Train2Game Interview: Gearbox Software co-founder Brian Martel on starting in the industry and learning from failure

Gearbox Software co-founder and Executive Vice President Brian Martel has worked in the games industry for over twenty years, making him the most experienced member of the Texas studio. The Train2Game Blog recently start down with Martel at a Borderlands 2 preview event where he discussed how he got started in the industry, the importance of learning from mistakes and advice on getting into game development.

How did you get started in the games industry?

I’ve been in the industry now for about twenty years. I got my first start at Microprose, the first game that I worked on was Civilization and I’m the last name that appears in the credits, so I’m extremely proud of my time at Microprose and I learned a lot of valuable lessons from Sid Meier, how he starts and his approach to gaming and that’s really awesome.

I then went to 3D Realms, leaving to be a texture artist. There I met Randy Pitchford; we were paired up, he was a level designer and I was an artist and we really just hit it off. That’s kind of how it worked back in those days; you would just keep pushing each other. Then after that we decided to start Rebel Boat Rocker, which was one of the best miserable failures of our career, we learned a lot about what not to do in making games.

Then we started Gearbox Software and I think we’re going on thirteen years now and that’s been a fabulous experience. We’ve been working on things that we really love like the Half-Life series, working on some Halo, Tony Hawk, even the James Bond franchise; all of these things have been interesting and now we’ve got Aliens: Colonial Marines which is fantastic, a dream come true. And then owning our own intellectual properties, like working on the Brothers In Arms series and Borderlands.

So, it’s been a pretty cool ride, really love making games, we’re entertainers at heart and this is what we do.

You mentioned learning from mistakes there, how important is it then for young game designers to actually make mistakes and learn from them?

Yeah, you have to fail, you have to learn what works and what doesn’t work, and the only way to really do that is to not be afraid of those failures and kind of push forward and try and do and make new things and do stuff, that’s really what you need to do. I mean everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

Probably the best lesson in all of this, and it’ll sound kind of silly and base if you will, is you have to learn when things are good enough, and that’s sort of the trick. The customer doesn’t know the difference between you’re vision – which is far exceeding your capabilities – and what they get in the box, or on an app, or whatever. So just do it, make it, make something, make something they can feel and experience.

It’s like writers, right? You should just have to write, and that’s the same kind of thing, just make games. If you like programming, do what you love; if you like programming, you like art, just do what you love, do it. Just do it over and over and over again, find people you can work well with – they’re going to feed your passion and drive, that kind of thing.

So, would that be your advice to anymore aspiring to break into the games industry? Do programming, produce art, mod for example.

Yeah, exactly. Mods are a great way to start; because that way you can build a community, figure out what it’s like to work with other people. Its one thing when you’re on your own in your bedroom, garage, whatever, and you’re doing your own thing. But once you start working with people, collaborating and understanding how to make those compromises you have to make, sometimes some of the best things come out of those compromises, they come out of the discussion, because two different people have disparate ideas and you can’t get that on your own.

I think that’s where small teams are really great to do that, and even in large teams, having really great experienced leaders can help that, and the only way to get there is by doing it and getting through it and learning what to do.

Thanks for your time.

There’s more from Gearbox Software here on The Train2Game Blog, while there’s also plenty more advice from industry experts.

As usual, leave your comments on The Train2Game Blog, or here on The Train2Game forum.  

Train2Game News: Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel on getting into the industry – “Mods are a great way to start”

Gearbox Software co-founder and company CCO Brian Martel believes modding is a great way for aspiring game developers to gain the skills needed to break into the industry.

“Mods are a great way to start; because that way you can build a community, figure out what it’s like to work with other people.” he told The Train2Game Blog at a recent Borderlands 2 preview event.

“It’s one thing when you’re on your own in your bedroom, garage, whatever, and you’re doing your own thing. But once you start working with people, collaborating and understanding how to make those compromises you have to make, sometimes some of the best things come out of those compromises, they come out of the discussion, because two different people have disparate ideas and you can’t get that on your own.”  Martel continued.

“I think that’s where small teams are really great to do that, and even in large teams, having really great experienced leaders can help that, and the only way to get there is by doing it and getting through it and learning what to do.” he added.

