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  1. #1
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    The mysterious AAA game

    More and more often I find I'm getting asked if I have experience on a published AAA titles.

    So I've been looking for a definition of AAA, and found a mixed bag. Some say it's to do with production value, or budget. Other's say it's to do with sales. Some say it's when the reviews give the game 9/10, And some others say a game is tripple A if it ranks in the top five games of the year, judged by units sold.

    So what exactly does AAA imply?

    Last edited by onionface; September 6th, 2011 at 02:41 PM.
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    I must say I've found this confusing too. For a long time I thought it was an official term but I get the impression it's a more general term for the "bigger" games. I also think it must include more than just the top five games of the year because pretty much all senior positions, and a lot of mid-level, seem to be asking for AAA game experience.

    I mean, I've done some animation and artwork for the games my brother programs as a hobby, but I wouldn't claim to have worked on a AAA game.

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    Take my advice with a gain of salt^, as I do not work in the video games field...

    However, I'd say that by "triple A" they mean a product that has succeeded massively on a commercial scale and, most importantly, required the labor that such a success entails.

    As such, assuming you have not worked upon a AAA product but have the skills to do so, press upon them your punctuality*, your professionalism*, your ability*, your ethic*, so on and so forth*. Back that up with examples from your actual work experience, which may not have been AAA products but you put forth AAA effort. Then offer them contact information to past bosses who can (and would) attest to your quality work.

    I'm not saying this will, work. "Have you worked on a AAA game?" is a screening question meant to weed you out, and some of those agents/clients will write you off immediately. However, there are others who use that question not to screen whether you have the experience but if you have the ability, and my above answer should convince them you might be worth a shot.


    *Some definitions for those terms:

    Punctuality should be understood easily enough. Do you make deadlines. Better yet, do you beat deadlines? They don't want work submitted just under the wire, they'll be sweating wondering whether or not you'll actually do it. They want work early. Also when things go wrong, like massive revisions are required, do you state you'll do it in "x" amount of reasonable time and do it? Early even?

    Professionalism, do you cause problems in the workplace? Do you get wrapped up in other peoples problems? Or do you just do your job and do it well? Granted there is such a thing as workplace drama, and some times you have to deal with it. But when you do have to deal with it, do you handle it as quickly as possible so that you might get back to actual work?

    Ability is straightforward. Are you good at what you do? Do you meet the standards required? I don't think this requires much explanation.

    Ethic is what things like professionalism and punctuality derive from. Do you actually care about doing your job? Would you do your job right? Even if you went unpaid for that extra labor? I'm not asking if you'd work for free, I understand that's unreasonable as would any decent employer.

    However if you genuinely fucked up, and I mean that despite the hours and labor you put into your job your product is not what the client wanted for no fault of their own, would you then take responsibility for your failure? Would you fix it, if able, at no charge simply to deliver what you promised? If unable to fix it, would you offer a discount upon your labor, with suggestion of an artist who could finish the job properly?


    ^I'm not a professional artist, so I can't properly attest to how the workplace will... work. However I do have life experience, and I can say that working with someone that is responsible for their own actions is an exceedingly rare thing.

    If you do good work, and you don't try to dodge your responsibilities, people will want to hire you. There's the adage that it's "who you know, not what you know", and that's true in it's own way. Yet, once you find an opportunity and get to show that you are a responsible person of quality, they will want you.

    And if they don't, well, they probably are looking for cheap labor they could screw out of a check anyhow.

    Good employers, that want quality work from people they can trust, have a tendency to not fuck over whom they hire because they know you get what you pay for. They want someone they can hand a job and know it will be finished on time.

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    Triple A games are games in the top-tier of production value and budget.

    There have been massive commercial successes (like angry birds or minecraft), that are not triple A titles. On the flip side, you have had games that are considered triple A, but that has failed commercially (much of the reason being that the market really only supports a couple of high-budget games at a time. The second biggest seller in a year makes significantly less money than number one, and when you get down to something like the 4th or 5th biggest seller in a year, the profit isn't that great).

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    As far as I know it just means the games were really expensive to make. So I suppose that they're indirectly asking if you charge a lot of money, and if you do that must mean you're good...

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    Quote Originally Posted by onionface View Post
    I've been a working concpet artist/ illustrator for 4 years now, so I'm aware of the process of employment.

    however that is why I was wondering why this AAA thing is suddenly part of the interview process. Because it doesn't mean anything. When you are working on a game it doesn't matter what the budget is or how high it ranked at release, what matters is the work that you did, and the way that you did it.

    And how they can say they want an artist for an upcoming AAA project, how do they know their project will be triple A before they've even started, and they have a track record of unkown games.

    I think what irritates me is how people are using this undefined label as a way to grade themselves and other people.
    Ah, well in that case you already know what I posted. Possibly better than I do.

    Speaking from my life experience, when I see something like "Hiring for gaming company, AAA title experience required" that's right up there with "Hiring for data entry position, Bachelor's degree required". In the former case, they are weeding out a majority of possible applicants by narrowing the field to "those with a degree" and "those who know what they're doing".

