Of Chimps And Chiefs: An Interview With Alex Seropian
August 13, 2007 Page 2 of 5
With these people you're outsourcing to, are you still doing a lot of overseas stuff, or are you taking some more of it back here (to the States)?
AS: We're still doing some stuff overseas, but for us, the outsourcing is less about getting down to a low cost as it is about utilizing a model that has us spending our resources when we need them. It's a constant thing. We have character modelers in Korea that are really good. We have some modelers in Canada as well. There's a lot of local people, too.
Have you found any places better than others, in terms of places to outsource to?
AS: I'll say that working with companies in Chicago has an advantage to us, because they're not further than a baseball bat's length away!
So you can smack them?
AS: Yes, exactly! We can get together, which is really helpful when you're doing stuff that's visual or aural. They can come over and you can say, "You hear that? I want it more like this." That short-circuits the conversation, and gets a little bit of that stuff you get when everybody's in the same room. Chicago's actually turned out to be a really good place to work, because there's a lot of audio companies there. A lot of TV and film production happens in Chicago, so there's a lot of people we work with there that we might not be working with if we were narrowly focusing our viewpoint.
You seem to be continuing on with original IP. Not that anyone should have to explain this, but from your perspective, why do that?
AS: There's a lot of reasons. Primarily, what I'm interested in is the creative process of inventing and coming up with something new. It's terrifying at the same time. But personally, it's very rewarding for me, and that's why I do it. It's also from a business perspective where I think we, as a small independent company, can build stuff that has real value. If you're doing work for hire from a big publisher, you can make some money, but at the end of the day, what do you have left? They walk away with your heart and soul, and you've got nothing. I didn't really want to do that.
You wouldn't necessarily need to do it for the money, because you sold Bungie, right?
I was assuming at this point it's more of a labor of love.
AS: Oh, don't be naive! I've been very fortunate. When starting Wideload, I actually sat down and said, "Here's the kinds of things I want to do, and the terms in which I want to do them. Can I think of a way to set up an organization or structure to do that?" So yeah, there's definitely some choices that I've had the fortune to be able to make.
Do you get any kinds of royalties from Halo right now?
AS: It pays me back in spades every day, just not in cash! So no. But I think that was one of the rare situations where everyone involved -- customers included -- ended up winning.
I don't think there is any kind of industry standard or practice for due diligence on outsourcing. Have you had to do that yourself?
AS: Oh yeah, that's a real big part of our process. It's not just qualifying someone we're going to work with, but that's part of it. We take it very seriously. It's like an interview, and it's more than just, "Can you paint a pretty picture?" It's like, "What does your company look like? How professionally is it run? Do you have a producer there? Do you know how to meet a deadline? Do you know how to plan things?" It's also about relationships.
The big thing for us is that we want to work on a project with the guys we were working on a project with last time. When you get that sort of continuity in relationships, you can get the best of both worlds, where you can actually have this giant team with hundreds of people that you can call up and say, "Hey, this is the next project. Here's what we need you for. Here's when it's going to start." You can build that like you build a relationship with your team, but not have to suffer the tremendous, crushing burden of a giant Halo that way. That's how a lot of the film and TV production studios work.
They get into relationships with other people that they like working with, and try and replicate that over and over. That's what we're trying to do. It's really not about the lowest bid for us. It's not about setting things up to save money. The motion graphics are a good example. We purposely didn't have the capacity to do that in-house, and when we went out to look for somebody to do that, we could pick the people that have done that thing before many times.
It may not be the point, but it does save money, right?
AS: It does.
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