Train2Game News: Danny looks back at his favourite interviews in his final day as Blog Editor

After over two years in the role of Train2Game Blog Editor, I’m leaving for pastures new after accepting a job at a major publisher based in London.

This role has allowed me to attend industry events including Develop Conference, Eurogamer and Gamescom as well as enabling me to interview some of the biggest names in game development.

With this being my final day with Train2Game, it’s a great time to revisit some of my personal favourite interviews from my time in the role of Blog Editor.

 26th August 2011 – RAGE Creative Director Tim Willits

Speaking to me at Gamescom, the i D Software boss talked about creating RAGE, his role as creative director and the huge benefits of modding to those looking to break into the games industry.

2nd September 2011 – Far Cry 3 Narrative Director Jason Vandenberghe

An interview recorded at Gamescom, in which Jason talks about game design in Far Cry 3, using motion capture technology and actors, improvements for Far Cry 3 and more.

27th September 2011 – Valve writer Chet Faliszek

Speaking to us Eurogamer Expo, Chet discusses development of CS: GO, beta testing and modding.

31st October 2011 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow

In a huge interview, James Swallow talks writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, game design, what makes a good games writer and more.

14th November 2011 – Brink Lead Writer Ed Stern

Splash Damage’s Ed Stern spoke to us in-depth about the design and art of Brink, narrative in games, what makes a good designer and breaking into the games industry.

24th November 2011 – Bioware co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka & Dr. Greg Zeschuk

Recorded before the BioWare Lecture at BAFTA, Muzyka and Zeschuk talked about games as art, the history of BioWare and how they transitioned from working in medicine to working in game development.

22nd February 2012 Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen

Oskari Häkkinen talks game design and development of Alan Wake, life at Remedy and digital distribution, among other things.

27th March 2012 – SoulCalibur V game director Daishi Odashima

Speaking to The Train2Game Blog at a SoulCalibur V tournament, Odashima discusses development of SoulCalibur V , the importance of community feedback and what makes a good game designer.

July 11th 2012 – QA Veteran and Cheat Mode Author Dan Jacobs

In what must be the longest Train2Game Blog interview, Dan Jacobs talks about his book, Cheat Mode, QA Testing, life in the industry and much more.

20th July 2012 – Ian Livingstone OBE

In my final piece for The Train2Game Blog, Ian Livingstone discusses Make Something Unreal Live, Fighting Fantasy, what makes a good game developer and more.

Thank you to everyone who has read The Train2Game Blog over the last two years, commented on here, or on the Train2Game forum. Be sure to keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more great insight into the industry once my successor takes over in the role of Editor.

Danny Palmer – Train2Game Blog Editor April 2010-July 2012

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

Train2Game Interview: Cheat Mode author and QA veteren Dan Jacobs – all three parts in one place

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more in a huge interview which is spread out over three parts.

For the sake of convince, all three parts of our interview with Dan Jacobs can now see accessed in one place thanks to this blog post.  Be sure to read the whole thing for an excellent insight into the games industry.

Interview Part 1 – Inspiration for writing Cheat Mode, his involvement on the Train2Game forum, and how he broke into the games industry.

Interview Part 2 – Researching Cheat Mode, the importance of QA and its place in development.

Interview Part 3 – mistakes when QA testing, advice on becoming a tester, and the importance of networking.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

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

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 3

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In the final instalment of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses mistakes when QA testing, advice on becoming a tester, and the importance of networking.  The previous instalment of our interview is here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

 What are the biggest mistakes that can be made in QA Testing?

Biggest mistake number one is saying “I play games for a living.” No, you’re here for a job, you either work or you leave.  I assure you that very quickly in every new batch of testers, there are some who will go because they believed it was a joke, a mess around, a laugh. They weren’t prepared to do 12 hour days or endlessly test the same thing day out. It’s a job, if you want to keep that job, you have to do that.

Going back to Cheat Mode, your book, what’s the greatest piece of advice you can give to someone looking to break into the industry?

There is a prevailing factor in the book, almost everyone I spoke to, at some point, got a bit of luck. Luck is not something you can aim for, but it’s certainly something you can increase the chances of. If you’re applying to the companies near your house, well, good luck with that. But personally, I’ve moved for almost every job I’ve had, just to be able to take on that job and do it, expand my CV, get more experience then move on.

