LinkedIn

An archive of posts tagged LinkedIn.

What’s going on with Sony, Android and Google?

1 min read

Yesterday we witnessed Google TV open it’sweb-doors and it reminded me of a common thread between Sony and Google.Nov 2009 saw Sonyannounce it was releasing a Xperia phone using Android OSMay 2010 saw Sony announce the first TV to feature GoogleTV,it’s a fair guess that it’s running a variant of Android. “I am delighted to announce the unique alignment of Google’s rapidlygrowing, open source Android platform with Sony’s unparalleledexpertise in the field of TV design and technology.” - Sony’sChairman, CEO and President, Sir Howard StringerIn addition to this alignment there’s also lots of rumours about thingsyou’d associate with an Androiddevice:Aug 2010 rumours around Gamescom about RearTouch, whilst Rear touch isn’t specific to Android, touch alone is somethingwe’ve not seen on a Sony device.Sept 2010 - PlayStation looking for Androiddevelopers. This could be anything from partner marketing apps, PSP2 systems or Google TV PSN connector?Sept 2010 sees Yoshida-san say “Future platforms will bedeveloper-friendly”, could this be an Android based PSP2? It’d certainly be a damn sight easier to make games using a common open-source OS and Sony have been long term fans of open-source platforms such as Linux as we saw when they used to let you install it on your PS3. And many developers will know that all the early development software for their consoles that comes from Japan is typically Linux based, which is a royal PITA.Sept 2010 saw Shaun Himmerick ‘confirms’ the nextPSP in his PAX10 interview. Well, all he did was recognise it’s existence.Does this mean anything? Is it leading anywhere? Who knows but there’s alot of pieces out there. Yes, I did work at Sony but it doesn’t mean Iknow anything more than anyone else as I’m sure you can imagine howlimited information is in a large corporation and it wouldn’t be the 1sttime that everyone else got to find out before the people closest knew.Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I really hope they do use Android, it’dmake all of the game developers lives an awful lot easier and gain someof the ground lost to Microsoft and Apple, who both make it an absolutedoddle to make games for their platforms.

Episodic Game Content Done Right

3 min read

I think there’s a missed opportunity with Episodic games that arecurrently being launched, they’re largely just about delivering a knownexperience over an extended period of time and splitting the coststhroughout each episode.There’s very little focus on the user experience and, more importantly,the social experience that episodic content can repeatedly deliver.I think they key to this is engaging everyone in a simultaneous andrecurring experience, like a TV show.Imagine a chapter of a story driven game like Halo Reach being madeavailable for everyone to play at 8pm on the 1st Sunday of every month,just one chapter, no-one can play it before that time so everyoneexperiences the same event. It could even be that this chapter is onlyavailable to play for a fixed period too, if you missed the event thenyou’ve got to wait for a repeat or get yourself the box-set.I believe this will generate much more exposure for the game where theanticipation of what’s in the episode and the discussions afterwardsmake for a continued presence in peoples minds. Everyone would get thetime to savour the experience and look forwards to the next one, hopingto share this with your friends.A great side-effect of this is that it enables others to join theexperience and catch-up with the previous episodes with everyone liningup at the next event.It’s completely important to give people and end-to-end experience,i.e., a boxed off series with a compelling series ending. This giveseveryone something to share and builds to a great crescendo for youridea.How would you make this happen?I believe that a pre-sold box set, either retail or online, would enableplayers to get their content ready *before* the content is unlocked ata specific time. You have the content in your hands, it’s ready, youknow it’s going to be delivered to you over time so you can judge thevalue.This is a different position to making the game available fordownload/purchase at a set time, this is about unlocking the experience.iTunes has incorporated the idea of a ‘Series Pass’ for TV Seriessince 2006 with the exact model with series such as The Inbetweenersbeing unlocked as they’re aired on TV. It would seem likely that thismodel will extend to games too.Steam have also been supporting this kind of pre-load and unlock foryears where they pre-download content to your PC so that the game isready to play at a specific time, no additional downloads or waiting isnecessary.For other platforms, it would seem trivial to unlock the content basedon a live connection to an ‘unlock server’ instead of the obviousunlocking at a set time based on your PC/phone/console clock.Bonus ExtrasThere’s also the opportunity to engage your audience between events byadding in the usual layers of Making Of documentaries and DeveloperCommentary (Valve have been embeddingcomments this since 2005). These extras could be made available to series subscribers to encourage people to take up the whole package.Benefits to your businessThere is a middle-ground to be had here. As a business you could makeenough content to release but the whole series would be incomplete asyou’d be making the later episodes as you go along.There are pros & cons to this approach.It means you *have* to hit all of your production dates for the laterepisodes or you risk breaking the series and therefore the experienceand we all know there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. This risk ismitigated by the length of your series and the lead time on yourepisode, i.e., if you get 6 months worth of content in the bank beforeyou release the 1st episode then you’re probably going to be OK.One benefit to overlapping release & development is that you can startto incorporate feedback into your episodes that are currently inproduction and also use the revenue to keep your business going.SummaryI believe there’s a great opportunity for well thought out andspecifically written games that maximise the potential of Episodiccontent.It needs a well written story that spans multiple episodes with theemotional peaks & troughs to keep you coming back for more.All of the pieces have existed for a while but no-ones really made a goof it and I believe that the synced mass shared event is key to this.It’s not enough simply to make your game available to download at afixed time, the experience must be shared.

