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What is your most important source of feedback?
KMT: First and foremost, it's ourselves. And this might sound like an ego boost, but it is, because we've been with the franchise for so long. And also actually it comes down to the fact that we still build Battlefield because it's the game that we want to play ourselves.
That's where 1942 came from, and Lars Gustavsson, and Patrick Soderlund, and these people that were in and running Refraction Games at the time, which was purchased by DICE. You know, from the stories I've heard, they built the game that they wanted to play themselves, and that is still very obvious.
A lot of people, myself included, I still play our games; I'm still grinding away in BF3 because I really love it. And I'm not saying that because I'm shining light on my own product here -- I truly love playing the multiplayer.
So first and foremost we look to ourselves and say, "Okay, what is it that we want to do? What do we aspire to make better?" And in combination with that, we're quite competitive, and we always drive ourselves pretty hard. And as I mentioned, we very rarely sit back and go, "Oh, it's perfect; we don't have to do anything!" We always want to strive to make things better, and that drive -- together with the knowledge of the product -- drives us forward to be like, "Okay, we should do this the next time, and probably do this the next time as well."
Having worked on both work for hire projects and also, what you're describing as, to an extent, a passion project, obviously you're going to feel more strongly about the one you feel the most passionate about. But can you talk about that contrast?
KMT: Well, it was interesting because this man [Troedsson gestures to indicate the nearby] Patrick Bach, he was my creative producer when we did RalliSport -- I was the producer, and he was basically the lead creative kind of guy. We were very passionate about that product as well.
I mean, it wasn't our idea from the beginning, and we were only part of it the last month of the first one, but we still felt very passionate about the second one because... you make it your own, right? You take it on, you start talking to, in this case, the producer in Microsoft. We had a very good cooperation there, I would say. They had some very good people on their end. So it was quite easy to be passionate about that, still.
I think it comes down to that you have to ask yourself why you're working on the project -- even if it's a work for hire. Is it just because you need to make money for the studio? Okay, then you probably have a problem. But I mean, even back then, DICE didn't really do that -- we were really passionate about making racing games. DICE had done several racing games before the rally games. So we were pretty passionate about that in the studio, as well.
But every game developer needs to soul-search inside for why they're doing something, and if it starts to feel wrong, and actually that passion goes away -- at least for us, I can only speak for us, but it wouldn't work for us. We could not work on something we're not passionate about.
At the same time, it's not always funny, like I also brought up; sometimes life can be pretty hard. Sometimes you need to help out another team, or you need to do something else that you might consider being a bit of a distraction. But you know what? You need to do that as well, because it's going to make all of us better, and make everything move forward.
It sounds like part of what is important to DICE is the internal culture.
KMT: It's super strong. Culture within DICE is something we, and the management group, talk about a lot, and we try to spend as much time as possible to nurture it and take care of it. And it's not overly complicated -- it's not like you hire a branding expert and you have them tell you what to do. I mean, sure, you can do that as well, but for us it's much more... As I said, we're still nerds. Sure I have a shirt [Ed. note: here, Troedsson is referring to the fact that he's wearing a fashionable, collared shirt to our interview] but I'm still a nerd; I still play games. That's why I'm in the business.
But having a great party, for instance, a good release party, everyone can like, "Yeah, cheers!" "Nice work!" Everyone slaps their back, etcetera. That's very big for us, when it comes to just meeting, and talking, and communicating, and having a good time together.
And then that's one example, but then you have a daily, how we approach each other in the office, etcetera. Culture goes into everything we do -- we're competitive as hell, but we're also very eager to make sure that people are happy, and not just from the management and down. But people are overall very friendly, and it's a pretty nice place to work, from that perspective as well -- as long as you are passionate and eager to make better.
You wouldn't be satisfied, and you wouldn't be happy at DICE, if you came there and were like, "Oh, this is a 9-to-5 office; I'll just do my thing." That would not work. Then people will start [being] like, "Woah, you're misaligned with the culture."
It's obvious that it's about the right people as much as it is about the right environment.
KMT: Absolutely. I would say this: the right people with the right mindset.
Those are the two ingredients.
How many people are at the studio now?
KMT: Well, it depends a bit on how you slice the different business units, but I would say we're about 270, 280 at the moment. We're growing rapidly right now.
Is it difficult to grow rapidly and also protect the culture?
KMT: Well, it's not difficult, but you need to be aware of it. You need to be aware that when you get a lot of new people into the studio, that's going to mix up culture, values, these kinds of things. And you need to allow things to change a bit and mold, because you can't just say, "This is the way it is -- conform. Be ready to be assimilated."
It needs to be more like, things change when more new people come in, but at the same time you shouldn't change the core values of the company, or something, unless people actually, as a full unit, say that "This doesn't work for us."
You need to say that "This is what we stand for as a company, this is how we do things here at DICE," and hopefully if you're the appropriate person we're talking about, if the hire was a good one, they are just going to say, "That's awesome; I want to be part of that."