Who’s Harmonix gonna call?
Most every video game goes through some degree of turmoil en route to becoming a finished product. Creative changes, financial woes, conflict with the publisher — these are all examples of common issues that might cause strain on the development cycle. When getting down to precious months left before Rock Band 4‘s release, Harmonix was put in a tough position by an unexpected source: 2016’s summer blockbuster movie.
This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the event. Harmonix was moving from its long-time Cambridge location to Boston’s financial district. There were fewer than three months left before Rock Band 4‘s release, and even less time before the studio had to submit the game to Sony and Microsoft for certification. It was one of those situations where every working hour matters tremendously.
Even though it was moving offices, Harmonix had a plan in place to minimize downtime. As Rock Band 4 product manager Daniel Sussman tells us, the idea was that at the end of the day on Friday, everyone would unplug all their equipment. Then, the movers would load everything up and take it to the new place. Come Monday morning, the staff would all show up to work, plug their stuff in at their new desks, and get right back to it. Easy peasy, hardly any time lost.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it went down. As it turns out, Ghostbusters was filming in downtown Boston that week. This meant that streets were blocked off and, most importantly to this story, the movers didn’t have the parking access they needed to actually move the studio. Predictably, the movers didn’t seem to care much; they just kind of said “Eh, we can’t do it.”
Harmonix, however, did care. A lot. Sussman says that the team was thrown into a panic. This monkey wrench possibly threatened the on-time delivery of Rock Band 4. Maybe it’s hyperbolic to assert that the loss of one day could’ve caused the game to delay. But, then again, maybe not. As another Harmonix representative put it “The closer you get to submission, the less gracefully you can handle any net down time.” Everyone involved obviously agreed that time was definitely of the essence.
Desperate to turn the situation around, one of the studio’s executives started calling people. Harmonix has a lot of contacts in entertainment; that’s bound to happen when you’ve been working with music publishing rights for as long as it has. Through a convoluted “He knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy” chain of contacts, the request eventually ended up getting to the movie crew. Sussman points out that the crew was “very accommodating” and Harmonix got the parking permit it needed to complete an as-scheduled move.
A full year later — and after the timely release of Rock Band 4 — it’s easy for Sussman to laugh about how it all went down. It could’ve easily been a very different story. Now, when Harmonix employees go to see Ghostbusters, they don’t have to harbor a twinge of resentment toward the movie.