This topic has always intrigued me, as very few people are mentally ambidextrous (e.g., excel at both analytical/logic & artistic/creative tasks). It would seem that division of labor would be the common solution to this, even if split between just two people. And then it hit me: (almost) all of these games were originally produced by teams, so what's the biggest difference between them and us?
They got paid to produce those games. We do not get paid to hack. Moreover, all of the usual reasons group efforts fall apart or just don't get off the ground to begin with can be explained by the $ Factor. Motivation? Money's a prime motivator, easily on par with sex and euphoria. Territorial micturation? Money's a reliable ego-soother. Communication? When money's on the line, people tend to not hesitate in reaching out and touching someone.
The only pitfall of Group Hacking efforts not
explained by fiduciary concerns is also the one not
experienced by the original programming teams: Intercalation. We're working with a finished product; they weren't. Thus, if something about Game Element X
conflicts or is otherwise affected by Game Element Y
, it's totally our problem to deal with. The Zelda
franchise is an excellent example of intercalation in play. Just coming off a major Zelda
hack myself, I cannot overestimate the number of times I had to deal with graphics conflicting with palettes, palettes conflicting with level design, level design conflicting with game script, game script conflicting with music, music conflicting with sound effects, sound effects conflicting with graphics (yes, that actually happened), etc., etc., ad nauseum. Add raw 6502 assembly code to the mix (especially new routines), and the potential for conflict goes exponential.
OPT's didn't have that, at least not in the same way. If something done by Mr. Level Designer conflicted with something else done by Mr. Script Coordinator, it was hashed-out over lunch or the water cooler. Motivation to find a workable solution was maintained by $. Jilted egos and hurt feelings were massaged by $. Never underestimate the power of The Bottom Line™.tl;dr-
It's the difference between doing something for fun, and doing something for a living.