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Stéphane D'Astous, General Manager of the newly-formed Eidos Montreal, is bullish about his studio's planned development cycle. "Trying to get nine women to give birth to a baby in one month doesn't work. Everyone has tried that in this industry, but we decided to cut the bullshit," D'Astous declared on our in-depth tour of the new facility.
As discussed in a previous interview with D'Astous, Eidos Montreal has been created as a facility to hold both the quality assurance arm of Eidos and to perform development on "triple A, next-generation" titles with a longer-than-average development cycle.
"Our pre-production and production cycle should be about 24 months. That's quite unusual in this industry, but we don't want to try and pack everything into a 15 month production," said D'Astous. "People that have been burned on other kinds of projects, where they were suddenly expected to deliver very fast, were attracted to our company when they heard about our philosophy. We've set out to only work on triple-A next-gen titles. We're not going to do any handheld, DS, PSP titles -- that's all very interesting, but not for us. Too many studios fall into the habit of trying to do everything at once. We want to concentrate on our strengths, and a longer development cycle will allow that."
Of course, there's more to Eidos Montreal than just longer development cycles. Leading us from the modern reception area -- where a jersey from the Montreal Canadiens (the local NHL team) is proudly hanging, framed, on a wall while monitors play the well-received Deus Ex 3 teaser trailer on loop -- D'Astous lead us to the QA department.
"One of the challenges was to find a place where we could grow three ways," said D'Astous. "With that in mind we have the whole floor here for us. Right now we're only using 60 percent of the floor, but by next summer we'll occupy it completely. At this stage we have 150 people. Stage two we'll have 250 people, and in stage 3, about December 2009, we should be 350 people."
With the staff split into two distinct groups, quality assurance and development, D'Astous expanded, "The QA group has a world mandate. They are available to test all games that are published through Eidos, and by the time we reach 350 people, about 100 of those jobs will be QA."
The studio is constantly prepared for the future growth, as D'Astous showed us the facilities available to the QA department -- stacks of systems, CD burners and shredders -- and D'Astous was particularly taken in showing us the server room, noting how loud the servers were ("like jet engines," he laughed) and how Eidos Montreal have tried to make sure the servers take up as little floor space as possible. "Even in Montreal, floor space is not free," D'Astous quipped, but promised that even in the surprisingly small room that there would be adequate space for more servers during the continuing expansion.
This sensible use of floor space was paramount to the creation of the studio. "We have a very small number of offices. I wanted to keep the studio as open plan as possible," said D'Astous. "The offices are mainly just for the managers and myself. All of the rest of the staff is in low cubicles. Light is very important, that's why I wanted glass partitions so the light can go very far. During winter in Montreal the daylight is very low, and we don't want it to be dark and gloomy."
D'Astous has intentions to keep the amount of administration staff as low as possible. "My goal is to have less than 10% of the headcount being non-direct labor. That's quite low, compared to certain developers. Right now I've only got four managers and myself, we have no assistants. We really want to invest money in the QA side and the development side. My managers are very orientated towards project management. We like to have visibility, and we like to have planning in place so there are no surprises."