On Credits

From a thread on NeoGAF about excessively long credits:

Alright, just beat the game! It’s time for credits!

Alright! There’s the game directors and producers!
And the development team!
And the voice actors!
And the testers!

That should about wrap it… wait, it keeps going?

Oh, the localization team.
And the localization teams for every region……
And there’s the CEO of the company…..
And all the other chief executives…..
And the marketing and PR people…
And I guess you can’t forget all the babies born during development.
And all the single lines that members of the dev team get to put in to thank their families and the snack food companies….
And lastly…. the Special Thanks

Jesus. Those credits took what, 20 minutes to get through?

The sad truth of it is, the average game developer has little control over the credits. As much as it should be a continued part of the “game” experience, there’s just too much fighting against the average game to expect anything more than simple, long credit roll:

Too Expensive

It’s very unusual for a design with a credit sequence to survive pre-production. Every game out there has at least a dozen things that are in the “want” pile instead of the “need” pile, and credits are so low on the importance ladder that they are cut early, if not first. (I’ve only once worked on a game where credits were even factored into the schedule.) As a result, most games with creative or interactive credits are typically AAA projects that had enough people waiting around with time on their hands at the end of production. The games that do find time for credit sequences usually have either a particularly creative production team (ie: Nintendo) or are projects controlled by auteurs (ie: Quantic Dream).

Publisher’s Buck

Whereas many developers tend to compress theirs up to avoid disagreement over title (that’s why you may see 3-5 people under, say, “Designer”), publishers are typically exact and specific. Instead of “Marketing Team” and 5 people listed there, it’s Assistant to the Executive Marketer, Vice-Assistant to the Executive Marketer, and so on. Everybody at the publisher gets credited, and your milestone payment depends on it.  (It is, however, pretty rare to find any sort of clause about making them non-skippable; that you can typically blame on the developer.)

Politics

On the developer side, there’s a a sort of dirty politics that comes into play when it comes to who gets credited and for what. It’s really different depending on the studio, but it’s not unheard of for developers to strike people from the credits (or move them to special thanks) because they didn’t stay at the studio until the game was finished. (Say what you will about unions, but this is one thing that gets nailed down in film.) I’ve actually known more than one developer who has actually had language in their work contract regarding how they should appear in the credits.

Special Thanks are a bit more of a mixed bag. Some studios will let developers add one or more people to the list rather freely, while others will strictly control it, saving spots for developers who left early, or to give thanks to people from ownership or the publisher team. In anything short of an indie studio, it’s very rare for an individual developer to have any control over what goes in.

…Okay, But We Still Need Credits

Okay, credits are more of a film thing in origin. But we still need them. We need to credit the people who spent so much time making these games. Even when they’re long or full of problems listed above, credits are our proof of what we contributed. (Hell, every game should have it easily accessible from the options menu.) But that doesn’t mean every game needs a 10 minute, cut-to-black roll after the final boss.

My thinking? Just because we’re at the “end” of the experience doesn’t mean the gameplay should come to a crashing halt. It doesn’t need to be difficult; hell, it doesn’t even need to be the same gameplay as the main game. But there should be something for the player to do – a “thank you” letter in game form from the developer to the gamer who spent so much time on the game we worked so hard to build. Take a cue from social games – do whatever it takes to shout “come back, we miss you!”

Just cutting to the credits on a black screen feels roughly equivalent to texting “kthxbye”.

Further Study