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Soderlund details EA's innovation labs
Soderlund details EA's innovation labs Exclusive
June 18, 2012 | By Staff

June 18, 2012 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Production, Exclusive

In a new Gamaustra feature interview, the boss of EA's Core Games label shares how it manages staff churn and promotes new ways of thinking by using staff on small projects.

"I think it actually started at DICE with Battlefield 1943, and if you remember that it was a small XBLA game," says Patrick Soderlund. He took over the reins of EA's Games label -- which covers core PC and and console product -- from Frank Gibeau.

A team at DICE was allowed to experiment with a smaller title between projects, and since then, the company at large has adopted a policy of putting developers onto smaller, more experimental projects.

"The idea of it is test things, and either continue or kill them early. Most of the ideas will be probably not the right ones. But then one out of 10 or 15 ideas will be the right one -- that's something that we're going to say, 'We like that. Continue, and now we're going to start funding it,'" says Soderlund.

"We've been doing it now in a kind of controlled form for a little over a year, in our label. And we started small in one team, and then we tested it and we saw some good results.

"A lot of the things that you see today in our products come from these ideas, and it doesn't necessarily need to be a new product. It can be, 'Okay, here's a better way of making animations', or, 'Here's a way of making cooler destruction in something.'"

It came to life as "a way for us to control ups and downs in our production cycles," says Soderlund. Staff would "basically get transferred onto another game team and not be effective," he says, but at some point, management decided to tell some DICE developers "Okay, do whatever you want. We'll put you in this pot, do whatever you want."

"I think it's important that we enable our people to innovate and to be able to come up with new, cool ideas, because frankly, that's what our audience wants," says Soderlund.

The full feature, which further details how Soderlund hopes to solve the challenges the mega-publisher faces in its core games business as the market shifts, is live now on Gamasutra.

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Joe McGinn
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I've seen this in action and in generates small pockets of creativity, but it strikes me as the wrong approach. It seems like a bandaid approach: "How we do take a small percentage of people out of these massive non-creative environments we've made, so that at least some of them can be creative some of the time?"

Seems like what they really need to solve is why these large teams making games are unable to be creative.