The Definitive Guide To Pitching Your Video Game

12 min read

Over the years I’ve both pitched many games and been on the receivingend of pitches too, all of which range from a small game worth £100k upto AAA hits of close on £10M. I’ve worked my way through the good & badand I wanted to share with you my complete guide to pitching a game.In essence, Pitching is about building a bridge between the Artand the Money, let’s learn how to make that bridge.In order to make this connection we need 3 key elements to besuccessful. Theseare: -------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ A **Great Idea** A **Good Business Case** and a **Great Team** to execute it ![image](/assets/image47.png "image") [![image](/assets/image_thumb7.png "image")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/image48.png) [![28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n](/assets/28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n_thumb.jpg "28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n.jpg) -------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A WarningWhat’s presented in this post are general rules that work in most casesbut these aren’t definitive rules, you’ll need to adapt them to suityour own needs but the principles are sound and are well-tested.I also focus on the more traditional slide based presentation that canbe done in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a series of slides oreven a flip book. These forms work for most projects but the morecreative and unique projects sometimes need something more tangible likea video or prototype to get a complex idea across.Great IdeaLets drill down into the most important part, the Great Idea that yourpresenting. There are 3 main properties your great idea should have… ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [![Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001](/assets/Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001_thumb.jpg "Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001.jpg) ![image](/assets/image5.png "image") [![six-sense](/assets/six-sense_thumb.jpg "six-sense")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/six-sense.jpg) It needs to be **relevant to a big enough audience** It needs to **stand out from the crowd** And be **Innovative**, in that it offers something new in actual game experience that sets it apart from other games in the genre. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------So how should we structure the pitch? A good structure for a pitch is tocover some basic areas to make sure that all the key information isshared High Concept Key Features Storyboards Business Case Pitch Summary Defensive SlidesHow Long Should It Be?It’s been scientifically proven that 10 minutes is the greatest amountof time a person can concentrate before their mind starts to wander.It may not sound very long but you may well find you struggle tocommunicate everything you want in that time and you’ll be constantlytrimming your presentation, finely tuning each word and image to makesure you get the most bang-for-buck.I would say that you should be able to get across your High Concept inless than 1 minute, leaving you 9 minutes to get across your features,scenarios, business case and summary before questions.High Concept {style=”clear: both;”}The first element to share is your High Concept, what is the gamereally all about?It should be a compelling and unique idea that can be communicated injust a couple of sentences. This is commonly known as the “ElevatorPitch” with the idea being that you could jump in a lift on the groundfloor with the person you’re presenting to and make your pitch memorablebefore they leave on the 2nd floor.This means that it’s important that your high concept is easy tocommunicate, memorable & easy to pass on.Once that person gets out of the elevator they’re going to tell someone“Wow! I just heard a great idea in the life, let me tell you aboutit…”Remember this is a hook, it’s a seed, it’s the first contact with youridea but it should be finely tuned and water-tight.Preparing this short High Concept is a tough exercise but it reallyfocuses your attention and gets to the core of your game idea.There’s an even shorter form of High Concept that’s often called the“X Statement”, this encapsulates the essence of your idea in just afew words. They’re not intended to tell someone everything about youridea but just enough to get their appetite going.Here are a few examples, you could probably guess the game from just thestatement, which is the idea.![image](/assets/image10.png "image")"Improve the Age of your Brain in just 10 minutes a day"![image](/assets/image11.png "image")"Create virtual people and run their lives"Set The Scene {style=”clear: both;”}So, you’ve nailed the High Concept and now it’s time to give somemore detail so everyone understands exactly what our offering is. TheHigh Concept followed by this extra level of detail will frame the