AAA game development can be 'soul-crushing,' says Warren Spector

Deus Ex, Epic Mickey designer says working on big-budget games is "a lot less fun than making games should be."


The process of making big-budget, AAA games can be a challenging endeavor that breaks a person's spirits. That's according to Deus Ex and Epic Mickey designer Warren Spector, who told Games Industry International that developing such projects comes with many burdens.

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"As cool as triple-A games are, the time and money that go into them now is just soul-crushing, at least for me," Spector said. "There are so many voices you have to listen to, so many legitimate stakeholders; it's just a lot less fun than making games should be."

Spector is recently jobless, after Disney shuttered Junction Point Studios at the end of January. The industry veteran does not know what he plans to do next.

According to Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios creative director Stefan Ljungqvist, big-budget games are here to stay, though they may decrease in number.

"I don't think big-budget games are going away," Ljungqvist said this week. "There's going to be less of them. But that's a good thing, because maybe we don't need 40 first-person shooters. I don't want to play them all [laughs], but maybe we need one, two or three."

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Avatar image for lithus

Soul Crushing was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution...what a mess. (first thing I noticed besides the crappy everything was how huge everyones hands were!)

Avatar image for slimskelter

@lithus I didn't like it at first, but later gave it a second chance and ended up loving it.

Avatar image for Gravity_Slave


Im sure that's what they say about prison sex.

Avatar image for Hrodwulf666

Plus I recon that its worse than he lets on.... he didn't know what he was doing before he began work on a mickey effing mouse title...

Avatar image for Hrodwulf666

Your career choice mate... You've been pretty instrumental so far in pushing games towards the AAA bar. Devs cant start complaining,, then expect just as much money from us for less work. Spectre... System Shock 3 please and be thorough with it!

Avatar image for Nightrain50

Playing games should be fun not making them. It is a job isn't it. Hard work isn't supposed to be fun. My job isn't fun. Quit crying.

Avatar image for Argentumlupus1

@Nightrain50 If the developers don't enjoy their work, then that lack of passion translates into the game. Them enjoying their job is critical for you're enjoyment of the game. You're job is simply to make money.

Avatar image for Nightrain50

@Argentumlupus1 @Nightrain50 I've got some ocean front property in Arizona, and if you'll buy that I'll throw the golden gate in free.

Avatar image for cachinscythe

@Nightrain50 @Argentumlupus1 Try addressing his point instead of deflecting the issue by making yourself sound like a jerk. And I'll purchase that ocean front at a reasonable price. How much for it? $50?

He's right. When people don't enjoy what they're doing, it translates into crappy output. People have to have passion for what they're doing. It doesn't mean things will be fun all the time; no argument there. But I don't believe people go to work for 8 hours a day unless they're getting SOMETHING out of it emotionally, whether that's the recognition that they can take care of themselves from the money they earn or they get genuine satisfaction from the work, or they suffer through it and look back and realize it was worth it for those couple small moments when they experienced joy, people don't work just because they have to.

But feel free to prove me wrong by mentioning the thousand ways you hate your job and the zero reasons you find it worthwhile. I'll retract what I just said.

Avatar image for Poodger

This is why indie games are so amazing. They have charm and personality because the people behind it enjoy making it.

Avatar image for lithus


lol I dunno about "amazing". Have you sorted thru the XBL idie arcade section recently? Theres a game about "high fiving" with your avatar. That's just high five.

Avatar image for dzimm

After his last two duds, it's funny that Warren Spector still thinks he makes AAA games.

Avatar image for Glic2K


Avatar image for lex_in_the_moon

"maybe we don't need 40 first-person shooters. I don't want to play them all [laughs], but maybe we need one, two or three"
this, lol

Avatar image for Sakarnen

It couldn't be more true though, we desperately need first-person shooters. Seriously, the only playable fps's in the past 15 years were Serious Sam, Return to Wolfenstein, Red Faction 1, and Half Life 2.

Avatar image for ultramega9

@Sakarnen @lex_in_the_moon So, games like Battlefield, deus ex human revolution, and payday aren't playable, but Call of duty: Scientist warfare is?

Avatar image for MrMan2000

@Sakarnen So what you're saying is your opinion on all the "unplayable" games is based on the fact you didn't play them? In other words you're just spouting totally uninformed opinions as if they're fact.

Welcome to the interwebz! You'll fit right in!

Avatar image for Sakarnen

@ultramega9 well obviously that was an enormously generalized statement, but ya, that's my taste at least. I haven't played any of the Deus Ex's (they don't look bad), but I've never touched CoD with a 40ft pole.

My main point is that the genre is actually under-saturated, not over-saturated (once you weed out the crap)

Avatar image for RhythmAndBlues

@Sakarnen You honestly believe that *all* other first-person shooters were crap...?

Everyone's entitled to an opinion, mate. But that's bollocks.

Avatar image for ChiefFreeman

Too bad Warren Spector hasn't made any "AAA" games in a long time. His best days are long behind him.

Avatar image for theKSMM

@ChiefFreeman Even if that were true, he would still be a Hall of Fame Game Designer.

Avatar image for MoronGotMyName

Suggestion: kickstart a spiritual sequel to the two older Deus Ex games where I can kill children once again.

