The Art Of International Technical Collaboration At Square Enix
February 17, 2010 Page 1 of 4
One aspect of Square Enix's Eidos acquisition that has not been discussed is how much the Western and Eastern halves of the new company will be collaborating. While it's already been revealed that Square Enix Visual Works, the CG studio behind the film Advent Children and the high quality cinematics in the company's games will be contributing to Deus Ex 3, currently in development at Eidos Montreal, we haven't heard a lot more.
That collaboration runs deeper and more fundamentally than has been previously revealed, it turns out. Recently, Julien Merceron, the CTO of Eidos, has been named the worldwide technology director of the entire company. He now oversees technology coming out of all of the studios, including Io Interactive's G2 engine, Square Enix Tokyo's Crystal Tools, and Crystal Dynamics' Crystal Tech. Merceron has been studying Japanese since last year to ease in collaboration and communication.
Though Japan has become notorious this generation for struggling to deliver technology on par with Western studios, Merceron believes that the talent at Square Enix Japan is formidable and that there's something about the company's approach for its Western developers to learn as well -- and is implementing processes and structures to enable technology sharing.
Here, Merceron, who spent time at Ubisoft as its worldwide technology director prior to joining Eidos as its worldwide CTO in 2006, outlines not only his plan for international collaboration, but also his roadmap for making meaningful and intelligent technology decisions -- whether it be process, structure, or deciding on how and when to license middleware for projects.
Square Enix is a big company with studios all over the world. How do you think it's going to be to manage these studios -- different cultures, different locations, different technologies?
Julien Merceron: I think that having different studios around the world is more of an advantage than an inconvenience for a company. Obviously, it allows us to avoid having one huge studio with, like, two or three thousand people; it gains the possibility to have multiple studios all over the world, and have studios that have a human side. I think that it really provides a much better working environment.
Also, I think that we can take advantage of being able to recruit where the talent is, and I would say that's also the second advantage of being a little bit everywhere. Also, you have to know that I've been at Ubisoft for about 10 years, so I know what it is to deal with a large and international environment, and the size of Square Enix is not something that I see as a problem -- not at all.
Also, the one trend that -- you will probably agree with me -- publishers will tend to grow in size over the next three years... So I think managing a large group is just a skill many managers will need to have.
Also, I'd like to add something about the way I work: I don't work alone. I work with a team, as a team. I tend to call this team a "technology board", and the members are traditionally key people from the studios, from lead programmers and principle engineers to kind of a technology director profile. We now have a technology community at Square Enix Group level that will also include key people from Tokyo, and this will allow the company to work as one in terms of technology.
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How you make decisions about technology interests me, because this company is made out of an acquisition of different parts -- you have Crystal Dynamics that has its own engine; you have Crystal Tools coming out of Square Enix in Tokyo; I'm sure there's engine technology coming out of other studios. How do you manage those different technologies? Is that an advantage in your eyes?
JM: Since last year, many people traveled back and forth between Tokyo and Square Enix Europe studios. I've already spent a lot of time in Tokyo, and it was also important for many key technology-related people from Tokyo to travel to our studios to understand better the why and the how about our technology tools process.
It's true that I've been doing, since mid-last year, a lot of presentations over there, but it's not until you basically go to a studio and you see how the technology is used -- how the tools are being used to make games -- that you really understand the fundamentals and the different pros and cons of the different approaches. Right now, I think that the knowledge has spread into Tokyo about what technologies some of the studios have created, and they have a lot of praise for our approach.
Again, all this is teamwork, and I can't take all the credit for the technology that has been created on the Eidos side. But I work very closely to the technology teams on identifying what is key for them to achieve; and then work with them on what they need to be able to know in order to realize the vision. And we have some extremely talented teams working on very amazing technology. And I think it is actually on both sides; I've really had the pleasure to meet a lot of incredible people in Tokyo.
I think that, obviously, the approach that Square Enix Europe studios have had for the last few years has been really welcomed by Tokyo, and also I think that the game teams and the technology teams tend to like the way Square Enix European studios have been organized and the way I work.
I work with all of these game teams; I work also with the general managers that are very important people also in the group. These guys are really proactive in terms of involving me, and we are definitely working well together.
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