Our full interview with Gearbox Software co-founder Brian Martel will be published shortly, with more from the studio here.

DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall also recently spoke to The Train2Game Blog about the benefits of modding.

Modding is a great way for Train2Game students to practice and show off their skills, and there’s a lot more about it here on The Train2Game Blog, including what ValveUbisoft and  id Software told us about it.

What are your thoughts on Brian Martel’s advice?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game News: Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford presenting developer session at Rezzed

Gearbox Software founder and CEO Randy Pitchford will be presenting a developer session at Rezzed, during which he’ll demonstrate Borderlands 2 and take questions from the PC and indie gaming show audience.

Borderlands 2 is one of a number of playable titles at the Brighton expo, which takes place on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th of July. Pitchford’s developer session is on the Friday and gives any Train2Game students in attendance to ask the games industry veteran questions about the industry.

Gearbox Software titles include Half-Life: Opposing Force, Borderlands, Brothers In Arms, Duke Nukem Forever and the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Tickets for Rezzed are available on the official website, and it’s looking to be an interesting event for Train2Game students to attend, with a variety of developer sessions including those from Introversion SoftwareThe Creative Assembly and Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood 

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest news as the show approaches.

What would you ask Randy Pitchford at the developer session?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game News: Aliens: Colonial Marines delayed until 2013

Train2Game News recently reported that both Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite have been delayed until 2013, and now Gearbox Software and SEGA’s Aliens: Colonial Marines has suffered the same fate.

The game based on the classic film franchise was previously delayed from a spring release date to autumn, and now until next year. It’ll be released on February 12th 2013.

“I am thrilled to announce the definitive launch date for Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said President of Gearbox Software Randy Pitchford. “Aliens: Colonial Marines is the culmination of a life-time of inspiration from the films and relentless passion and drive from the exceptionally talented development team behind the scenes.”

“We knew this game would be incredible from the moment Gearbox began developing Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said  SEGA Senior Vice President of Marketing for Gary Knight,  “Now that the title is in its final stretch of development, we can confidently release the exact date that gamers will finally get to experience this blockbuster thrill-ride.”

Aliens: Colonial Marines is scheduled to appear at PC and indie gaming show Rezzed in July.

There’s more from Gearbox Software here on the Train2Game Blog.

What are your thoughts on the Aliens: Colonial Marines delay?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Tickets for new PC and indie game expo Rezzed on sale now

Train2Game students can now buy tickets for Rezzed, the new PC and indie games expo that’s hitting Brighton in July.

The event by Eurogamer.net and Rock, Paper, Shotgun will offer gamers their first chance to go hands-on with many upcoming PC games including Aliens: Colonial Marines from Gearbox Software. You’ll also be able to discover new indie titles in The Leftfield Collection, sponsored by SEGA.

Developers including Total War producers Creative Assembly and Project Zomboid creators The Indie Stone will also be on hand to show their work to the public and take questions in Developer Sessions, which are sure to be of interest to Train2Game students.

Rezzed takes place in Brighton on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th July with tickets on sale at http://www.rezzedgameshow.com/

“Following last year’s hugely successful fourth Eurogamer Expo, we’re broadening our horizons for 2012 by introducing a new summer event to highlight the best of PC and indie games,” said Rupert Loman, Managing Director of organiser Eurogamer Network Ltd.

“PC and indie games are enjoying huge success now after years in the ascendancy and we want to draw more attention to that fact and give people the opportunity to get up close to the biggest names and games before they’re released.”

More games, speakers and activities will be announced in the run up to the show, with more information available on the official Rezzed website.

Keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more news about Rezzed.

Will you be attending the Brighton event?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game students thought it may never happen… Duke Nukem Forever goes gold

Duke Nukem Forever goes gold

Many of those on Train2Game courses probably thought it’d never happen, but Duke Nukem Forever has gone gold.

That means the game is game is now being pressed to disc, ready to ship for its 10th June release date. The announcement game from Publisher 2K and developer Gearbox Software today, and the fetching picture of Duke was released to celebrate the news.

Last week, the Train2Game blog published a three part feature about the Duke Nukem Forever Q&A session with Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford.

