UPDATE: EA pleasantly surprised me this morning with a delivery of my plaque and a copy of the game. Thanks for doing the right thing EA!
March 1st went by and I didn’t even notice that the last game I worked on for EA was released on Tuesday. Fight Night Champion is now in stores for the Xbox 360 and PS3. There are several reasons why I nearly forgot the game was out this week. First, no one from EA even bothered to contact me for a free copy of the game. Usually whenever a developer works on a game for a substantial amount of time (and my six months seems substantial enough) they get a free copy. I suppose they thought I didn’t count because I no longer work for EA and out of sight means out of mind. To be fair, I never really felt like I belonged on the Fight Night team and I could never shake the feeling I was always viewed as a disposable project resource. From the first day I showed up to work for the Fight Night team to the last day when they handed me a box to collect my things, there wasn’t a single day where I felt like I fit in on that team. Very few people on that team really understood what kind of software engineer I was capable of being, so I was stuck doing thankless work that the other software engineers looked down upon for those six months. There were numerous times the other software engineers on that team asked me if I was a junior engineer when they found out what I was working on. Yeah thanks buddy.
So if they weren’t willing to give me a free copy of the game, what do you think the chances are that EA is going to give me a plaque to recognize that I worked on the game? The chances are probably very slim. If you’re not familiar with game development, it’s customary for companies to give people who worked on the game a plaque to recognize their work on the title. It usually has a nice frame and inside that frame is a game disc, the cover art, and a little plate with your name on it. I doubt they’d bother to make a plaque for me, after all, I was about as important to the Fight Night team as condoms are to members of a Dungeons and Dragons club.
Now if you’re wondering what kind of game development team makes plaques for people, even if they’ve been laid off or quit, well that team would be the skate team. Before skate 3 shipped EA had to unfortunately lay off several of my co-workers. Nevertheless, plaques were made out to everyone who worked on the game, even if they left the company one way or another. There was a considerable effort to get the plaques out to people who were no longer working for EA. Those plaques were sent by FedEx, which isn’t a cheap way of delivering things. The feeling is, once you’ve worked on the skate team, you’ll always be part of the skate family. That might sound like some empty line but it’s true. About twice a year, we get together at a bar to catch up and talk about the good old days. It doesn’t matter if you only worked on the original skate for six months or if you worked on all three games, you’re part of the family now, so let’s imbibe some alcohol together. We’ve actually had people who now live in Montreal come back to Vancouver to meet up again. The next event is actually this month, skate Paddy’s Day! We’ve done a St. Patrick’s Day thing for about the last four years or so.
The last thing I’m curious about is if my name made it into the credits for Fight Night Champion. From past experience, my name should be in there. If it is there, it definitely won’t be in the main list of programmers. I joined the project late and because I was laid off, I wasn’t even around to see it completed. Under circumstances like this, programmers in my situation usually have their names in the credits under the heading “Additional Programming”. Then again, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they completely left my name off the credits.
Finally, if you want to know if I recommend Fight Night Champion to anyone, I really can’t answer that question. I got stuck working on part of the game that had nothing to do with the actual game play, you know the part when you actually do the boxing? In six months, I didn’t even play the new mode they have in the game that features Eliza Dushku. The reviews, however, have been pretty good, so keep that in mind. If you do pick it up, let me know how it is and I would appreciate if someone would tell me if I made it into credits.