restof the presentation.You’re aiming to go top-down, start high and drill in to more detail asyou go deeper into your presentation. This way the concept starts tobecome clearer and clearer as you progress.Adding in layers like this also ensures that everyone is expecting thesame thing, it would be awful if you got 1/2 way through your pitch andsomeone said “Ohh, I thought you were pitching a Racing Game but it’sactually a Farming Game”Cover thebasics: Who is the player in the game? What are they doing in the game? Why are they doing what they’re doing? Where is the game set? How do they do it? Who’s the audience? What platform is it on?Remember, keep it high level, add in the layers later in yourpresentation.Key FeaturesIt’s generally held that you only need 4 elements to a product before abuyer will make their decision. No more, no less.We have the High Concept so we only need 3 Key Features to getto a decision point. This means it’s incredibly important that these fewthings add up to something amazing and it’s a lot of pressure to makesure they’re complete and enticing but it’s a tried & tested formula.The Key Features need to deliver on the promise set by the HighConcept, they need to expose unique and exciting elements of your gameexperience.Remember:We only want 3 Key FeaturesIt’s probably true that your game has loads of features but you have topick the 3 strongest features on which to hang your pitch.Make It VisualBy far the best way to communicate your High Concept and 3 KeyFeatures is to use visuals in whatever format you choose.Let’s use one of my favourite games, Burnout Paradise (the only PS3Platinum I have), as an example of how this may work by using some stockfootage from around the ‘net. You’d obviously need to use relevant andspecific imagery for your own pitch. These could easily be anything frompencil sketches, concept drawings, renders or screen captures from aprototype.High Concept The original Burnout game’s X Statementis: “High-Speed, High-Octane, High-Impact Action”The use of the word “Impact” has 2 meanings here, firstly it meanscrashing, secondly it refers to the effect it has on you.Risk = Reward {style=”clear: both;”}What takes Burnout beyond a regular car driving game is the element of“Risk = Reward”. The more dangerous you drive, the more risks you takethe greater the reward. This goes around in a loop as the Reward isboost, which enables you to go faster and take more Risks, whichgenerates more Boost.Paradise City {style=”clear: both;”}“Explore over 250 miles of open road, discovering jumps, stunts andshortcuts.”This was one of the first games to take place in an expansive open worldcalled Paradise City. Races and events took place on streets you cruisedaround, they crossed over each other and the end of one race became thestart of another - or you could just cruise away.Choose Your Route {style=”clear: both;”}The open world naturally facilitated choosing your own route through theworld, you could take short-cuts, scenic routes and weave your way underfreeways to beat your opponents to the finish line.These are obviously simple examples taken from stock footage but you cansee how they all fit in with Burnout Paradise’s High Concept and theysupport each other to make a compelling case. Remember, you don’t needall of your features exposed; just the Key 3 Features to sell youridea. You can leave your various online modes, customisation, range ofvehicles, DLC plans for later.Movies {style=”clear: both;”}If you have the time then a Movie can be a great way to get across yourpoint. You may splice bits from other games, TV, Hollywood, DVDs in aform referred to as a “rip-o-matic” to get the energy, emotion andessence of your game idea across but it’s very easy to bemis-understood and set the wrong expectations using this method. Youdon’t want to be promising life-like visuals or amazing narrative ifthey’re not in your plans so be careful.Stick to communicating your Key Features and the basicsof: High Concept Core experience Character / Objective Theme & toneStoryboards {style=”clear: both;”}A great way to get across an idea is to take your audience through theexperience in the form of a storyboard, walk-through or scenarios.The aim of your storyboard is the same, its sole aim is to get acrossyour High Concept and 3 Key Features. Hollywood and TV have usedthis model for years and it’s also a great tool to use once your game isin production too to make sure everyone is going in the same direction.Think of them as a comic that show your features in action as the playermay experience them. This gives them context, meaning and detail thatfurther cement your idea.Don’t go crazy, stick to 1 or 2 Storyboards and it’ll be enough to makeyour point and you definitely don’t want to bore anyone by saying thesame thing over and over.Some ideas benefit from more of a narrative context to get the emotionacross and telling a Story is the best way to do this. The emotionmakes the feature more memorable too. Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideallyset up to understand stories Roger C Schank, Cognitive Scientist An example Storyboard {style=”clear: both;”}Let’s use another of my favourite games as an example of how we can usea Storyboard to get across our Key Features in a way that is compellingand memorable.Here’s a Storyboard that we could use to describe the action of aSurvival Horror featuring Close-Quarter Intense Fights, InteractiveWorld and Highly Intelligent Opponents in one go. Read through and I’msure you’ll agree it’s a lot more exciting and compelling than abullet-point list. Player is trapped from all sides in a building and must make a stand The fight begins as the zombies pile in through the broken windows Running upstairs isn’t enough, the zombies pursue from the outsideand break in on the 1st floor Player’s only hope is to push the ladder away along with all thezombies climbing up The fight is too much so Player escapes through a 1st floor brokenwindow Sadly, Player lands right in front of a tooled-up zombie whofinishes Player offBusiness CaseNow you’ve got the game idea across its time to focus on the money;costs & profit are key areas to cover by discussing the business casefor the project. As a Developer you’re aiming to prove that you can makethe game you’ve promised for a sensible amount of money and what theup-side is for both parties.“This is show business, not show friends” - Jerry Maguire![image](/assets/image23.png "image")As we’ve seen on Dragon’s Den many times there are 2 main aspects to adeal: the Emotional side where the buyer is figuring out if they like the Idea (including the Team making it) and the Practical business needs. There are many times on DD where the idea is great but the Dragon’s just don’t like the person pitching the idea.They’ll be asking the followingquestions: Is there an audience for it? Can this team make it? What’s the teams heritage? Have they donethis kind of game before? How much do I think it’s worth? Is the proposal about right for thisscope of game? Does it meet my business needs? Does it fit with portfolio & strategy? Show them that fits withintheir portfolio of games and expands it in new areas How much Risk is involved? Can *we* make money?As a presenter, your role is to make sure that you answer thesequestions accurately and with confidence and make them want to giveyou the money!Portfolio fit – show who this fits in with other games the companymakes by doing your research beforehand.Team heritage – Give a brief overview of the highlights of the teamspedigree and expose key people to bring kudosHeadline costs & timeline – keep the figures high level but don’tforget to include a time-line too, how much and when does the money goout. Share your expected time-line for delivery of the game to enablethe buyer to think about the earliest point they could sell the game.Next Steps – remind them of the next phase of concepting orpre-production and what it will bring. After all, the money you need upto that point is all that you’re really looking for a commitment for atthis stage.Pitch SummaryTell them what you’ve just told them!The sticky bit of business is now down and it’s time to re-emphasisewhat a great idea it is and remind them that it’s something they reallywant to be a part of by re-stating your High Concept and 3 KeyFeatures.Defensive Slides {style=”clear: both;”}Now here’s a top-secrettip: Defensive Slides.These slides hide at the back of your presentation, beyond the “AnyQuestions?” slide  and their sole purpose is to be there to support youranswers to any detailed questions that may come up.Think about what these questions could be during your preparation, maybethey’re slides you culled while you tried to get it down to 10 minutes.Think about the worst questions you could get, the ones you dread andget the answer ready and pop in any additional slide you have thatsupport your answer. It’s comforting to know that they’re there andawesome to flick to if the question comes up.They show you’re ready and you’re thinking about your proposition fromall angles.I’d usually include a more detailed financial break-down in here as wellas relevant slides such as detailed milestone schedules, DLC plans,feature lists, competitive analysis, detailed team bios, references,alternative date scenarios (bigger team/longer time), etc.SummaryLets cover the main pointsagain:Make sure your Great Idea is unique and has a big enough audiencePresent the idea visually, cut the word count on the slides themselvesto make it more memorableFocus on the key points, get the hook in to entice the buyer for moreinformation. Don’t overwhelm them.Provide a completesolution: Great Idea, Great Team, Great Business CaseI hope you enjoyed this post and find it useful, I’d love to hear youropinion in the comments section below.Further ReadingThe original BioshockPitch, kindly shared by Irrational Games.An article written in2007 on pitching games