Once you have that break, a lot of people take you a lot more seriously because you’ve already worked. But getting that first break is very hard, and ultimately you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes. But you have an applicant in this industry need to be prepared to meet those challenges.

Would you recommend going to industry events such as Rezzed, Develop Conference and Eurogamer to help get your face out there?

Networking certainly features highly in Cheat Mode. In fact, I’m beginning to see my Facebook page for the book as a good source of networking.  There are a lot of games industry veterans who’ve liked that page because they know me or they’ve been interviewed by me for the book. But networking is an absolutely great place to start. You may not get a job from networking in any way shape, or form, but you will meet those people again in the industry.

Basically, you’ve got to work really hard to get into this industry.

Yeah, definitely. In a way, it’s a bit of a thankless industry, but the reward of your name in the credits is phenomenal.

So, you’re book, Cheat Mode, where can people buy it from?

Well, I’m sure everyone has seen my Train2Game forum post and the Facebook page. You can pick the book up from It’s an interesting book, I was chatting to one of the interviewees, Pete, an artist I worked with in Scotland, and he told me “I would’ve killed for this book when I was younger” and so would I! And the shocking thing is there’s no one book on this subject at all, that I could find anyway.

There are books on how to design games, how to animate games, how to do specific disciplines, but there’s nothing says ‘Here’s a guy, he codes, let’s talk to him about his day-to-day life. Here’s a game designer, let’s talk about what he actually does, as opposed to the image of sitting in a chair inventing storylines which is such fiction.

So, what I’m hoping for is for Cheat Mode to do a couple of things; it’ll give people a more realistic idea of what they’re getting themselves in for,  hopefully give them some tips on creating a good CV, and getting out ahead of the crowd. And hopefully there’s some resources in there that they may not have heard of, and perhaps they can use the FAQ when they start at a company.

Thanks for your time

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum. Part 1 and 2 of our interview are here.  

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 2

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In part two of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses who he’s spoken to for Cheat Mode, the importance of QA and its place in development.  Read part one of our interview here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

All of the studios you’ve worked for then, are they all places you’ve been able to contact for advice on getting into the industry for putting into Cheat Mode?

I didn’t really contact companies, too much legal red tape and hoops to jump through, so I just spoke to contacts I have in each discipline from the various years. So, if you look at the interviews, 90% of them are with people I’ve worked with at one company or another and the other 10% are friends of those people.

So, tell us a bit about some of the individuals you’ve spoken to in the writing of Cheat Mode.

Well, the people themselves are absolutely every person you will never have heard of in your life. These are the great unsung, these are the people that I’ve lived, breathed and died a project with, these are the people I’ve watched the sun rise over the office with, shared many a crap takeaway with and made games with.  So, there is absolutely no one anyone would have heard of, but these guys are the real industry.

It’s great hearing from the Sid Meier’s of the world and the known people, but it’s very much a case of these guys are the real guys doing the real jobs every day, and if anyone can give you a realistic idea of what their job is actually like, it’s going to be these guys. Some of them have a phenomenal amount of experience. I’ve done video games for twelve years, and I’m considered a veteran, but some of these guys have a phenomenal amount of knowledge and experience about making video games.

So, what you’re saying is games QA testers are massively important to the industry, it wouldn’t function without these people.

Testing is interesting, there are very few companies that see QA as anything other than a hurdle to get past.  It’s the companies, the Valve’s of the world who actually listen to their QA team, who actually pop in and ask ‘is this fun?’ These are the companies that make the real, successful games because they utilise and appreciate the experience and the gaming knowledge that I tester has, rather than see it as the people they need to get past to have their game completed, they use it as a tool to improve their games.

What do you think actually makes a good QA Tester?

A good QA Tester has to communicate clearly, concisely and well all the time, and has to keep that level consistent. They have to have an explorative nature, because I can hire anyone to play a game, but hiring someone to break a game is a subtle but key difference. If all they do is just play the game, they’re not going to find the problems. When you release a piece of software, you end up with millions and millions of possibilities from every position that character is in, and we need to test those possibilities.

In recent years, since games can now be patched through online updates, games seem to be being released without thorough testing. Fallout: New Vegas comes to mind.

It’s been an interesting shift internally, because it used to be a case of that we as a department would come up with a list of ‘we have to fix these key issues, then we can release.’ Now, we watch those issues get shifted from the ‘we’re going to fix this list’ to the ‘day one patch list,’ and it’s become almost a reliance of the industry to be able to patch on day one.  So you will go through submissions, submissions will find the bugs that they can’t release with, you assure the console company that you’ll fix it in a day one patch and the game goes out.

