Catching Up With Gearbox's Randy Pitchford
June 13, 2008 Page 4 of 10
How To Grow
And then you have Trion. I talked to the guys from Trion, and they picked their locations for their offices based on the existing nature of the business in those locations.
RP: "We need to grow! Where are the people?"
They put an empty building across the street from NCsoft and said, "Hey, we're doing our server stuff here. Why don't you come work here?" And then they put an empty building across the street from EA and said, "Hey, we're making games here." And they put an empty building across the street from SOE and said, "Hey, we're making games here." The one next to SOE happens to be the one where they're developing an MMO, and the one next to EA happens to be other game development, and the one near NCsoft happens to be their server engineering.
RP: That's an interesting strategy. Usually, if I'm going to come to a new neighborhood, I'm going to try and find a way to be friends with everybody in the neighborhood. It's an interesting strategy. We'll see how that goes.
I have to say that I'm probably oversimplifying it.
RP: No, there's a lot of folks who think about all the publishers that start up studios, and part of the what they're thinking about is whether there's an existing base of talent there that they can draw from.
Almost zero projects currently in the industry, when they started, had the capability to complete with the resources they had. Almost every single project in the entire industry, when it started, knows that it needed to grow and get more people than what it had when it started. That's the reality of game development. Everybody's got to worry about how they're going to grow their talent base.
I've taken the approach in the Dallas area to support education. I think the bigger problem in our industry isn't how we're going to steal talent from each other. I think the bigger challenge that we face is that the industry is growing at a faster rate than new talent is being created.
We can always fight for the best talent, but that's kind of a self-defeating thing. We're not going to be able to serve the actual demand for interactive entertainment with the quality that we should be serving it. So what we have is a couple of good games and a bunch of crap with the way it's going now.
But if we can create more new talent than we need, then the best of that talent can thrive and all of the current games that happen can be great. I've been investing a lot in education. SMU is a big university, and they have this program called the Guildhall. You can earn a master's degree in video game making.
I was talking to Professor Lachlan MacKinnon, from the Scottish gaming alliance. He's the dean of the University of Abertay Dundee over there, which has the big program, and it's affiliated with Guildhall. He was saying that Guildhall's a good guarantee that if you complete the program successfully, you will get an industry job.
RP: That's been the result. No school can guarantee that, but if you look at their numbers, that's been the reality. In programmers, one hundred percent of graduates have gotten into the game industry since that program started. That's pretty wild, right? Can you imagine any other school having that stat for other industries?
I saw a Guildhall presentation at QuakeCon the year that I was at your offices.
RP: That was the early part of the program.
It was really interesting.
RP: I believe in that, and I think more of us in the industry -- especially those of us who can most afford to -- should be supporting education and should embrace academia. We're young at it now, and most of the schools are not going to be very good at it at first, but by investing in it and helping it grow, we can help those schools get better at it and create more new talent.
Because I'm telling you, fifteen years from now, the best game developer in the industry is going to be a guy who's not even in the industry today.
What do you think about the other end? Quality of life issues came to the surface a couple of years ago, and I think there's been some movement there, but one of the issues has been that there's a burnout rate, too. You can't retain people and grow them.
RP: I think that when you have... especially a lot of these publicly traded publishers. They have quarters to meet and financial goals, and they try to force the impossible in order to satisfy their shareholders. It's a big reason why I'm going to be independent.
I am independent, and I am going to continue to be, because I have two people I have to worry about. I have our customers, and I have our people. If we're in a marathon, and not a sprint, we have to care about our people. It's not enough to make an awesome game. You have to make an awesome game, and then be ready and excited to make the next one even better.
Maybe not for you specifically, but do you find that's a problem in the industry, that people do burn out and escape and talent does not mature?
RP: Burnout is a problem, and it can happen to anybody. Even in our studio, we've crunched. We care a lot about the results. Sometimes there's the reality of, "Wow, we're landing and we really want to make this better," and we're all working really hard to do that.
And sometimes, it's really interesting how people are. We're not saving the world. We're making video games. But we tend to take a lot of pressure on ourselves, because we all want to do a good job. For some people, that's a real problem, so things like burnout and disillusionment can happen.
It's important that we try and remember why we're doing it, and get back to playing games. Play the games and try to find ways that we can enjoy the process of making them.
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