Flow - Make Better Games

7 min read

I’ve been meaning to re-present something I did for a whole gamedevelopment studio a while back about ‘Flow’. It instantly improvedproduction and was something we held dear as a team.Have you ever said anythinglike: “Wow, is it that time already?” “Sorry, I was miles away” “I get my best work done when everyone’s gone home!”If the answer is yes, then you’ve experienced a state of Flow andmost likely been incredibly productive. It’s sometimes called being “inthe zone” too among others. Here’s my take on a well-known psychologicalstate and why it’s important to game developers.Flow is a highly productive state of mind, time slips by and you blitzthrough work, making fewer mistakes, no thought about how much effortyour making and generally higher quality thinking goes into it too. “Flow is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement. In thisstate, there is a gentle sense of euphoria, and one is largely unawareof the passage of time.” DeMarco.I’ve been a long time supporter of enabling people to enter this stateof Flow and stay there so they can do their best work and enjoy it.It’s important for managers, colleagues, producers and businesses torecognise that supporting this can make a real difference to the qualityof your game.As you settle in for agood working session, you slip from your Regular un-productive statethat you sit at your desk at, through your Immersion phase into astate of Flow and this whole process typically takes you about 15minutes to get through, although it can vary from person to person.InterruptionsWe’ve recognised that the state of Flow is important and that ittypically takes you 15 minutes to get there. The problem here isthat there are many distractions and interruptions that break yourconcentration and send you crashing back up through the layers toreality.These interruptions mean you’re now back to the start and it’s going totake you yet another 15 minutes to get back down there and if you’d onlyjust got there then it was also a waste of your last immersion. That’s15 minutes lost for every interruption you get. This can be incrediblyfrustrating and it drives me insane!Imagine a horrible state we’re you’re constantly interrupted and neverget into Flow.Explicit Interruptions You get an email pop-up – +15 minutes IM pops up – +15 minutes Telephone call – +15 minutes At desk requests - +15 minutes ‘ping’ from a new text message on your mobile - +15 minutes Starting a long build – +15 minutesImplicit Interruptions Noise Interrupting colleagues – how often does your neighbours phone gooff?You can quickly see how this can mount up to a problem and in a biggerteam the problem compounds itself as the people who have beeninterrupted start sending emails, pop around to someone for a chat, askif you want to join them for a coffee, etc.There’s also a consideration for time of day too as if it’s close toyour break/lunch/home time then you’re most likely to just not bothertrying to get backI had a particular problem when I was running a team and sitting amongthem. I often had to use the phone to make or receive business calls. Irapidly became aware that every time I did that people stopped workingto listen to what I was saying and I was obviously disturbing them. Theyweren’t cross, they were just interested in what I was talking about andoften asked questions. I intended this to be transparency but I wascausing a whole load of drag on people’s time.You’ll also see this happen when you approach to ask someone a questionand the others around them drift out so they can pay attention.Mitigating InterruptionsHere are a few things you can do to try to helpyourself: Turn communications systems off and let everyone know why you’redoing it; E-Mail, IM and Phone. It’s not going to be forever and I’msure your manager/lead will be happy you want to be focused. Use your email apps Out Of Office system to auto-respond lettingpeople you’ll get back to them soon. This prevents them fromthinking you’re ignoring them for no reason. Set your