In a way it’s painful as a QA tester band because you want the best quality product,  and ultimately there still are people who don’t have internet connections, who don’t , who don’t get those day one patches and the quality of their game suffers from that.

With the internet being so vocal when they’re frustrated about something with a game, do you think that’s going to change?

Well, gaming’s an interesting pastime, it has one of the most vocal, angry possible fan bases you can have. At the end of the day, it’s great that people have opinions and care about this property so much, but I was watching that whole BioWare debacle take place. It’s interesting working in video games and having such a vocal audience.

Part 1 of our interview with Veteren QA Tester Dan Jacobs is here, while Part 3 will be published shortly. 

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 1

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day.From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In part one of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses his inspiration for writing the book, his involvement on the Train2Game forum, and how he broke into the games industry.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

First of all, can you tell us about your book, Cheat Mode, and your inspiration for writing it?

I did a Eurogamer podcast a couple of years ago, and I was chatting to a friend who used to test for me and we were discussing and dispelling the myths like ‘how could QA miss this bug’ and in the podcast I mentioned that we probably didn’t miss the bug but the developers didn’t have the time or money to fix it being the key difference on that little myth.

He said ‘you should write a book,’ so I thought about the idea for awhile and what possible format it could take and it kind of just grew from there. It’s part my knowledge of from ten years in video games, and part interviews with friends I’ve made over the years about what they do and how they feel about the industry, as well as interviews with Blitz Games and some of the lovely folk down there and just a bit of advice and resources that I know of that perhaps those wanting to get into the industry don’t know.

Tell us a bit about yourself, who you are, your username on the Train2Game forum, and you’re involvement with posting there?

I’m Darklights on the forum, which is also my gamer tag and is awesome! I initially joined because I thought it’d be a good way of getting into the student mindset. These are the target audience, these are the people who would be reading the book, let’s find out the stuff they don’t know or what they want to know about working the industry.

So, at the same time as doing that, I can’t help myself if there’s a question about QA, I feel the need to answer, or if there’s a question about game development, I feel the need to answer that.  In the same way, there are also a lot of students there who just want help improving their show reel and want a leg-up over the competition.

You mentioned you have ten years experience in the industry, how did you start, and how did you get to where you are now?

I didn’t really get on well with education, I didn’t really have much of an education and I ended up in the classic experience of ‘no work experience, you’re not getting a job,’ so the only place that would take me on was telephone sales.

So, I spent many years doing double glazing on the phone; bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, I probably did it. I had a friend, we went to college together, and we’d met working at one of these companies. I’d helped get her work in the past, and she gave me a calling saying ‘hey, I’m temping at a video game company, they need some testers for Christmas, and I thought you’d be interested’

Of course, being a hardcore gamer I was like “Yes! Where do I sign up?” But obviously I was worried that I had no experience in video games and surely everyone who likes gaming is applying. She said “I spoke to a guy who tests there currently, and he just applied with a list of all the games he’s completed.” So, I did the same and in the interview I just tore their ears apart saying how much I liked games and how much I wanted to do the job, and I landed it.

I remember my first “crunch” evening; we had to stay on so we stayed on until about 5a.m. and the build never arrived, so I went home on the proviso that I’d sleep during the day and come back to test the build at night. I woke up three days later with absolutely no idea what was going on! Really concerned that I’d lost my job, but my boss was really cool about it and that was really my first experience of crunch. Thankfully, I got a lot better at handling it after that!

So, I tested there for a couple of months, helping with their Christmas releases, but then I had to leave because the contract was over. They told me they’d really like me to come back some time, which was brilliant, and I went off and got another sales job, actually, this was a videos on demand service.

They were paying me 20k a year, then I was there for a couple of weeks before Empire called me up and asked  ‘how would you like to work for us, for two weeks, on minimum wage?’ and I said no, because I was more interested in having a secure job at the time.  So, I worked at this company for one and a half to two years before thinking ‘hang on a second, why am I not doing something I enjoy and love?’

So I started working on getting back into the games industry, and I applied to a strange advert that was very mysterious in that it said we need games testers, but we can’t tell you why or for what.  So, I thought I’ll have some of that and applied, and landed a job testing for the new Microsoft console, the Xbox!

