The world's best game devs in their own words

Greg LoPiccolo - VP of Product Development at Harmonix

Significant releases: Frequency, Amplitude, Guitar Hero series, Rock Band series

GL: We know what we want to do, and we pretty much stick to that. Since most of us are active or former musicians, (from the exec level to QA), everyone is focused on making the best music games we can. We'd be a pretty mediocre shooter developer. Between us, we have a lot of knowledge and experience to draw on when trying to make the rock performance experience seem authentic and real.

Everyone gets input on what we make, and everyone knows that they are personally responsible for our games being good. No one at Harmonix phones it in.

We all like and trust each other, even if there is occasional yelling, which there is. We don't waste much time with politics or infighting, so all our energy ends up in the game. It seems simple, but it is a very big deal.

Tim Willits - Creative Director at id Software

Significant releases: Commander Keen series, Wolfenstein series, Doom series, Quake series

GamesRadar: From Commander Keen to Doom 3, id has never developed a bad game. How have you managed to keep up the standard over such a long period of time and such a wide spread of games?

Tim Willits: Probably the biggest thing is the people. John Carmack is still here today. He still comes into work every day, working on the technology. Guys like Kevin Cloud, myself, Todd Hollenshead, we've all been here since the early '90s. So we try to keep the culture of the organisation. Everyone's involved and we try to find the best people and then keep them as long as possible.

And then there's basically our philosophy of game design, and how it's married to the technology that John Carmack designs. With that paradigm, we try to leverage the technology that John develops to focus on the core aspects of what is fun. We don't try to make our games overly complex. We don't try to do things that are outside of our range of ability. We know what's fun, we leverage the technology to make every moment of the game fun, and we try to focus our game design around the moment-to-moment interactions that the player will experience.

GR: Where do you source your new talent, and what makes a candidate appealing from the id perspective

TW: I think originally and still a lot today, we look at the mod community and the guys that have the ambition and desire to make things on their own, and to demonstrate that they have a love and passion for gaming. Every designer, including myself, that works at id had originally made Quake or Doom or Quake II or Unreal maps and released them online for free to their friends. They had such a desire and passion that they took their own time and they were self-motivated enough to learn the tools, learn the technology and to get themselves noticed. And that is where we've found a great deal of talent.

The second place, because we're growing and we're expanding our teams, we look for people who have experience, who have shipped a few triple-A games, who have some leadership experience and who can really fit into our core culture here. We really try very hard to find someone who fits in personality-wise, because someone who's super-talented who's just a jerk is horrible to work with. We would rather have people who fit in culturally than just brilliant dudes. But luckily we have brilliant dudes who fit in culturally.

GR: Doom 3 was criticised for it's old-school design philosophy, but many also loved it for exactly that factor. Do you feel that id's old-school history gives it any advantages over newer studios?

TW: We invented the first-person shooter and our success has been on the second-to-second experiences that the player goes through. I mean the game was hugely popular. If you release any title there are people that will love it and people that will hate it, but I would much rather release a title that generates enough news and buzz to get people talking about it. We're more old-school than other developers and we focus on what's fun at its core. A lot of newer developers have to get recognised, but they don't have the id pedigree. So they have to do something different to stand out, and so you get a lot of this kitchen sink game design. But we want to focus on the core aspects of fun.

GR: If there's one thing that makes id different from rival studios, what is it?

TW: We have John Carmack at they don't. [laughs] No, I mean it's true. It's the people. John Carmack plus the rest of us have been here a long time, and we have a very high standard of what we believe is fun. We've been small enough and successful enough to stick to that standard, and as we grow these teams, we try to keep a small group culture. Because really, the culture and the people at the top dictate the whole organisation. If your organisation is 20, 000, the people at the top and the culture they set will still trickle down through the corporation.

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