email app to only check emails every 30 mins or so. Doemails really need an instantaneous response? ‘Zebra’ Mail - I’ve also used the email apps rules systems topickup keywords in the subject line to bring an alert up. In myexample people knew that putting the word ‘Zebra’ in the subjectline would mean it would get my instant attention. I could alsochange the word to prevent people just using it all of the time. Put your headphones on. This seems to be the internationalsymbol for Do Not Disturb plus you’ve got a damn good excuse for notresponding to general chat as you can’t hear them! You don’t have tolisten to music either, just pop your headphones on. Door Etiquette - If you’re fortunate to have your own officethen adopt a door protocol suchas: Door Open - ready for interruption Door ajar - priority interruptions only Door closed - Do Not Disturb on pain of death Consider other people’s desire to be undisturbed, do you really need ananswer to that question now?  Try and use appropriatecommunication: Time critical: voice Immediate & discreet: Instant Message Can wait: e-mailTeams and Studios should support this whole way of working by beingconsiderate and enabling people to work for extended periods in anundisturbed state.How long to stay in Flow & ExceptionsIn our game development world there are typically 2camps: Developers and Managers.Developers generally need to stay focused for 2 hrs to get anythingmeaningful done and make progress. I’ve rarely seen anything take lessthan this and staying focused for more than that is difficult.Managers are exceptions as they typically work in 20 min batches ifthey’re lucky. Their job requires constant monitoring and attention toothers and they need to use email, phone and IM to communicatethroughout the studio.People in a Lead role are caught between the two roles as they are oftenasked to both Develop and Manage. In this position they need time to dothe work but they’re constantly interrupted and this often leads to asense of immense frustration. I often see Leads spending the regularworking hours being interrupted and attending meetings but staying lateto do their work. It’s a tough place to be and the only advice I cangive is to try to time-box your availability so people know whichhat you’re wearing at any point in time.ConsequencesThere are natural consequences of not considering Flow.Being mindful of it and actively supporting it improves efficiency,quality of work and aids progression. All of which make for happierDevelopers and a better game.The natural opposite of this in a world where interruptions are rife andpeople can’t work are poor performance, poor quality of work and mostlikely late delivery.We all know that the work still needs doing so in the latter example,people end up working overtime to compensate. This overtime usuallyoccurs when all the interruptions are gone so people get work done.Strive to keep a working environment that enables people to Flow asoften as possible.Meta-FlowIn addition to the regular working flow I also believe there’s a conceptof Meta Flow if we take the principles of having a continuous andfocused train of thought about a particular subject over an extendedperiod.This comes in to play when you’re team members are working on aparticular item for an extended period of days, even weeks. Their mindis full of a single task and shouldn’t be polluted or interrupted byother things occurring. Think of a physics programmer being pulled offto do work on the rendering system only to return back to physics ashort while later. In this scenario it makes sense for them toconsecutively focus on Physics.SummaryBeing aware of, honouring and supporting Flow can make a realdifference to your game development team and therefore the game.Encourage everyone in your organisation to learn about it and respectit.Further Reading•“Peopleware”– Tom DeMarco•“Cringe from crossing a concentrating coder”http://liw.iki.fi/liw/texts/flow.en•“Promoting Flow in Software Development”http://www.davethehat.com/ot2000/unblocking.htm