I started there as a functional tester, then was moved up to evaluation after a couple of weeks, which was the best job I’ve ever had. Literally, play the game for two weeks, say if I like it and why and then you’re supervisor would write a report because you’re only a tester and couldn’t possibly write a report! So literally, my job was to play games, not even to find bugs. Then I did a bit of standards work before Microsoft moved the office, so I had to leave.

Since then I’ve moved around a bit, I’ve worked at EA, I’ve worked for well, Microsoft, SEGA I did a stint at. I’ve worked for Kuju, Climax, DC Studios, Argonauts, and I did a bit of Sky TV games for awhile too.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum. Part 2 of our interview with Veteren QA Tester Dan Jacobs is here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

Train2Game interview: SoulCalibur V game director Daishi Odashima

Train2Game recently sat down for a chat with SoulCalibur V game director Daishi Odashima. In this interview with The Train2Game Blog, Odashima discusses development of SoulCalibur V, ongoing plans for DLC, the importance of community feedback and more. He also reveals what he thinks makes a good game designer!

Read the interview right here on The Train2Game Blog.

Tell us about your role as game director.

I’m game director for SoulCalibur V and I’ve been in the team since SoulCalibur III. On SoulCalibur IV I was a game designer, in charge of character designing in game design. In SoulCalibur V I’m the director.

How do you go about designing SoulCalibur V so that all the characters are balanced?

Basically, we see how the players play, and if the players feel that some characters are too strong then we would tone them down. Of course, if they’re too weak vice versa. For SoulCalibur V, we have chances for players to play before the game is out, where there isn’t a full roster of characters, but we have them play and get their feedback. We use that to balance our characters.

So, testing is a huge part of development before the game is released?

It is an important thing but it isn’t the only thing. Like if we receive feedback over a certain character being too strong, we test it in our own development, we play against each other and sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree but the final decisions I make. So if I feel [a character] is too strong, then it’ll be balanced.

In the latest update, some characters have been tweaked following user feedback. How important is community feedback, and will that continue to be important for SoulCalibur V?

It’s really important because in our development we only have less than ten people balancing the character. On the other hand you have more than a million, maybe two or three million, playing and they upload their tournament videos, they write opinions on forums and of course we check all that sort of stuff and it’s really important. But it’s not just taking their opinions, we have to gather them up and we have to come up with the final decision, so it’s really important.

Tell us about the plans for SoulCalibur V DLC.

There’s lots of DLC to come for SoulCalibur V to use in the creation mode, which should be coming every four weeks and there are tonnes of parts to come.

Speaking of creation mode, SoulCalibur V players have uploaded many costumes and characters, can you see yourself taking a community created costume and adding it as official DLC?

We look at them and we think that they’re interesting, but we don’t simply take them, we look after it. Also, we have lots of costume designs that weren’t used for SoulCalibur V that can maybe be used for SoulCalibur VI, and basically these designs are determined by the designers who have the final say.

What was the the reason for focusing SoulCalibur V’s story on two characters, rather than the whole roster?

Our first plan on the storyboard was that we had every characters story, and actually we do have it in the studio, but time-wise, man power-wise we weren’t able to do it and only one fourth of what we planned to do is in the game.  Actually, some of the voice-overs are already taken but haven’t been used, so we want to make use of it somehow, but we don’t know how that’s going to be.

What are you most proud of about SoulCalibur V?

I feel that SoulCalibur V is the best fighting tool in this world. For online mode, the lobby system is really made well, also we truly believe that after the character balancing patch it’s going to be a lot better, and I’m pretty sure that any people who are really competitive, or if you’re just starting a fighting game,  can enjoy SoulCalibur V as a fighting tool.

A bit about you now, how did you get started in the games industry?

I was invited by a friend to a QA section at another game developer. From there another friend at Namco, who was originally a SoulCalibur competitive player, invited me to the SoulCalibur team for character balancing, and well, here I am now.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the industry?

Well, my case was really special because I was invited as a specialist of SoulCalibur and this is a rare case. But what I think is important in becoming a game designer being able to describe what is happening within the game: what is fun, the logic behind it and also the communication skills to be able to explain this to other people.  Those skills are really needed to become a game designer.

Thanks for your time. 

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum. Many more Train2Game interviews can be seen here. 

SoulCalibur V from Namco Bandai is out now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Train2Game interview: Neocore Games on the making of King Arthur II: The Role-playing Wargame – Part 2

Train2Game News recently caught up with Neocore Games, developer of King Arthur II: The Role-playing Wargame, an RTS and RPG hybrid that was published through Paradox Interactive earlier this year.

