Following our interview from yesterday we are back with the second part of our hefty look into an Australian development icon. Hit the jump to find out Krome Studios’ take on the Australian game development scene and even some information for budding developers looking to get into the industry.
GL: What made you decide to base your studio in Brisbane, as opposed to the larger cities of Sydney or Melbourne?
Lindsay: <smiles> Haha, okay, so this is going to be me recalling facts before I was here. Krome was formed as an entity in 1999, so this is actually our 10th year of operation this year, and this was based off a group of guys who had been around before that, in this building, albeit just on one floor. They originally made games under a few different names, GeeWhiz and a couple like that, developing titles like Flight of the Amazon Queen and such. So I think really where that came from, was that Brisbane was the first because it’s where the guys lived. That’s where Steve and John started the partnership.
GL: So your steady path to growth from there involved a “takeover” of other studios, in Adelaide and Melbourne?
Lindsay: Well, I wouldn’t call it a takeover.
GL: <laughs> Well, probably bad wording.
Lindsay: <smiles> I would put it more as, well, “opportunities”. From Midway shutting down Ratbag Studios, from Atari shutting down Melbourne House, there were opportunities there and we were in the position financially, and well, with new games coming up and so forth, to take advantage of that and form studios with some guys with a *lot* of experience and great skills.
GL: Would you say your sub-studios provided you with resources that you didn’t currently have up in Brisbane?
Lindsay: Definitely. The Ratbag guys have a fantastic history with making great racing games, like we touched on earlier. But also, something else you need to consider with that also is, as well, is before Adelaide’s office started up, talent was coming up here to work not just with us, but with other studios. So definitely, there are some strengths there. Just because of the core groups that were still left, but similarly there are guys up here that have done surfing games <grins> and 3rd person action that the guys hadn’t done down there.
GL: What are your thoughts on the state of the local industry? Is it healthy, or does there need to be more support by government?
Lindsay: I don’t think you’d find a studio in Australia that wouldn’t be hoping for more government support! <laughs>
Fergus: <laughs> Yeah, it’s not going to break the front page is it.
GL: <laughs> Touche!
Lindsay: Definitely, we’re being hit by the same forces as everywhere else. It’s the economic downturn that is out there, so far, I think we’ve been a little bit more insulated then other industries. But I think it’s starting to get a bit more rough now that everyone’s spent their $600! <laughs>
Melissa: It was $900! <smiles>
GL: Gamers have deep pockets!
Fergus: There was a bonus? <laughs>
Lindsay: But yeah, definitely, you need to look and see what’s happened in Brisbane recently with Pandemic (Studios, closing down) recently. I think it’s a sign of resilience that most of those guys have found jobs, whether here or at other development studios. I definitely think that you are not seeing publishers set up new studios all over the place, like you did five or so years ago.
GR: There are calls for an R rating for games in Australia. Do you agree that the classification system for games needs to be reformed?
Lindsay: So, I think there’s two different arguments. One is an argument about free speech, and one is about whether all games should just be released. Personally, I haven’t really cared about any games that have been refused classification and subsequently not been released or modified for the market. Whether or not it makes much of a difference that Fallout 3 uses morphine or medkits, I’m not sure, but I *do* think there should be an R rating for games to be on par with the movie industry. I do think that if it was established and people selling the items stuck to it, which is always going to be key anyway, but the way the world is if a game is banned, anyone who wants it will get a hold of it.
GR: Develop Magazine ranks you as one of the top 50 developers in the world, beating out huge industry stalworts like Codemasters, Atlus, Rare and Crytek. Can you divulge on the key to Krome’s amazing success?
Lindsay: (To Fergus) Err, you wanna get that one? <laughs>
Fergus: <laughing> Sure! Well in many ways we got there without me being here.