20 years of a Video Game Developer’s Career – Part 4

9 min read

I’d like to share with you my game development career experience as partof a series of posts, let’s rejoin the story at during the twilight daysof PlayStation 2 when I started at Kuju in Sheffield. I’ve included alot of photos in this post so you may even make an appearance!Kuju Sheffield v1Iwas fortunate to be have formed strong relationships with people acrossthe industry and I was brought in as employee #2 for the newly formedKuju studio in Sheffield where the next phase of my career beganincluding many of the people I’d worked with in Leeds on the emergingplatforms.Kuju had recently been listed on the stock market and was expandingrapidly with studios in Guildford, London, Brighton and now Sheffield.Starting out at Kuju Sheffield was an exciting time, there wereessentially 4 of us in the 1st few weeks holed up inside a tiny officeunder one of the stands of the football stadium for Sheffield United.The room was long and thin with only a high tiny window at one end andit was very reminiscent of the early days of my career back at Alligata.In this tiny space we not only crammed ourselves but an immense serverrack that was built for the future, the server itself was incrediblynoisy and it appeared to be made even more so by the small environment.The room soon became hot and noisy but we were enjoying ourselves.Dave, Nick, Tony and myself beavered away making a few PS2/X360/PC portsfor the main Kuju office while we found our feet and got our ownprojects, which didn’t take long and we were expanding quickly. Date: 2003 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 4 Projects: 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju Sheffield v1.1 Within a few weeks we expanded into a larger office on the same floorthat took us up to about 15 people before we needed to move again. Wewere working on a football game for Codemasters at this point and westarted to bring in some great staff who were unfortunate casualties ofthe demise of Warthog studios. It would turn out that we’d stay togetherfor many years and we had a great time.Working under a football stadium posed its own challenges with the mostprominent one being that we weren’t allowed in the building during aperiod of 2hrs before to 2hrs after a match! This was particularlyfrustrating when we had deadlines to hit as we were simply evacuatedfrom the building. As producer/project manager, I even went to theextent of planning the milestones to avoid home match days.The servers furiously buzzed away in the corner and we delivered thegame on time and this won us another contract.I was named as Technical Director at this point but I was pretty muchdoing anything that needed to bedone: building desks, installingcabling, running servers, finance, business development, training,project management, programming and a load of other stuff. All the stuffeveryone does in a small business and it was fun.We delivered the game on PS2 and XBox as a team and we were hungry forme but we really need to move out so we relocated across town into theposh Media Center. Date: 2003 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 10-15 **Projects:** 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju Sheffield v1.2 Our studioincreased quickly over the next few years peaking at about 40 staffacross 3 projects being made on PC, PSP, Xbox & PS2.We had specialist staff now and we started to get some real traction.We were making a Flight Simulator for PSP, Football Action game forconsole, Football Management game for PC, Social Quiz game for PS2,Fitness game connected to a cross-trainer, TV<>game cross-over pilotand lots of little trinkets on the side.People came and went but we remained pretty stable and everyone appearedto be enjoying themselves.My named role as Tech Director was now largely being done by one of ouroriginal lead programmers where I was pretty much acting as DevDirector, setting out production process, managing finance, workingacross sites and a myriad of other things.I attended frequent meetings with the Execs at Kuju presenting projects,new business and finance reports all of which I’d prepared and ran. Ihad good relationships with our clients as I was their day-to-daycontact.I was also getting more involved in the people side of the businessagain, hiring, firing, reviewing and applying the regular attention thatan active group of developers required.Despite all of this, we were struggling to get in new work along withmany other developers and the prospects didn’t look good. Date: 2005 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 15-35 **Projects:** 3 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju v2.0 - The King is Dead What happened nextwas a blur of rapid change.Our incumbent Studio Manager retired and I was asked to take over as I’dbeen doing a large part of the work anyway. It didn’t feel like much ofa change for these reasons and I relished the opportunity to take thestudio forwards.I made a promise toeveryone: I would take us into a new era and get us a ‘next-gen’ project, we would do this by standing on the shoulders of Unreal 3. We would develop expertise in this area that would benefit usall.Numerous people shifted around within the studio, backfilling all thepositions and this gave everyone a new round of energy.I worked hard over a few months and I got us another contract - thistime