Avatar image for vadagar1

and what is he wearing D:


Avatar image for Vroomvroom77

Sorry for the double post.

Avatar image for OHGFawx

@Vroomvroom77 The double post was your apology for the double post.

Avatar image for Vroomvroom77

Fewer AAA titles would be fine with me. However, I am tired of lesser quality games having the same price point.

Avatar image for rfalstad

Not enough time to play all these excellent games, there is just so many. If the quality goes down we will have a stockpile to catch up on.

Avatar image for Crush_Project

interesting. And here i find most of those aaa games to be soul crushing to play as well....

Avatar image for botsio

i agree with Mr. Spector!the worst part is getting ur hard work rubbished by critics in their reviews!we've seen a lot of games suufer that last year and this year alone!

Avatar image for aussiemuscle

@botsio Yes, i imagine the guy who programmed E.T felt the same.

Avatar image for vadagar1

then stop spending cash on pointless crap

Avatar image for ShagsterP

One word of advice for him? Kickstarter. Best thing to hit the gaming scene so far this decade.

Avatar image for OHGFawx

@ShagsterP Its begun the gaming renaissance. Now we can invest in the games we want, and ignore the crap that is made for general appeal in the hopes of banking millions in profit. The biggest problem with AAA titles today is they don't care if you even like the game, as long as you bought it, they got your money, and that's all that matters. They exhaustively hype their product, and once its out, f**k what you think about it because they shipped 3 million copies.

Avatar image for Darthexodus

@OHGFawx which is why people may want to wait until the reviews are out to avoid investing in crap. Kick starter is a good idea ATM or will be until it gets abused like dlc. It all started great a few extra features for a few bucks which could breath a little life back into an older game. What is not acceptable is content created during development with the sole purpose of being sold to us at a later date sometimes only a week after release

Avatar image for polishfish

@OHGFawx @Darthexodus yah i've backed the new Torment game, Project Eternity, Mage's Initiation, and Kronos...

Kickstarter is filled with RPG games cause they're probably cheaper to make (requires more writers and fewer high end graphics mages)...but the money they're starting to pull in- Torment with $4.2ish million is the best funded video game ever on KS- is SO FAR from AAA game status...

so far....

Avatar image for OHGFawx

@Darthexodus Which is precisely why I will never purchase a season pass. I buy DLC on a very limited basis, I'm not prepaying for disappointment.

Avatar image for franzito

So AAA are just for profit purposes..?

Avatar image for juboner

they shouldnt compare there games with COD halo. if they wanted to they could make fun games without that much resources

Avatar image for PDXmauler97

I agree with this. Indie games are usually a lot more creative/interesting than AAA games anyways.

Avatar image for silvergol

Just learn to make good HD games and not crap of 1970!.

Avatar image for tightwad34

Yeah, well anything can be soul crushing if you let it.

Avatar image for polishfish

@tightwad34 lol that's pretty doofusy to say. there's a lot more real-world concern with AAA games...if they fail, they can bring down huge #s of jobs and even companies

Avatar image for tightwad34

@polishfish I was just making an obvious generalization which I tend to do quite often. But I completely understand what you are saying. And I think you may have made up a new word, doofusy. At least I have never heard or seen it before.

Avatar image for 00LiteYear

"games shouldn't have to be anything. In the end, all that matters is "was it effective?"

Avatar image for Lost-to-Apathy

Well, I think he crushed his soul to death a long time ago. He hasn't made anything with soul since he left Ion Storm.

Avatar image for hoplayletsplay

Work is not always fun.


Avatar image for TheCyborgNinja

LOL... He probably thinks the Epic Mickey games are AAA...

Avatar image for davidsworld3

macross you are retarted. This guy makes a crap load more and for those hours I doubt he is putting as much time as he claims. He probably has a huge house, plenty of vacation in the year, and has a whole team to help him with his job. I work hard long hours myself in a factory though nice pay not half as much as this guy who makes crap games now.

Avatar image for Viper_J

@davidsworld3 You talk like that because, obviously, you don't know a thing about software development. You know how many hours a week these men and women have to pour to make an average game? Software development more often than not involves people having to work afterhours and going home late. Many times, they have to work during the weekends. It involves thinking way too much while sleeping few hours. And yet, the game /software can turn out to be "crap" as you called it.

Some people always believe that they are the most hardworking on the planet and their jobs are more demanding than anyone else's. I would like to see you working in software development instead of a factory, you'd wish you could go back to the factory.

Avatar image for davidsworld3

@macross61 I've been through that, my job can leave you depressed with the work load, but once in a while we get a break, right now just had a week paid lay off, and been working only 40 hour weeks which is nice, but you end up missing the overtime after a while when you want to do splurge on stuff like games and gadgets for the house.

Honestly I'd take 50 hour weeks, give you that extra cash without completely destroying your week.

Basically I know how he feels but I imagine they make a ton of money though, and they probably all have way nicer houses to live in than most of us will in our lifetimes. I make good money but I doubt I make quite as much ast hey do most I've made without a lot of overtime is like 23 bucks an hour. With decent over time and proper bonus production almost 30, but it never last long enough to really build up.