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Splash Damage's Wedgwood: Making Great Games More Important Than Owning IP

Splash Damage's Wedgwood: Making Great Games More Important Than Owning IP

August 17, 2009 | By Simon Carless

August 17, 2009 | By Simon Carless
More: Console/PC

IP ownership isn't as important as making great games, according to Splash Damage's Paul Wedgwood (Brink), who said at GDC Europe: "It's fine to be in the business of creating franchises for publishers."

His comments came as a part of a larger, impassioned talk on the route to becoming a AAA developer, in which the Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and now Brink creator discussed his strong anti-corporate views on game creation.

Wedgwood's talk, an update of his recent Gamasutra-covered GameHorizon keynote, included a section on IP rights which he admitted included "fairly controversial views".

But, he explained: "I don't think any of us really got into the industry to own intellectual property", suggesting that most developers have a much simpler goal -- to make games that lots of people want to play and that become acclaimed.

The Splash Damage founder noted that, at least in his view, "most publishers won't do much for you if you do own the IP", reasoning that as long as a studio is making money: "It's fine to be in the business of creating franchises for publishers".

Gamasutra followed up with Wedgwood after the talk, and he clarified that he was largely discussing smaller startup studios who are likely to get smaller marketing or promotional attention from bigger publishers if they retain their IP. However, he did confirm that Bethesda owns the IP of Brink.

This section on IP ownership was part of a larger, animated conversation in which Wedgwood explained his evolution from "one of those hideous bosses that you read about on the Internet" to the head of a much larger, more structured team that has evolved to multi-platform console development with the single/multiplayer hybrid Brink.

Splash Damage, which started out working closely with Id on Enemy Territory multiplayer versions for both Wolfenstein and Quake franchises, has historically recruited from the PC mod community.

But in the start of 2008, the London-based developer, having signed with Bethesda for Brink, decided to change its hiring style. High-profile hires who contributed to big console games like Killzone 2, Mass Effect, and Fable II, represent a new style for the company.

Wedgwood noted that it's especially vital to "hire people who are better than you" without fear that they may over-rule you and be right -- part of his and Splash Damage's enthusiastic pursuit of empowering his studio to make great games.

Through his talk, Wedgwood made it clear that with his 'back to basics' approach on de-emphasizing onerous business tasks, he does believe that ideals of making the best possible game help energize the entire studio. He thinks that it's vital to stick to your guns: for example, if you're running out of money and someone offers you a movie license or mission pack, "you have to say no."

The fatalistic part of Wedgwood believes that this pursuit of excellence is more noble than pursuing business drudgery, he said -- essentially, "if you're not enjoying it", it's not worth it, and in the end, "the money will either come or you'll go bust".

With Brink the subject of a high-profile publishing deal and significant press interest, it seems that Splash Damage is heading much more towards the former destination than the latter.

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