Lindsay: Just a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work from a lot of people. There’s your stock standard response from me! <laughs>
Fergus: One of the things, I think, that differentiates Krome from many other studios is that, and many other studios claim this and it gets banded around a lot, is that there is a strong bond. It’s like a family run business, like Steve and Walshy are on first name relations with all the staff in Brisbane, along with half the staff in Melbourne and Adelaide as well. I mean, you ask what’s going on with “Project X/Y/Z” and either of them would know. His influence and his passion kind of gets reflected back in the people working on the projects as well. I’ve worked at several big publishers, as well as the development arm of one of them, and its been close knit as well. So it’s not totally unique, but I guess you’d be hard pressed to find larger studios where there still is a very strong passion to make great games, rather then just another job.
GR: So you find, I guess you find your independence, as a studio, allows you to have more of a casual feel to your organisation?
Fergus: I think that feeling is definitely there, but I don’t think it’s because we’re independent. I think if we were bought by a large publisher, there would be a bit of a culture shock. I’ve noticed there’s been some discussions over the last couple of weeks, both positively and negatively, about the bigger companies like EA, buying and selling smaller studios and culture changing and all. I mean, Microsoft as well, is another one. As well, both of them actively trying to preserve the thing they’ve bought. There’s no point buying a (studio) and changing it, that’s not what you paid for.
But, on the flip side, we are the masters of our own destiny right now. So we are able to maintain the spirit that’s been here for 10 years.
GR: This year marks 10 years since Krome was founded. What is next for the studio?
Fergus: I don’t foresee Krome growing any more, or much more, in 10 years. I think we’re at around, 400? I can see Krome moving to strengthen its reputation, I mean, we do focus on 3-rd person action and a few others, so maybe going into something more specifically. So really, taking things to the next level. The digital space is interesting, and like I mentioned, we do have a toe in those waters. But without forsaking the more traditional triple A blockbuster games.
Lindsay: Like Fergus, I don’t foresee us growing exponentially over the next 10 years. We’ve got a lot of things established now. Things we didn’t have when we were three, four, five, six guys. So it will just be refining what we’ve got and making everything bigger, better and -
Fergus: Yeah, doing those things we do well and doing them even better still.
GL: And finally, do you have any suggestions for budding game designers on how they should get started?
Fergus: Designers, or Artists or.. -
GL: Designers, Artists, Programmers… all parts of the industry.
Fergus: I get asked this a lot, <laughs> by parents, friends, and heh, I always disappoint the children. <laughs> Because, “how did I get in?”, it was a complete accident, you’ll never get in that way, forget it. When I mention engineers, specifically, you always see their faces fall, I say, “You want to be a Games engineer?”, you can earn a fortune, you’ll never be out of work, go and get yourself a first class Maths and Physics degree.
GL: I can imagine people thinking, “Well that’s not fun!”
Fergus: Exactly. So go and get a M&P degree because, you know, they are always looking for that. Artists – go and do a fine art degree. I mean, because anyone can use Max or Maya (graphic design software), you can learn that, but you couldn’t teach me how to sculpt. Either I can sculpt or I can’t. So you can refine that ability, like if you can animate, go to animation school; games studios would much rather hire somebody who is three years older with a fine arts degree and a module of 3D graphics in it. Or somebody who has been to one of the big animation schools. As opposed to someone who has sat at home, played lots of games, and learnt a bit of Max or Maya. I mean, I can do both, but I’ll never be an expert.
Again, I think people forget that Artists here, should be Artists first, then people who do art for games second. Whereas if I said “Look, if you want to be animator for Pixar”, go to animation school. You’d accept that without question. Game Design, though, is always the hard one. It really is. There are courses out there, I can’t say if they are good or bad, I haven’t had much experience with them. You could take the Q&A route, or the Associate Producer route.
Lindsay: And that does come down a lot to, well, playing. Lots of games. <laughs> I mean, yeah, as Fergus mentioned, there are plenty of courses at places like QANTM or AIE -
Melissa: Or QUT.
Lindsay: Or QUT. It’s not saying those aren’t good routes to go down either, it really is that the passion needs to be about art, not just the games, its all about the art. That sort of driving passion that gets you though and realising that the medium isn’t everything you think it… is. <smiles>
I’d like to extend my many thanks to Lindsay, Fergus and Melissa for taking an hour of their very busy schedules and wish them the very best on Krome and congratulations for a fantastic 10 years and the subsequent top award from Develop.