, and those who do have not done so on a scale such as that of Portalarium Studios. II. An Historical Perspective of Crowdsourcing A growing trend among early development stage start-up companies and businesses has
  • been the utilization of sourcing the crowd. Crowdsourcing is the act of attaining knowledge, thoughts, or assets required for a project by requesting assistance from an extensive group of people, usually through an online community, rather than employees or suppliers (Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 2013). The ideology behind sourcing the crowd for input and content generation is a recent development within business models. The term ‘crowdsourcing’ was first coined in 2006 by Jeff Howe in an article written for Wired Magazine entitled, ‘The Rise of Crowdsourcing.’ (Howe, The Rise of Crowdsourcing, 2006). III. Shroud of the Avatar Crowdsourcing the World Dependent on the selected business model in place, a variety of businesses and corporate entities have the ability to incorporate crowdsourcing as a function in development of products and services. As an example, Portalarium, Inc. an independent video game developer based in Austin, Texas has successfully demonstrated the use of sourcing the crowd for raising monetary capital and the creation of in game assets. The company reached out to the community for funds to hire staff and a development team for production of the title, ‘Shroud of the Avatar.’ The crowdfunding campaign successfully netted 1.9 million dollars within 30 days. The development team created a crowd driven production model for contributions to the working title. Six programs highlight the development teams’ commitment to direct player contributions. Contributors to the project are able to make a contribution through the Unity platform and Unity Asset Store. Unity is a new age game development tool that allows the purchase of end user generated content and other game development assets without the need to create items from scratch (Long, 2013). The Unity platform cuts out the redundancies within traditional gaming studio design models.
  • Innovations in technology development and the growing presence of online communities has allowed for the creation of dynamic and fluid end user content made available for accessibility within the Unity Asset Store. The Shroud of the Avatar team makes purchases of assets through the Unity Store for in game use as well as generating their own in game content. Individual contributors for the direct intent of creating content for Shroud of the Avatar place their 3D models within a subsection of the Unity Store intended for review by Shroud of the Avatar Developers. The company selects whether the asset is appropriate for the games design and notifies the creator of the art. The artist is compensated through a content reward system which increases the end user’s pledge level within the game itself. Another benefit received by the original artist is the re-use of their submitted content for game development. That is, the end user has the ability to freely redistribute the asset within their personal portfolios or other game development with the requirement to mention the asset was used within Shroud of the Avatar. IV. Motives to Participation in Crowdsourcing Business entities will generally gauge the size and requirements for crowdsourcing within the development process. The process design assists recruiting contributors who are interested and have the required skills to participate (Djelassi & Decoopman, 2013). Motivation is a contributing factor for consideration from the crowd on collaboration of an open source project such as assisting in the design processes of an online game. The crowd chooses to participate in the development process based on specific motivations (Battistella & Nonino, 2012). There is a significant correlation between motivational theory and productivity design. The attributions for motivation vary from person to person and can differ by the amount and type of motivation required. Divisions of motivation are based on understanding attitudes, reasoning, and objectives that encourage individuals to perform and behave in a certain manner (Battistella & Nonino,
  • 2012). Motivation of the crowd is an intricate division within the formulation of productivity models for development processes. A framework in developing a productivity model for motivation can be subdivided into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors. Intrinsic motives consider individual and social motivations. Extrinsic motives consider economic, individual and social motivations (Battistella & Nonino, 2012). Applying this framework to the decision of the crowd to assist Portalarium with development of their game design interprets an intrinsic perspective to motivation. While motivation can be viewed as a contributing factor to the crowds decision to participate within open source projects, there are economic implications from the perspective of the business entity that must be considered V. Discussion of Economic Processes within Crowdsourcing Traditional production models of game studio design hire and retain the talented artist and programmers required to produce a product from start to finish. Development of game design prior to recent technologically innovations within the last decade have been time consuming and costly to developers. Factors of production for game design studios account for fixed and variable input cost. Traditionally fixed cost associated with developing a game title requires human capital, software, hardware, and infrastructure. The recent innovative technologies developed have created a shift in the paradigm for game design production. Production of game titles within studios have become streamlined with the introduction of web-based platforms that utilize the capabilities to outsource or crowdsource portions of working titles and remain consistently interconnected throughout the process. Game developers utilizing a crowdsourcing and crowd funding model in tangent are able to capture greater revenue and market share in a shorter amount of time from initial design to final product release.
