'No Bullshit': The Management Style Behind Deus Ex: HR's Success
April 9, 2012 Page 4 of 4
Do you feel strongly about development of people's skill sets and careers? You're talking about people not being in one pigeonhole, of people working and being creatively satisfied.
SD: I think the profile of people that we recruit -- on Deus Ex, we were able to recruit a lot of senior people. Senior people like to work on smaller teams, and touch more on different things. Obviously, the reality is that we won't be able to recruit as many seniors as we did initially, because there are other studios and all that, so we're faced in front of a different situation.
But I think we want to recruit people, and again this is not news to you, but it's the passion behind them, and their commitment, and talent. These three things, I guess all studios want to do that, but I think they need to commit to our mission, to what we want to do.
I've refused a couple of guys that had very nice portfolios, great track records, but their heads couldn't fit through the door. And that doesn't work at our place. We want to have people level-headed. I'm ready to take risks on juniors, because sometimes they really surprise us positively, and to give them a chance is maybe the best decision we can do. It's a favor for them, and for you.
Yes, we have a system of mentoring, and we truly believe in internal promotion. We really look in our ranks before looking outside. Obviously, we need to do both, but we really need to have a career path for people, because people in our industry are young and ambitious, and they don't want to be put in the same job for too long. We need to keep them active. It's always a challenge in management, because you cannot promote everyone, obviously. You need to promote the good one at the right time.
Human management in the gaming industry is certainly not well understood, I think. It's quite a challenge. You have young educated people, mostly independent, they feel there's more demand than offers. It's certainly a good market for the young employees, and I think the studio has to brand its studio, and its products, to be able to attract them.
So, openness -- to be frank, one of our values is "no bullshit." I wouldn't put it on our website, but internally, it's, "let's not bullshit." An example: in my previous life, I had a schedule on my desk which was different from the schedule that was posted on the production board, and the reason behind the intent was "let them run hard." Once they are finally at the stage of, "Oh no!", we have six more months.
But this is so frustrating for the other people. This is a killer. It works once or twice, but afterwards the senior people, they lose confidence in the management. So my schedule is the same one that is posted on the wall, and that you update.
You get respect, and people know, "Okay, he has confidence in telling us the truth, so I'd better get my gear together. Let's do it." Because they know that in three months, we won't change these parameters. It seems simple, again, but so many studios, I see double-speeches. It doesn't work; not for us, anyway.
You seem satisfied with where you've gotten in five years, but it still seems like you also are aware that you can't just rest on your laurels.
SD: Not for one second. I was quite satisfied before I was asked to look into enlarging the footprint in Canada. I was starting to see a little bit more stability that we've built in three different phases. And I was glad to start now working a bit closer with the dev cycle guys.
But now, with this? Now we've opened a hundred new seats in our studio; half of them are already filled. And I think now my concern, my goal, is to be a bit more predictive in production. Again, it's difficult, because we'll have several projects, and it's not good to have three games ready in the same year.
You need to have a regular flow, and it needs to fit the corporate portfolio release. So ultimately this is something... On paper, everything looks nice. "Okay, you ramp up, you ramp down. There. You did it." It fits on a piece of paper; it looks perfect. But there's extra time, and we're glad that we took that decision [to delay Deus Ex], obviously; I think the consumers are glad.
We need to, but with what's coming up in the next few years, it's going to be even more difficult to predict. So my goals are going to be quite high -- to be constant, as much as possible. To be predictable. To not have big surprises, good or bad. I don't like, necessarily, surprises -- especially the bad ones. So I need to keep my people busy on the right projects, at the right time, and with the studio at 450, it's quite an important responsibility to have this goal.
It's not going to be easy, for sure. But that's certainly to make the most out of the studio, for the future years, and to be well-positioned for the next-gen, because you want to be there early, obviously. That is a goal for all publishers, to be early in the cycle, so you may benefit from the cycle. And Eidos, in the past, wasn't too good at that. They came out left and right, and now we're working very hard, the other studios -- Phil and everyone -- to really have a strong presence, and a strategy for the early goings-on of that. So that's certainly quite challenging, also.
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