In an extensive interview, Neocore PR and Community Manager Orsolya Tóth discusses the story behind King Arthur series, the development of King Arthur II, the importance of digital distribution and much more.

Read Part 2 of our interview with Neocore Games, which includes advice on getting into the industry, right here on the Train2Game Blog. The first part of our two part interview is here.

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

The battles of King Arthur II look epic, how difficult is programming the game when there’s potentially so much happening on the battlefield?

It’s definitely not easy. But I guess our programmers have done a good job! There’s an entire blog post on our DevBlog about just one segment of the battle, the pathfinding system for individual soldiers and how it was developed. And it is only a small part of the entire battle mechanism, so you can guess how complex it is with all the spells, magic shield, unit traits and skills, terrain and weather modifiers, strategic locations, dual-level fighting since we introduced the flying beasts, AI behaviour – actions and reactions and many more factors.

How much research into the lore of King Arthur gone into King Arthur II? What’s the story of the game, and how much does it deviate from the ‘traditional’ tales of King Arthur? The art style certainly looks darker than what people tend to think about…

The core idea of King Arthur II is as Arthurian as it could be, based on the legend of the Grail and the myth of the Fisher King. According to legends if the high king of the land is in pain, the land suffers with him, and in Arthurian mythology we have the tale of the legendary guardian of the Grail, the Fisher King, who lies wounded in his castle and his kingdom has turned into a barren Wasteland.

In this case, we have already had Arthur as the protector of the Grail, so it was logical that he himself could become the Wounded King. In addition to that, the Arthurian mythology has some really bleak stories after Arthur builds Camelot and rules the land, leading up to a cataclysmic ending. In other words, the tone was meant to be darker from the start.

What are the plans for additional content for King Arthur II? Does it provide Neocore with a good opportunity to experiment with new ideas?

To be honest, we don’t have anything specific on our minds yet regarding the DLCs. Of course the story of the game and the fantasy setting provide us countless possibilities that can evolve to become a DLC or expansion for King Arthur II.

How much influence do reviews have on future updates for King Arthur II? What impacts will it have on future DLC?

As the DLCs are only vague ideas at this point yet, I guess we’ll consider the impact of the reviews on them when we cross that bridge! Regarding the updates, we’ll improve the game as far as we can and in that we appreciate the feedback we get both from the media and the gaming community.

How important is digital distribution going to be in the success of King Arthur II?

I think it will be crucial. While retail distribution is still important, digital distribution takes over more and more sales on the PC gaming market.

Some developers have claimed the strategy genre is dying. What’s your response to this, and what are your thoughts on the current state of the strategy genre?

We don’t feel that the strategy genre is dying. There are plenty of devoted strategy fans who always get excited when they see a new strategy title released. So I think the strategy genre is doing great as long as developers can create appealing strategy games that fit well to their needs.

Finally, what advice can you give to those looking to get into the games industry?

In the case of developing your computer game, we can say a couple of things: be persistent in all circumstances, do many tests and keep your ears and eyes open for feedback. Start with a smaller project, where you’ll get fast and effective feedback directly from the gaming market. As the digital distribution becomes more and more popular, it’s much easier to reach the gamers with smaller games as well, so it’s a huge opportunity for new game developer companies.

In case you want to join an already existing company, then show them what you’re capable of – a well-functioning mod, a demo version of an idea, concentrating mainly on one thoroughly developed feature, will help you a lot, if you don’t have the necessary working experience yet.

King Arthur II: The Role-playing Wargame, from Neocore and Paradox Interactive is available now. 

Train2Game interview with Remedy’s Oskari Häkkinen: Part 2 – digital, life at Remedy and getting into the industry

Train2Game recently sat down for a chat with Remedy Head of Franchise Development, Oskari Häkkinen.

In an in-depth interview, Häkkinen discussed Alan Wake, bringing the game to PC, and their brand new XBLA release Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. He also offered various insights into the industry that Train2Game students will no doubt find very interesting.

It’s a big interview, so we’ve divided it into two parts. Part two sees Häkkinen digital distribution, life at Remedy Entertainment and offers advice on getting a job in the industry. Read it below here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page.

Part one of our interview with Remedy Entertainment’s Oskari Häkkinen is here. As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

With Alan Wake’s American Nightmare being released on XBLA, and coming to PC via retail and Steam, what do you think the future is for digital distribution?

