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Gaming Blend: Circling back around real quick – it's interesting you mention about not having concept artists and then also mentioning that the team has to collectively collaborate on each phase of the design process. Do you find it easier or harder working in that kind of environment as opposed to the hierarchy of the AAA business, where there are lead artists and someone over them, or a project manager over the artists or animators and then someone over them? You know, that hierarchy?
Michael: I... wouldn't say that it's harder... I would definitely say that it's easier. But by making it easier doesn't mean that it's making it faster. The process is very easy; like I said it's like an assembly line where it goes through every single one and we're all looking at it. We're basically providing all our opinions on one thing. So we're able to actually heavily criticize or create some suggestions or provide some feedback and stuff like that, as a team. As opposed to like, okay this is the 3D map lead of the team and they're criticizing things like map holes or stuff like that. This is the programmers, they're criticizing themselves and the game... I'm just kidding [chuckles] 'This is not working!!! Why isn't this working?! I'm not working on this game anymore!' [chuckles].
No, but um, we all get together and this is basically a weekly thing. We review over everything. We look at all the progress we are making – we criticize everything. Okay this looks great but let's make this change, and stuff like that. Eventually it gets up to me and I decide whether or not it's something to pass on to the fan page or if it's something we go through the process until we get [it] perfect, because we definitely want it to be perfect.
The Training Ground map, that's an exception. Sean has a bit of a fan base and he's been allowed to keep people up to date, so that's actually helped us out more so that we could actually provide more of a demonstration of what we're working on and stuff like that. Sort of like what the other indie developers are doing... monthly or weekly, this or that on the development and stuff. We are so time-constrained on our jobs we just don't have time to say 'Let's record something else' or update this or update that. We just focus on working and focus on working on Timesplitters Rewind... that's our two primary focuses.
Gaming Blend: You mention the community aspect, making content available to the fan base while you guys are busy working. How do you manage that balance, especially as indie devs? You know how Dean 'Rocket' Hall constantly talks about that balance and how they sometimes just have to hunker down and focus on getting things done instead of constantly trying to keep everyone up to date on the progress of the project.
Michael: Yeah, I'm actually friends with Dean on Skype, we talk on occasion. I've been following the progress of DayZ and it was something I was addicted to for quite a while when it was simply a mod.
It's a complicated issue because we want to be able to say 'Hey everyone, look at what we're working on, we're very excited'. But we work at such an odd pace because of the different time zones. So I'm like the only American, everyone else is in the United Kingdom or some area that side of the world. So you know, we all have these strange schedules; some work night shifts, some work day shifts. It's just very complicated. It takes a while to pass through the assembly line until it reaches the top, which takes me a little bit because I have to absorb everything that's going on all over [the world] with Skype and e-mail. So by the time it gets up to me, I'm like okay let's work on that and kind of go from there.
In terms of a hierarchy, there isn't necessarily a hierarchy. I guess you could say we have lead artists, we have a lead programmer and stuff like that. But how we look at it, we're all just a team of people working together. And the only filter outside of the team would be me, because I handle everything with public relations. I came on as public relations; I do have experience with game development. But I wanted to dedicate my time to helping with the PR stuff and management. I had to pass the [development] torch because I was just providing feedback on this stuff and that stuff, and Daniel was like 'You seem to know what you're doing, so let's put you in charge and go from there.' and I said 'Okay'.
So we've basically gone from there, because I handle IT, I work with the website, I work with all the servers we manage, I manage the public relations, I keep in contact with all the fans and the fan page and stuff like that. The hiring and firing. I'm basically the all-in-one package. I don't see myself as above or below anybody, everything just kind of funnels through me. So essentially, even talking to Crytek... even that's on my shoulders. Like if I say something wrong, and I don't want to say something wrong, we'll miss this or that opportunity. I work with a lot and I don't like not being busy.
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