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Tour of Chicago Pt. 5: Midway Chicago
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Tour of Chicago Pt. 5: Midway Chicago


December 27, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next
 

On (White) Board

One of the exercises Bayless has been going through with his staff is shifting thinking, asking: ‘What is the Chicago Studio, and what are we trying to be?’ There is a large white board on the wall in his office, and it’s covered with brainwaves.

Midway is known for M-rated IP. “It has been. There’s been sort of a change in thinking,” says Bayless. It’s not really about being M-rated, it’s about irreverence. “When you really drill down to the DNA of the studio, and you really drill down into Midway’s titles: that’s actually what it is. It’s about being a smartass.”

Bayless also tends to subscribe to author Jim Collins’ point of view. Part of the ‘Good to Great’ philosophy is that: Great companies don’t necessarily spring from the mind of one man. “So while I have plenty of passion, desire, wisdom to impart, I’m not the guy that’s gonna make us great. It’s all these guys out here.”

“So what I’m looking for is patterns,” continues Bayless – the things in the studio that are intrinsic to who they are and how they behave. He’s looking to make the studio great at what they’re already good at. “When I look around the studio, what I see is physical gameplay. We’ve got the guy here who invented NBA Jam. We’ve got the guy here who invented Mortal Kombat. The guy who invented SpyHunter. And it’s not just those guys, it’s a whole bunch of other people who have worked with them or absorbed the same kind of things in the way they think. And to me, that represents tremendous opportunity.”

“That’s not to say we’re going to make games that are all about physical gameplay,” Bayless notes. But, if there’s a thing he really wants the studio to focus on, it’s going to be capitalizing on that and leveraging that into their own form of innovation.

To Each His Own

One thing Bayless has further noticed about his studio is that the cultures of the various teams are quite unique. Each team has a distinct ethos. Bayless attempts to feed that uniqueness, and make sure each team is successful.

“We have four teams in the building right now,” says Bayless. “And we’re starting to do more work with folks on the outside.” He agrees with something former comrade Alexander Seropian identified some time ago. Given the way technology has progressed, and the ability of people to move bits around the planet very quickly, being physically co-located is not quite as important as is used to be.

So what does that mean? “That means we are starting to spend more of our brain-power looking at working with people on the outside,” explains Bayless. “While keeping a cadre of really talented people here, driving the creative, driving the technology, making sure the right things happen, but working with people all over the planet.”


Stranglehold

Midway Chicago has already done some of that with Stranglehold, and will likely do more in future, but the four internal teams each have a distinct personality. “If you look at the Mortal Kombat team,” Bayless begins. “Those guys are as close to the Navy SEALs as I’ve ever seen. They’re ruthless with themselves. Utterly focused on getting to the thing they want. They’re highly selective about who gets to come in, but they’re utterly loyal once you are. All those things work together to make them kind of insular, but also really good at what they do.

Bayless noted a transformation that the Mortal Kombat team is undergoing. “It has to do with the fact that, I think, Ed [Boon] has been tightening his focus on the things he believes are essential.” There is a kind of free-form arrangement of people around Boon. “We’ve got really talented producers, really talented art directors, we’ve got really talented technology guys. But they tend to be very agile about how they move around from thing to thing. They’ve got a lot of stuff going on. They’ve got Armageddon going on, we’re working on some next generation stuff, we’ve been involved in some PSP work with people on the outside. We’ve got all this stuff going on. And they’re multiplexing through all those things.”

Bayless sees the Stranglehold team as much more democratically arranged. Executive producer Brian Eddy runs his team as sort of a consensus organization. There is soliciting of input from people at all levels of the organization. “He wants to hear what people have to say. And yet they’re utterly focused on a single thing.”

The action-sports teams are radically different from each other. In one case, executive producer Mike Bilder is running the Blitz team. Bayles describes Bilder as having “positioned himself away from the epicenter of the creative. And he has other people who are driving those things on behalf of the team. He focuses a lot of his attention on making sure that things get done in the right way at the right time.”

On the other hand, with the NBA Ballers team, George Gomez and Mark Turmell are sitting right in the middle of the creative. “Every team is a little bit different, concludes Bayless. “And that’s part of what makes it interesting.”


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next

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