  • Increased production functions through the utilization of innovative technologies allow game developers the opportunity to generate significant amounts of revenue. Game development and design is a labor intensive endeavor. The artist and programmers may tire in performing their task which would cause the marginal cost to increase, but at the same time the marginal cost could decrease with improved experience processes (Horton & Chilton, 2010).The marginal cost of implementing new technologies into the production function to capture marginal revenue can be offset through a combination of crowd funding and crowdsourcing business models. Another economic factor as to whether the crowd chooses to include themselves within a crowdsourcing endeavor relies heavily upon the associated opportunity cost. . In applying opportunity cost to production a person will work only when the realized benefits from labor is in excess of the perceived realized benefits from their next-best decision, whether as employment, recreational or a career change (Horton & Chilton, 2010). If the marginal cost increases due to a lapse within internal production functions; it would be plausible to weigh the opportunity cost of sourcing the crowd as an alternative means to lower the marginal cost. VI. Benefits and Detriments within Crowdsourcing The inclusion of crowdsourcing within a business model holds benefits as well as risk and detriments. Consumers that are part of the process of the game design and development through crowdsourcing in the case of Shroud of the Avatar are rewarded with benefits extending from self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction. The experience gained from the time spent on developing asset contributions may also benefit the individual in obtaining professional credentials that can be deployed to other studios for consideration of future opportunities. Independent game developers through the use of crowdsourcing have a chance to establish a connection with the consumer to create a design and product with feedback
  • throughout the entire development process. The recognition of development design flaws and system integrations in the early stages of development through contributor feedback gives certainty that the game development remains on schedule for the design studio. The persistent state of exchange between developer and consumer within the design process gives a competitive advantage to the game developer in delivery an award winning design that could lead to industry recognition and product placement. Developing and designing a game through technologically innovative design processes like crowdsourcing holds some risk and detriments. Crowdsourcing is primarily considered a cost cutting innovation for research and development within an industry. When applied to an independent game development model the research and development cost structure is comparable to creation and submission of in game asset contributions. Assets submitted to the development team for consideration fall into the category as being either art or music. Art and music developed through individual talent is a form of intellectual property. In order to mitigate legal risk developers at Portalarium have chosen to return those rights to the contributors, thus mitigating such risk. Other business entities considering crowdsourcing product design or development will need to consider any associated risk in regards to dealing with intellectual property right disputes or claims. VII. Summary Crowdsourcing has shifted the paradigm and focus of traditional business models within the independent game development industry. The decision by executives to harness the source of the crowd has reduced the need for internally developed research and development production functions. From concept, to design, to the finished production of Shroud of the Avatar, the studio team has sourced the crowd throughout the development process.
  • A framework of motivational theory suggests intrinsic motives of contributors considered individual and social motivations in making the decision to participate within the game design process. The economic factors of production within a typical game design studio require the input of human capital, software, hardware as well as infrastructure. Additionally, the production function can be considerably altered with the inclusion of technological innovation such as crowdsourcing. Intellectual property rights are considered the most evident form of known risk associated with designing assets for game design use. Consumers and business entities are rewarded through improved processes of development, self-fulfillment, and professional career opportunities. VIII. Conclusion Crowdsourcing remains a relatively new phenomenon which has allowed traditional business models to evolve and transform internal processes that could not have been otherwise achieved prior to technological innovations. The impact that sourcing the crowd has had on specific industries such as the independent game development industry presented in this paper, could enrich the emerging research and study given to crowdsourcing. Although this paper focuses on a specific industry in relation to crowdsourcing, the subject matter gives rise to many questions. This paper gives consideration to the factors of motivation through a framework that motivate participates within crowdsourcing to be actively engaged in the process of design and feedback. It would be worthwhile to compare a group of individuals and measure their response (motives) dependent on being randomly assigned a crowdsource project to participate in. Additionally this paper considered economic considerations of the Marginal Cost and Benefits involved in the production function of independent game design. Research into a more
  • precise measurement as to the extent in which the production process has improved with the introduction of technological innovations could prove important. Finally this paper discussed the implications of revenue in relation to the production function of the game design industry. A comparable analysis into the long run versus short run production on the basis of utilizing crowd funding could yield an informative analysis for expanding production through a low average variable cost to businesses.
  • References Battistella, C., & Nonino, F. (2012). Open innovation web-based platforms: The impact of different forms of motivation on collaboration. Innovation: Management, policy & practice, 14(4), 557-575. Bloodgood, J. (2013). Crowdsourcing: Useful for Problem Solving, But What about Value Capture? Academy of Management Review, 38(3), 455-457. Djelassi, S., & Decoopman, I. (2013). Customers' participation in product development through crowdsourcing: Issues and implications. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(5), 683- 692. Encyclopedia Britannica Company. (2013). crowdsourcing. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crowdsourcing Handrahan, M. (2013, October 08). Richard Garriott: The power of crowd-sourced development. Retrieved from gamesindustry Intenational: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013- 10-08-richard-garriott-the-power-of-crowd-sourced-development Horton, J., & Chilton, L. (2010). The Labor Economics of Paid Crowdsourcing. Electronic Commerce(June 7-11), 209-218. Howe, J. (2006). The Rise of Crowdsourcing. Wired. Retrieved from www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html Howe, J. (2008). Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business. New York: Crown Business. Long, S. (2013, September 20). Shroud of the Avatar Dev Journals: Crowdsourcing the World. Retrieved from MMORPG: http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/935/feature/7788/Shroud-of-the-Avatar- Crowdsourcing-the-World.html Tokarchuk, O., Cuel, R., & Zamarian, M. (2012). Analyzing Crowd Labor and Designing Incentives for Humans in the Loop. IEEE Computer Society(September/October 2012), 45-51. Whitson, J. (2011). The 'Console Ship is Sinking' and What this Means for Indies. The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association, 7(11), 122-129.