As a studio we’re looking at digital distribution quite seriously, and we’re learning a lot about it. Hence we have titles coming out on i OS, like Death Rally, and we’re moving it to other digital space as well. Now, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is coming out on XBLA which is another digital channel, Alan Wake is coming out for Steam as well. We’re not forgetting retail, obviously Alan Wakeis coming out in a box, the PC version coming out retail on March 2nd.

But we definitely feel that digital is going to be important in the future and that for us as a studio it’s extremely important at this time to learn and understand what digital means and what are the basic things that need to be done in a digital space, and one of those things is of course listen to the gamer. The gamer plays and gives you feedback. Analyse that feedback and see if other people are of the same opinion then react to it. Think as a video game more as a service that you’re constantly providing, it’s a gift that keeps giving and if you keep giving, the gamers will keep giving back to you too.

And does digital distribution allow studios to take more risks? As they don’t need to spend years on one thing, they can push out a game in a shorter amount of time and see if it works.

It depends on the type of game, but I certainly think so for certain games, or for specific genres it works exceptionally well. Then if it gets a good reception and people want more then keep doing more.

A little about you now, what does your role at Remedy actually involve?

I’m the Head of Franchise Development, quite a mouthful. What that means is I’m in charge of our franchises at Remedy. For Alan Wake there as a book, a strategy guide, an art book, we had a music CD, we had the cinematic score, so all those little bits and bobs that hopefully the fans out there love. They are part of the franchise in some shape or form and have at one point or another come through my desk. Then also, kind of being part of the overall thinking of where the franchise is going and making sure that stays true to what we’ve always wanted to do with Alan Wake.

So, when we do things like Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, how does that fit into the universe of Alan Wake? What are the things we want to achieve? And one of the things we want to achieve is that it’s pick up and play for anyone. What we hopefully do is get more people in Alan Wake as a franchise, to give Alan Wake as a franchise more possibilities. But then at the same time you’ve already got people that are invested in the fiction and you want to make sure that you’re pleasing them also.

So it’s little things like that which mean I’ll be part of discussions about how to keep our current fans happy, you know, you don’t want to lose them, they’ve already been loyal. And how do we perhaps get more fans to give Alan Wake a brighter future.

Fans are of course very important to a studio, but what would you say are the other key values of Remedy?

Cinematic is very important, character centric with a lead character. Action; with Max Payne it was about Hong Kong action and slow motion bullet time, with Alan Wake it was about using the light and darkness as the elements, action elements that are familiar to people but haven’t been seen in video games before.  Then of course being story driven goes without saying, pushing the envelope telling stories in video games, every one of our games has taught us something, taught us new methods of telling stories in games. With Alan Wake the episodic structure, we feel is an excellent way to tell stories in video games. Those are the kind of basic key principles that makes a Remedy game.

Alan Wake

So if an upcoming game developer wanted to join Remedy, what advice would you give them about getting into the studio, or indeed, the studio as a whole?

That’s an open ended question because it isn’t specific to the role. There’s a tonne of different roles in a studio. If they’re fantastic at animation, just knock on our door. We’re looking for an Art Director at the moment so if you’re fantastic at art just knock on our door. And we’re looking for another writer for the writing team, so if writing is your thing and you like what we’ve done with Max Payne, with Alan Wake, you see the type of writing we do for our games, so if that appeals to you then apply for that. We have a number of roles open.

But Remedy is a very small team – a lot of people don’t know that – we have about 60 people. Max Payne 1 was made with about 25 people, Max Payne 2 with about 25 people, Alan Wake peaked at about 55. So, we’ve grown a bit and we’re growing a little bit more but we consider ourselves a smaller developer. The idea is never to grow to 200, even 100 is scary for us, we want to keep very core competence so that every single recruitment that we make is a carefully thought out decision of what that person brings to the team and how that person fits in.

We don’t expect to lose people either, so we expect to bring people on board and be able to give them enough creative freedom to be happy for a very long time.  Very few people have left Remedy since they’ve started, and we’ve been going on since 1995, so we’ve gradually grown extremely slowly to maintain that core competence.  We feel that if every person on the team understands exactly what we’re doing, and what are the principles of making a Remedy Game, that’s great. But as soon as you go over 100 you don’t know the person that’s sitting next door to you.

