eli5: how does AAA game development work?


When I fire up call of duty there is listed approximately 50 or 60 companies in the opening sequence, yet streamers only ever refer to treyarch. Then I fire uo Witcher 3, and there is credited nearly no companies by comparison yet it is one of best games to come out of the last 6 years. How does AAA game development work?

In: Technology

Cut the game up into tiny little pieces and have multiple studios work on them and put them together. This is what needs to happen when you are literally pumping out a new call of duty every 24 months (the teams usually release a new call of duty every 2 years offset)

They basically work the same way as an indie studio but they can just toss millions of dollars at their problems to try and fix them.

Well, the answers pretty simple, 50 or 60 companies where mentioned because 50 or 60 companies where involved in the production pipeline.

Maybe Activision has a penchant to outsorce a lot of development work.

As for why a streamer would only mention Treyarch and not the other companies think about it, assuming your numbers weren’t exaggerated imagine how long it would take to list out 50 or 60 companies, their involvements likely aren’t significant enough to warrant mentioning, nor would their audience care.

As for why Whitcher 3 is better, ignoring the subjectivity of your opinion, it possible that CDprojekt red had a better production pipeline (feels wrong to say considering Cyberpunk), or the projects scope was just smaller.

Treyarch does the black ops series. Treyarch is a studio. Infinity Ward does the modern warfare series. Both are published by Activision. Activision is owned by Blizzard.

Behind the scenes, parts of the game are farmed out to other services. Things like anti-cheat, lobby and server maintenance are examples of this. It all adds up to multiple entries in the credits.

Witcher 3 is a much simpler game. I don’t believe it has online play. It could have fewer publishers in the ownership chain.

AAA is a loose/informal term that describes larger studios with large development and marketing budgets. That’s all.

There’s no one answer really there are different valid approaches. A game like call of duty that has yearly releases tends to have different studio’s working on different parts of the game. It’s the only way they can actually get a whole game out every year. Also some of the companies and logos you will see during a start up splash screen won’t development studios that worked on the game.

A game may use a particular engine like Unreal for example so they have to include that on the startup of their game. Same thing with Unity for example. Maybe they use a certain technology to display video inside the game and that has to be shown as part of using it. Different technologies and resources that get used tend to have requirements that they be credited in a few ways so that adds more logos.

You could very easily have one studio do the development of a AAA and still have a bunch of logos on startup. Ultimately AAA is more about how much money is going in and the expected return on investment that is expected out of a game.

It’s not easy nor cheap for a company to do everything single piece of software it needs all by itself, so often people opt to buy technologies created by others. You mentioned Witcher 3, so i booted it up and check some of the tools they showed

Simplygon (3D graphics optimization), SpeedTree (nature simulation), Wwave (audio management), Umbra (another optimisation tech) and some more

If they didn’t use them and had to create everything from scratch, it’s safe to assume they would spend few more years (and dollars) developing the game.

So if you ever see some of the logos next time you boot up your game, know they’re just some much needed tools that helped make the game.