    I would presume the same for the "AAA title" line. They are cutting down applications from "everybody and their Uncle" to "those with AAA experience" and "those with confidence". My thought is there has been a sudden influx of applicants within the field, hence the sudden "AAA requirement" to reduce the number of resumes submitted and interviews given.

    Last edited by Anid Maro; September 5th, 2011 at 12:43 PM.
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    Yeah, I think it's just shorthand for "you've worked on a huge team and you know how to do high-poly models and normal/bump/specular/displacement/whatever maps". It's a dumb shorthand and frankly a dumb idea, because anyone who can model low-poly can trivially learn to model high-poly and bake normal maps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by onionface View Post
    More and more often I find I'm getting asked if I have experience on a published AAA titles.
    When I ask the client or agent, what is meant by AAA, the voice on the other end of the line faulters a little and says something along the lines of - Well you know, a games that is AAA.

    So I've been looking for a definition of AAA, and found a mixed bag. Some say it's to do with production value, or budget. Other's say it's to do with sales. Some say it's when the reviews give the game 9/10, And some others say a game is tripple A if it ranks in the top five games of the year, judged by units sold.

    So what exactly does AAA imply?
    And how can such an undefined term be used as some sort of requirement.
    Since you don't know what they mean, and they don't know what they mean, use whatever definition allows you to say "yes."


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  11. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tobbA View Post
    As far as I know it just means the games were really expensive to make. So I suppose that they're indirectly asking if you charge a lot of money, and if you do that must mean you're good...
    I suppose the problem with my earlier definition is that I tried explaining triple A with a term that is vague itself - production value. Money spent can't be the only factor - a team of five people with unlimited funds thrown at them won't make a triple A game.

    Feel free to ignore the rest of my post (or the whole thing for that matter), because I'm about to go out on a limb and start theorizing and thinking aloud.

    Some define production value as the quality of the technical elements of a production. Another way of putting it could be to say that production value is the quality gained by the money spent. For instance, if a production has a big budget - lots of money is being spent on it - but the work being done is shoddy or sub-par, the production value is very low. If a production has limited funds, but is able to put them to good use and get high quality work for the money, it has a very high production value.

    Neither production value nor budget will make a triple A title on its own. But combine the two - a production with a big budget (lots of money) and high production value (good quality for money) - and you have a triple A production.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Since you don't know what they mean, and they don't know what they mean, use whatever definition allows you to say "yes."
    Oh I do


    Hai: Similar to what you've mentioned I assumed that the tripple A meant the same as "best in all catagories". A-grade graphics, play, and design. Something like that.
    But I havn't actually seen that written any where. But still in that case, budget, revenue and team size don't play any part in it, if the tripple A rating is refering to the game itself. So Maybe the Three A's represent the scale, the game, and the revenue. Mysterious.

    What was the first tripple A game then, and who labelled it?

    Last edited by onionface; September 6th, 2011 at 02:37 PM.
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    Actually AAA does mean sales. Angry Birds and Minecraft are definitely AAA games even though they are made with a fraction of the budget of something like Gears of War. That is the definition of a producer at a game developer anyway. My own artist definition basically sums it up as "Is this game a household name with gamers"? If you can say that, then it's most likely considered a AAA game.

    All anyone means when they ask that is "Have you worked on anything of note that I can say "HEY! This guy worked on this really awesome game and this is why you want to hire him!".

    So you really just need to use your best judgement. As Elwell said, use whatever definition suits you if if means the recruiter/client/agent pays more attention to you.

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    Dusty is right, a AAA game is a financially successful critically acclaimed game for that year. How much money you spend on a game that doesn't recoup its money or is panned, shows the lack of ability and is nothing to brag about. So no, how much money you spend is not the benchmark for AAA titles. Quality and sales are the benchmarks. It has always been those two things. Tetris was a AAA game because it made a bazillion dollars. Like everything else nowadays people make up new meanings and redefine things so they can pretend to be successful.

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    Haha, ok, I didn't think the term was vague, but I guess it is. Listen to Dusty and dpaint. I will bow out as I know they have experience in the industry.

    But just for the record, I have never heard sales being the only criteria for a triple A game in my network, which does include working professionals. I'm not trying to argue the point. I'm very sure Dusty and dpaint know their stuff. I'm just saying it seems the term is a little more vague than I first thought.

    (Though dpaint mentions quality, so can I claim half a victory? )

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint
    Like everything else nowadays people make up new meanings and redefine things so they can pretend to be successful.
    While I'm sure that's part of it, I also think the game news media is another part. In their eagerness to announce or declare future triple A titles, they look at things like budgets, production value, history of the developer, publisher, etc., to try to predict a hit. I suppose that their labeling of unreleased games as triple A has given rise to confusion about the term.

    Last edited by Hai; September 6th, 2011 at 03:28 PM.
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  18. #14
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    So does that mean that a new person in the industry who's never worked on a AAA title are blocked from many potential jobs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reutte View Post
    So does that mean that a new person in the industry who's never worked on a AAA title are blocked from many potential jobs?
    No it doesn't just like not having a degree. It doesn't matter if the portfolio rocks, thats why you never stop trying to be the best. Don't put it out there if it isn't up to par or you condemn yourself to low pay and mediocre projects.

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