it was significant as it was on ‘next-gen’ consoles and representeda massive improvement in our prospects. We all relished the opportunity.We began work on our game, really pushing ourselves and learning newplatforms and new ways of working.Werapidly ran out of space and we outgrew our offices where the mainproblem was that our expansion had caused us to take on additional,separate, offices in the same building. This was workable previously aswe’d been split across 3 games in 3 offices so it kinda worked but itfailed when all of us were on 1 project.In hindsight, this is a great way to scale up. Take on multiple smallprojects then combine your team to make a larger team for a singleproject.So, I hunted around for a new home for our studio and I found one justaround the corner. Date: 2005 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 30-35 **Projects:** 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju v2.1 - Custom Fit Office Our newoffices was brilliant. I managed to find us a large open-plan space andI planned the floor space incorporating meeting rooms, a small office(for me), storage space, kitchen and other bits and bobs. We got tochoose the colour scheme, flooring and everything! Of course I can’tclaim sole ownership of all of this.Our Art Director, Nick, and Tech Director, Dino, and many other peopleplayed a key role in making this a success.It took a few weeks to come together and we were so excited to bemoving, even it if was just around the corner.I think it’s safe to say that we enjoyed our new space.We had exciting times too, we had people trapped in a lift and had to call out the fire brigade that amused everyone except those trapped and we there was also a MASSIVE fire opposite our building and we just watched from our windows.During all of this we were still working on our game and all of ourother commitments but it all seemed to gel.I structured the studio to be as agile as possible and we started toinvade the new territory of Outsourcing the artwork that very few peoplewere doing at the time. It just made complete sense.Meeting the Stars Our football game was a dream come true for a handful of us as we wentto Barcelona and Milan to go behind the scenes of the largest clubs atBarcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan to capture reference of the stars. From all 3 teams we got to meet all the stars, agents and managers,take detailed reference photos of everyone from many angles. We evenwent out for dinner with LionelMessi!Kuju v3.0 - becoming ChemistryThe higher-level business was goingthrough a transition. The many Kuju studios in London, 2 in Guildford,Sheffield and Brighton all had their own niche and identity and it wasbecoming increasingly confusing for us internally and it also must havebeen very strange for our prospective clients. We would attend meetingsand say “Hi, we’re from Kuju and…” …. “Didn’t we just see you guys?”… “No, that must have been one of our other studios…we specialise inX and would like to show you Y”. etc.Re-branding was the order of the day, Brighton went first and became ZoeMode and we followed on quickly afterwards changing our name toChemistry.The name Chemistry worked for us, it represented us bringing togetherdifferent elements of a game and making something new and neverexperienced before. It solidified our messaging and provided a greatidentity for us as a studio to get behind. We had banners, marketing,press, t-shirts and a whole range of other things branded up. Ouroffices were white, clean, sterile with a few hints of colour.Back on the floor, I’d also been pushingnew contracts and we were now working on 3 separate PS3 and X360 games.We had an FPS, a Football game and we were also helping Midway out onone of their projects.As a studio, we were immensely busy and the amount of personal work wasstacking up plus I was aiming to keep everything on an even keel.Due to the nature of working as a remote office, as well as running 3next-gen projects and running a studio I was left also doing Officemanagement, HR, finance, answering the phones, ordering toilet rolls,managing servers, doing the post, fixing desktop systems, buildingfurniture among other things.As management, there was myself and 1 other Project Manager doing all ofthis together. You can imagine what this did to me as a result. Date: 2007 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 35-40 **Projects:** 3 Platforms: PlayStation 3, XBox 360, PCEnough is enoughDespite great prospects and a wonderful team, I’d had enough and I worked with the Execs to bring in Mike as a replacement Studio Head and I sadly quickly left the business with nowhere else to go. These were tough times and sometimes people just won’t listen to repeated cries for support and see the issues that are staring them right in the face. It sometimes takes a drastic measure to make people realise what’s goingoff.So, I left Kuju and a great team. My time at Kuju was the happiest andmost complete I’d ever felt and it felt like I’d let a lot of peopledown but I had to move on.What next? Across to the dark sideThe next phase of my career was completely unknown and it took me a fewmonths to find a role that suited me. I was fortunate to have 2 greatoffers: 1 from Codemasters, 1 from Sony. Which one did I take?This is where we’ll join the story next time…A few memoriesFurther Reading Series Part1 Series Part2 Series Part3