The old days of developers releasing a game -- "put it in a box, pay £50, that's it, move on" -- are over, according to Square Enix's Jim Blackhurst, as gaming moves towards the more "iterative" model pioneered by mobile gaming.
Gaming is becoming a big data problem, as online multiplayer sessions and always-on consoles let developers keep track of players like never before. Square Enix starting doing this in 2007, Jim Blackhurst tells Wired.co.uk, because the company's developers were "interested to see if the decisions we had made as designers were being played out in reality".
By the time Deus Ex: Human Revolution shipped, Square Enix had developed the infrastructure it needed to both absorb all the information that was coming in and to analyse it in a meaningful way. Jelinek said: "Jim was asked to produce some statistics like how many kilometres players drove, and he had to look at all the data we had gathered since the beginning. The kernel ran and it took something like three weeks to run that single query."
Now, that same query can take around two minutes with a MongoDB database hosted on a cloud server. The implications for how Square Enix develops games are intriguing, as it significantly simplifies and speeds up much of a game's development. Something that was initially meant to be a reactive way of tracking player activity became something more proactive, a way of collecting and archiving information on actual gameplay elements. It lets Square Enix's studios create what are essentially templates that its developers know have already been tested and shown to work on other titles.