Thanks for your time

Alan Wake is available via Steam now, the PC is released via retail on March 2nd, and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available from XBLA now.

Train2Game interview: Train2Game Games QA Tester Ollie Smith

Train2Game student Ollie Smith is studying to become a Games QA Tester with Train2Game. Train2Game Radio caught up with him to find out why he chose to study with Train2Game, how he’s finding the course and how he balances it around the rest of his life.

Read it here on The Train2Game Blog, the Train2Game Scribd Page, or listen to it on Train2Game Radio. Leave your comments here, or on the Train2Game forum.

Hi Ollie, what first got you into video games?

That would have to be when my parents bought me a PlayStation on my eighth birthday, and I was hooked on Spyro The Dragon for months. And then it’s been sort of a…next game comes out I buy it and I’m hooked.

So what made you decide you wanted a career in the games industry?

When I was younger, my father and I used to go to GAME in the town, and they had a special on with GameMaker, and it was only 99p for a license. So we bought it, but it turned out to only be a demo license and we had to buy the full thing after 30 days. So, I quit GameMaker, swearing never to use it again, and then I started to look at doing web design – I’m a certified web developer and know HTML and PHP and CSS. And from there I went onto learning Java, then I was looking on the internet for ways to make games easily and I found Train2Game. So I applied, then a year later I got a knock on the door.

So what made you decide to take the Train2Game Games QA Tester course in particular?

I was going to go for the Game Developer course. I was half way through work when the advisor came to see me. He started talking to me suggested the Games QA Tester Course. So I was like, OK I’ll sign up for the QA Tester course.

Tell us a bit more about yourself, what do you do?

I’m a student, I’m classed as a student because I’m with Train2Game.

How do you find balancing the Train2Game course around the rest of your life, is it an advantage being able to learn from home?

Yeah, definitely. I’m a night person, so I don’t come out in the day time, and the thing with normal college or uni is that it’s in the day time. So with Train2Game, I can sit down at 1 in the morning and just study.

You’re also a part time DJ, tell us about that.

Yeah, I do it for a few online radio stations as a fill-in DJ. I used to have my own show, but I got ill, ended up in hospital and didn’t show up for three sets…so, I got fired. So now I’m more of a fill-in, if one DJ is missing they’ll call me and I’ll hop straight on and fill-in for whatever DJ wasn’t able to get in.

Do you think the radio and DJ work you’ve done before could help you in terms of getting into the games industry, perhaps in the audio side of the industry?

I’ve thought about that, but it isn’t really me, if you know what I mean? I like to try and keep some things separate. It sounds a bit weird to explain, but if you focus everything around one subject, you tend to get bored of it very quickly.

Going back to Train2Game, what do you wish to achieve with the course this year?

I’m going to use a term from an MMO, I want to grind through it, get my skills up and hopefully get my dream job.

And what would your dream job in the games industry be?

To work for Lionhead game studios.

Great, thanks for your time Ollie.

Click here for more information about the Train2Game Games QA Tester course

Train2Game interview: Rock Hippo Productions on Brawl Busters

Train2Game recently caught up with Rock Hippo Productions to talk about their latest release, Brawl Busters, a free-to-play multiplayer combat title.

In an extensive interview, Marketing Manager Flavio Caracas discussed development of Brawl Busters, the importance of beta testing, industry trends including free-to-play and social gaming and much more. Read it right here on The Train2Game Blog. As usual, leave your comments here, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Blog: First of all, for those who aren’t familiar with it, what is Brawl Busters, how does the game work?

Flavio Caracas: Brawl Busters has an over-the-top style of action combat with single-player, multiplayer, and co-op modes. There are 5 unique fully customizable classes: Slugger, Firefighter, Rocker, Boxer, and Blitzer. The controls are super intuitive, letting beginners pull off combos with ease but require a lot of practice to compete at the top level. We feel that this mix can bring gamers of all kinds together in a way that hasn’t really been done before in this space. Check out the game for yourself at

What are the key elements of gameplay, and how did the game design team decide on them?

Players battle in a variety of environments, called districts, all part of “Mega City”. They all have a very fun, urban aesthetic and feel very much alive. The size of the playing environments varies, smaller maps encouraging frantic fast-paced action while the larger maps provide more strategic and team oriented game play. One of the most important aspects of the game is interaction with the environment. Players will need to destroy objects to get power-ups, avoid environmental hazards, and find boosts to get high ground advantage. As for progression, players will earn experience and Buster Points which will allow them to level up, unlock other classes, get new abilities, and customize their characters further. Gameplay elements are ultimately chosen based on fun factor, and finalized after lots of testing.  We also get input from the player community, which is another great resource for us.

