Game studios are relentless when it comes to improvement. They are constantly searching for ways to develop games better, faster, and in the most innovative ways possible. One strategy that a number of studios have taken on is to develop internal tools that help them improve operations, specifically for dialogue and narrative management. And while this approach does have its benefits, it sometimes comes at a higher cost than what was expected.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of developing and maintaining internal dialogue tools for game studios.
👍 Pros of Developing Internal Dialogue Tools
As expected, creating your own tools will have benefits that only a tailored solution may offer. These benefits include:
- Customization: Developing internal tools means you can customize the solutions based on your specific needs. You have complete control over the design and functionality, which leads to something that's perfectly suited to your workflow.
- Efficiency: By creating your own tools, you can automate repetitive tasks relevant to your specific way of working.
- Intellectual Property: Developing internal tools helps protect a studio's intellectual property. By keeping development in-house, it’s easier to ensure that everything remains confidential.
👎 Cons of Developing Internal Dialogue Tools
Of course, there are drawbacks for taking on the development of internal tools. These include:
- Opportunity Cost: Time spent on the creation of internal tools takes away from time spent developing games. It’s important to weigh the potential benefits of having the tool against the time and resources needed to make it.
- Maintenance: Developing internal tools isn't a one-time investment. Like any software, your tools will need ongoing maintenance and updates. This demands a long-term commitment of resources which can conflict with other company objectives down the road.
- Expertise: Developing internal tools requires specialized expertise. If you don’t have the right people in-house, you may need to hire additional staff or external developers. This can add significant costs to the entire process.
How to Calculate the Opportunity Cost
When calculating the opportunity cost of building internal dialogue tools there are a number of factors to consider:
- Estimate the total cost of development, including the time, money, and resources required.
- Determine the potential benefits, such as time savings, increased efficiency, and improved workflow. Estimate the monetary value of each benefit.
- Consider the potential alternative uses of the time, money, and resources required. Then estimate the potential value of those alternative uses.
- Compare the value of those alternative uses against the benefits of the internal tool.
- Apply other factors thoughtfully—like the need to hire third-party contractors and potential long-term maintenance costs.
Of course opportunity cost calculations are only an estimate, the actual costs and benefits almost always show up differently in the real world.
Consider the Time to Value
Another consideration to factor in when planning an internal dialogue tool is the Time to Value (TTV). This is a metric that measures the duration between when a user first engages with a product or service and when they start getting the desired benefits or outcomes. A shorter TTV is generally better since it indicates a faster return on investment and a higher likelihood that the user will actually enjoy the product.
To calculate TTV, there are two steps:
- Establish the internal software’s value milestone. This could be when a new user achieves a certain outcome or your product has a positive impact.
- Measure the elapsed time between the first user interaction to the value milestone.
Tracking TTV can help studios:
- Identify bottlenecks
- Improve onboarding processes
- Enhance product usability
- Optimize overall customer experience
- Provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of a product or service in delivering value
- Drive continuous improvement efforts
Is Developing an Internal Dialogue or Narrative Management Tool Right for Your Studio?
While game studios can see impressive benefits from developing native software solutions, it’s important first to calculate the opportunity cost of creating these tools. Before embarking on the development of internal tools, studios need to make sure the benefits outweigh the resources required, both now and in the long term. Ultimately, the decision to develop internal tools will depend on the unique needs and circumstances of each studio.
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