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'No Bullshit': The Management Style Behind Deus Ex: HR's Success
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'No Bullshit': The Management Style Behind Deus Ex: HR's Success

April 9, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Square Enix Montreal is also opening. It's interesting that there was a decision made, rather than expand Eidos Montreal, to open up as Square Enix Montreal.

SD: Yeah. Because when we were playing with the idea of expanding in Canada -- that was my other mandate. When they called me up maybe 16 months ago, they wanted to increase their footprint in Canada. They said, "Can you go see the different options, and come back with a recommendation?" So obviously I knew the Montreal situation, and I went to Toronto, and to Vancouver, did my homework on the people, on the government, and the industry.

And not because I am from Montreal, but I think Montreal did show the best option. And once we decided to go to Montreal, did we want to grow everything under the same umbrella? I recommended to not take a factory plant kind of approach.

Obviously, in Montreal, there's a very big studio, and a lot of people left that studio for our studio because we exactly said that we didn't want to become this big, big gorilla.

Because the 350 [employee] mandate was accomplished, we didn't want to turn around to our employees and say, "Okay, well now, the situation has changed. We'll be 700." And so I needed to respect what we were saying to our employees.

And so I think now, we will have a cap at 450, which is great for me. I think it's a good-size studio that can do a lot of different things, and have a brother studio, have them concentrate on a super franchise. [Ed. note: Square Enix Montreal will be concentrating on the Hitman franchise.]

And we'll be helping them in the backstage kind of things, all the admin. So we'll help them on finance, IT, and HR. So this reduces the risk, avoids duplication. We didn't want to have to duplicate everything. That would be nonsense.

But that studio, Lee [Singleton] and the guys, their personality will show within the studio. It won't be just an extension. Because one of our important values in management in our studio is to keep a human scale, a human approach to management, and you can do that up to a certain extent. And afterwards, when the mass gets too big, you're lying to yourself, basically. We can be attracted to the economy of scale, and all that, but you need to keep true to your values, and I think that's a clear sign that we want to respect that.

I mean, I have all the admiration for studios that are doing great triple-As with not-humongous teams. Rocksteady did great games with less than a hundred people. Bethesda, they do great games, but they don't need to ramp up to large numbers. And I really admire that, and I think that's the way to do it, but there are other companies, other publishers, that have more means to do huge things. Sometimes, it works. Not always, but it works.

Is it about the culture? If you get too big, you can't have a studio culture any more, a sense of what you do, who you are?

SD: Well, when I was at Ubi, for almost four years, I was exactly at that point when we [went from] a midsize studio to a very large studio. I came in at Ubi, we were 450, and when I left, we were 1,450, and that scale came in three years. And I, and everybody -- well not "everybody" -- a lot of people -- noticed that there wasn't the same type of company back then, and it lost a bit of certain things, and we want to avoid that. It's funny, because the other studios that have opened up after us had quite the same model that we put forward.

People like to feel like they're part of something, and it's hard to do that once things get monolithic, right?

SD: I don't know how many times I heard people say "[I want to] feel that I can make a difference, in the sense that I'm part of a team, and I want to be heard when I speak." And you can't do that when the scale is just too big. So it's really important to listen. And everybody has tried to bake a cake at 700 degrees. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. We've all tried that.

Mary DeMarle gave a speech at GDC Online about the writing of Deus Ex, saying that everyone on the team, at some point in the game, was brought into the story process. So even if they're making props, they could understand the overarching goal of what the team was making, and get context and thus understand, and appreciate, what they were doing.

I think with big teams, people can lose sight of what they're actually making. You get bogged down on one piece. From that, big games can feel really piecemeal. You can see the divisions between things.

SD: Yeah, totally. I'm playing a couple of games, and I said, "Oh, this is a different game level designer that did this, because there's a big seam, somewhere." And with smaller games, you need to have more multitasking people. They need to touch more, because you don't have super-specialists that just do certain tasks.

They like to not do just one single thing during three years. I think we're trying to put into place the better conditions for craftsmanship, because the games that I personally enjoy, I see the quality of how they assemble all this together, and -- for me, anyway -- that's something, really, that distinguishes yourself between a regular product, and a great product. And smaller teams are better positioned to do that.

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