Alex Seropian's Wideload Games has been making great strides with its outsourcing game production model in the last few years. After Seropian sold Bungie to Microsoft, he took a small team and made Stubbs the Zombie for the Xbox using the Halo engine, outsourcing the bulk of the art but keeping a core team of creatives in-house. This Hollywood-esque production model has served him through to his new Gamecock-published 'political party game' project, Hail to the Chimp, as well as smaller games he revealed during the interview.
In this discussion, we spoke about due dilligence for outsourcers, the using Halo engine versus Unreal Engine 3 (which powers Hail to the Chimp), politics in games, the possible return of Stubbs, and the importance (or otherwise) of intelligent writing in games.
I assume you're continuing with your Hollywood-style company model?
Alex Seropian: Yes, we are continuing to use that model, evolve it, and grow it.
How many people does that currently involve in the inner core? I recall it being 12 previously.
AS: We have 20 people now - we actually have two teams. We have a team that's doing Hail to the Chimp, which is the Stubbs team with a couple of more people on it, and then we have a real small team that's doing games for digital download.
Is that Live Arcade or Steam-like stuff?
AS: We have a game right now that's destined for Live Arcade.
Have you heard about what Warren Spector's doing right now? He's taking a semi-similar model, but he's got around 40 people in-house on one project. They're building the first of every asset, and then outsourcing that way. Are you still sticking with a more directorial approach?
AS: We do both. We build a prototype with our internal team, which is at least the first of every asset, and then we spend a lot of time doing preproduction with that internal team for the rest of the project. Then we send a lot of stuff out from that point. With Hail to the Chimp, we've been outsourcing some of the code. We did very little of that with Stubbs.
The frontend of the game that you saw (here at E3) -- the newsfeed -- we sent all of that out. That was pretty cool, because we actually found a company that does motion graphics for movies, so the guys that did our motion graphics did the graphics for 20/20. They do a really good job. Then we have another company that's doing all the engineering. That world is in one set of tools, and we work in a different set of tools, so we've got a company that's working with us that is taking all the motion graphic assets and putting them into Unreal.
And you're using Unreal?
You didn't want to continue on with the Halo engine?
AS: We would've liked to, but one thing that Unreal has going for it as far as it impacts our model is that it's out there. We were the only licensee of the Halo tech, so working with other third-party people was like, "First we have to train you on this thing that nobody else has ever used." With the Unreal engine, we've actually met a lot of people that know more about it than we do, which is real cool.
That seems to be a common reason for adopting it, because it's out, and people are ready.
AS: It's a great toolset, it's a great engine, and you have to be a little careful about what you want to do with it. We're doing something very non-standard with it. I don't know if anyone else is making a party game, but [it won't be with] the very stylized graphics we have. That's a challenge for us, because Unreal was designed to make Gears of War. Some of it's been a challenge, but some of it's been great. The whole tool chain aspect of it has been really good for us.