TimeShift is the first major game from Saber, a studio run out of New Jersey with the bulk of its development staff in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Here, VP of production, Andrey Iones, talks about the unique structure of the developer, the strengths of working with in-house tech, and working on a title that switched publishers during development as well as being sent back for a year of re-development after originally being completed in 2006.
First I want to ask -- you guys are based in Saint Petersburg?
Andrey Iones: We actually have two offices -- one in New York/New Jersey, and another one is in Saint Petersburg. The bulk of development was done in Saint Petersburg. We have over 80 people over there, and we have the management team and production team in New York.
So these offices...
they're both owned by Saber? You don't outsource to other developers?
AI: We run both offices. Both offices are a part of Saber and we run as-is -- integrated team. But we do some small outsourcing to some other teams in other parts of Russia and the Ukraine, to do small things like individual assets, characters, and things like this.
What's the background on how this
company got set up and how you developed having that satellite office?
I guess that satellite office is the one in America? It's smaller?
AI: I wouldn't really call either office a satellite office. The company was set up seven years ago by three guys: myself -- Andrey Iones -- Matthew Karch, my partner, and Anton Krupkin. I grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and moved to the U.S., and so did Anton. We met this man who used to be a lawyer, who was doing some immigration case for me. We got [to be] friends, and we decided to do something on our own.
I had a background in computer science in general, as well as in gaming. He was passionate about games. He owned every console since he was a kid. So we decided to do our own thing, and that's how it all started in New York, but because I have connections and I grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia, it was natural for us to do an expansion over there. We just kept growing and growing the team.
We started with a small title called Will Rock done for Ubisoft, which was done PC-only, but it was a small, decent title just to get our feet wet, and to form the team and to establish technology. And then, seven years later, here we are done with TimeShift on three SKUs.
First of all, do you have your own
technology, or do you use an engine that's provided from another company?
AI: No. We use our own technology. We do work with some middleware providers such as Havok or GameSpy... but the core technology was done in Saber, by Saber, so we have full control over it. We have to, because in a game like TimeShift, you need to have full control over the tech if you want to do something as challenging as time control.
Right. How does that play into it
when you're developing the engine? Because this game has that time control
mechanic, which is different than most of the FPSes on the market. Is
that something that you find is really important
-- catering the engine's technology to the gameplay design?
AI: It was really important for us to have a gameplay hook which would put Saber aside from the pack of other games similar to ours, so we'd have something unique to us. Having our own technology was really instrumental in pushing the game out on all three SKUs, and at the same time it allowed us to implement all the complexities related to time control in general, and time reversal in particular.