It’s worth checking out for Train2Game students,  not only to be reminded about Duke Nukem Forever, but the amount of effort that’s gone into making sure the game is released.

“Always bet on Duke, I did,” said Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford on Duke Nukem Forever going gold.

“I bet on all of the developers who have ever been a part of this legendary project and I bet that none of us want to live in a world without the Duke”

I’ve played the final game and it is an incredible experience – a once-in-a-lifetime opus of interactive entertainment that reminds me once again why Duke Nukem is our King.”

“The developers of Duke Nukem Forever at 3D Realms, Triptych, Piranha and finally at Gearbox deserve our thanks and respect for never giving up and have truly shown us that they have balls of steel!”

When the Train2Game blog reported that Duke Nukem Forever was being revived last year, some thought it may have been a hoax. But finally, after 14 years in development, Duke Nukem Forever is set for release on 10th June.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Duke Nukem Forever going gold? Will the game live up to expectations? And does it’s release say anything about never giving up when it comes to the games industry?

Leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: VG247]

Randy Pitchford’s BAFTA Duke Nukem Forever Game Developer Q&A – Part 2

Duke Nukem Forever Screenshot 03

Recently, the Train2Game blog attended a very special Duke Nukem Forever Q&A session with Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford at BAFTA in central London.

During the hour long event, the Gearbox Software CEO discussed many issues of interest forTrain2Game students.

In Part 2 of our report, Pitchford speaks about Duke as a character, Game Design in Duke Nukem Forever and potential concepts of a Duke Nukem backstory that were dropped. Part 1 is available here on the Train2Game blog.

The Gearbox Software really made an effort to explain that Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t take itself too seriously, and when speaking about leads in games to day commented that…er… “most of our heroes have become pussies”

“Duke definitely has the biggest ego in the world. He wrote a book called ‘Why I’m So Great’ – who does that? But in his world, everyone loves him… He’s part of this crazy, fun house hall of mirrors universe where he is the centre of all of that goes on”

Pitchford likened the character of Duke, and the Game Design behind him, to Iron Man.

In many ways, it’s a similar thing to Iron Man’s Tony Stark. How awesome was that character? This guy’s super-rich, crazy-smart guy who can do whatever the hell he wants and he’s loved for it.

“What a wild character, and one of the reasons why I think that worked is the reason why Duke is kind of sticky right now. We are really in a time when most of our heroes have become pussies. Most of our heroes have become emo, and they take themselves so seriously.

“And we’re guilty of that too, I mean look at what we did with Brothers in Arms. With that, we really wanted to treat the subject matter with so much deference and wanted to get so real that we took a tone about sacrifice and real human emotion. These characters have real emotions and real problems.

“Duke doesn’t have any problems. He just kicks ass and so we have this world where heroes now are trying to be so human and so believable, that it’s actually surprisingly fresh to have this guy show up again and doesn’t give a crap. He’s just badass, wins, and that’s fine.

And while Duke Nukem Forever may seem simplistic in its nature – following the exploits of a gun toting hero who kicks ass and chew gum – Randy Pitchford revealed that the team had thought in depth about Game Design, and the possibility of giving Duke a sidekick – a gay robot sidekick.

“We were actually playing around with this backstory once where we came up with the concept of a sidekick, and that sidekick went right under a bus. No sidekick could hang with Duke. He was gay, and was actually an awesome character”

Duke Nukem Forever Screenshot 04

Pitchford enthusiastically discussed how a gay sidekick for Duke wouldn’t be there as stereotypical homosexual character for the amusement of the player. But rather to explore how Duke Nukem would react to such a character.

“It was in thinking of an origin story for Duke when we wondered what characters he’d be interested in teaming up with. What kind of experiences can Duke have which can develop a guy like him?”

“Certainly, sexuality is a part of the Duke personality and yet here we wanted to explore how Duke could relate to a peer that might have a different sexual orientation. That was a really interesting theme to play with.”

Gearbox actually decided on a backstory for the character, and from the way Pitchford was speaking, you could tell they’d put a lot of thought into this particular element of scrapped Game Design…and hinted that it’s entirely possible it could return in future.

“I don’t want to spoil it too much because we might go there and I don’t want to ruin it, but I’ll tell you that the character was actually a robot! A gay robot. And the characters actually developed a great bond and depended and relied upon each other.”

“They were successful in Duke’s early endeavours. But at the end, in order for victory against the aliens, the robot’s inner workings – a nuclear generator – had to be sacrificed.”

Randy cheerfully conclused that he found it ironic these in-depth narrative and Game Design ideas were being discussed in relation to Duke Nukem Forever.

“It’s really weird to be talking about this because, we’re talking about Duke Nukem, and these are some really deep storytelling concepts that we were exploring there. But the exploration was very sincere and very real and maybe we’ll come back to it at some point.”

Part 3 of our report will be posted on the Train2Game blog tomorrow.

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Randy Pitchford’s BAFTA Duke Nukem Forever Game Developer Q&A – Part 1

Duke Nukem Forever

Recently, the Train2Game blog attended a very special Duke Nukem Forever Q&A session with Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford at BAFTA in central London.

During the hour long event, the Gearbox Software CEO discussed many issues of interest for Train2Game students.

This included his path into the games industry, the history of the Duke Nukem franchise, Game Design concepts that were dropped during development, Borderlands and much, much more. Luckily, for those of you who didn’t attend the event, the Train2Game blog is here to give you a run down of the key points.

There was a lot of information, so we’ve decided to divide our feature into three pieces, with one published a day between now and Friday. So, be sure to stayed tuned to the Train2Game blog this week! Part one is right here.

The Duke Nukem Forever Q&A at BAFTA begun with Randy Pitchford talking about how he first started working was a game developer – something surely of interests to Train2Game students!

Like many who entered the games industry during the 1990s, Pitchford took his first steps into game development by programming computers as an amateur. (As the Train2Game blog recently reported, the Raspberry Pi could revive this era of bedroom coding)

The young Pitchford originally studied law at university – which he claims to have paid for through a part-time job as a magician – before dropping out to pursue a career as a game developer.

It’s a tale many Train2Game students surely see as familiar, with many now taking Train2Game courses with the aim of a brand new career.

Pitchford’s first role in the games industry as a game developer was at 3D Realms where he worked on…Duke Nukem 3D. He left the company in 1997 and went onto found Gearbox Software two years later. However, despite spending a relatively short period with Duke Nukem at 3D Realms, Pitchford said “I owe him my career”

Duke Nukem Forever Screenshot 02

15 years later and it’s Gearbox Software that ensuring Duke Nukem Forever is finally released, and despite all of the delays, and the cancellations, Pitchford believes the game will be the “ultimate version” of 3D Realms vision.

But with the original Game Design concepts being thought of way back in the mid 1990s, will Duke Nukem Forever work in 2011? Pitchford not only believes that it will, but believes it could be the most complete FPS experience since Half-Life 2. (As the Train2Game blog has previously reported,  2004’s Half-Life 2 remains an inspiration to game developers)

“The gameplay, I’m really excited to see how people respond to that because when you think about Call of Duty and games like that you realise that games today have really started to become narrow” he told the the BAFTA Audience.

“A shooter is now just an exercise of reaction-time skill test after reaction-time skill test. Get your cursor on the next guy and knock him down before he gets your health to zero, and every test is just a complication of that very simple [Game Design] mechanic”.

“Sometimes a new mechanic will be introduced like stunning guys and performing combos, or sliding on things and jumping around environments. Whatever it is, at the end of the day they all focus on that same one mechanic”

“It’s been a while since we had a game that was comfortable having pacing and variety from action to puzzle-solving to exploration and discovery. Even just non-sequiturs, like all the interactive stuff we have in Duke are total non-sequiturs but it’s just entertainment, right?

“It’s been a while since we’ve had that; I think the last great one for me was Half Life 2. So I’m excited for Duke to show up and have some of this because I think it will remind everyone how great that kind of experience is and it may motivate some more of us to remember that you don’t have to have all these one-trick ponies in terms of gameplay mechanics.”

Parts 2 and 3 of our report will be posted on the Train2Game blog on Thursday and Friday this week.