What are the different character classes, and how difficult was it to create a good balance between them?

There are five classes to choose from, each with their own unique moves, strengths, and weaknesses. Each class can also be customized by gender, body type, gear, and weapons. The Slugger is a baseball player with ranged and guided attacks, a powerful special, but lower movement speed. The Rocker is a balanced fighter with deadly combos, area of effect attacks, but no dominant strength. The Boxer has the fastest movement speed, projectile attacks, but the lowest HP.

The Firefighter is a containment specialist with long range attacks, defensive barriers, but vulnerable close range. The Blitzer is an American football player with the highest attack power, highest HP, but lower movement speed. These are the basic differences, but you’ll find even more as you play the game, and of course strategy is the key no matter the class chosen. It’s not easy to balance the classes but it’s a must for competitive games.

Brawl Busters has a distinct visual style, how did the art & animation team settle on that design?

All of our games have a very distinct visual style, which provides a fun, light-hearted atmosphere and opens up a lot more gameplay possibilities than a game with realistic graphics. There are things we can do in this game that would definitely look out of place if not for the cartoon style visuals. It also helps to keep the game objectives clear to the player as well as providing a wide range of interesting environments.

Each class is fully customisable, how important can that be in drawing people into play the game?

We’ve actually received a lot of positive feedback regarding that aspect of Brawl Busters. Players want to feel in control of their character, including their looks. It also provides a much greater variety of characters to encounter including options for gender and race. Our goal is to make a game that can be enjoyed by everyone and represents our global culture.

Brawl Busters went through extensive beta testing, how important is that and QA testing to the game development process?

QA is absolutely crucial to the development process. Something may seem like a good idea on paper, but we’ll never know for sure until we test it out. Beta testing allows us to involve our community in game balance decisions and with any bugs overlooked during QA. We’ve been very lucky so far with our community as they have been extremely helpful to us and new players during the open beta phase and our official release. We expect that to continue into 2012 and plan to involve them even more as the game progresses.

What are the reasons behind making Brawl Busters free-to-play? Is F2P the future of the industry?

As you know, the free-to-play market is having a big impact right now, and there’s a good reason for that. We’re able to reach a much larger audience for our games and the players can decide how much their experience is worth. It can seem counter intuitive, but the results speak for themselves. I think that F2P will become increasingly important in the industry, but there will always room for different models.

With so much competition out there in the free-to-play market, how are you encouraging people to play Brawl Busters?

We consider competitors on all different levels and platforms, however online PC games are where we focus our efforts as a publisher. I think that as time goes by, lines will be blurred and we will be in more direct competition with even more categories. And of course, there’s even some friendly competition between our own games as well. We focus on providing new game experiences that are accessible to as many players as possible, and we let the quality of our games speak for itself.

What are the plans for updates in future? How will you keep Brawl Busters fresh?

Of course, this is just the beginning. We know how important it is to provide fresh content and new experiences for our players. Right now we’re adding language support for German, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. You can also expect new modes, new areas, and new gear on a regular basis.

Brawl Busters features a lot of social media integration, how important is that to games now, and how important will it become?

Actually, we’re just starting to integrate social media with Brawl Busters. We still have a lot of ideas and great new ways to make our game even more social. Online games are essentially about the interaction and competition with other players. Social media is a key platform to engage and interact with the community, and in my opinion still in its infancy stages. As social media evolves, we must also learn new methods to engage our players.

Tell us a bit about the studio behind Brawl Busters.

Our partners at SkeinGlobe are based in South Korea and have done an amazing job with the game. We’re very happy to work with a group that has the same goals we do. Their aim was to create something that appeals to a worldwide audience, and is accessible to players of all skill levels. For us, it was a no-brainer to partner with them and deliver such a great, unique game to our audience.

How did you get into the games industry?

I came from a background in marketing and advertising, starting out at an ad agency focused on health and lifestyle. I’ve been a gamer my whole life, so when I got the opportunity to join the industry, it was an easy decision to make. It’s very exciting to not only be a part of the games industry, but also in a sector that brings innovation and new challenges.

And what advice would you give to those looking to get into the industry?

There are so many different ways one can be a part of the games industry. You just have to focus on your strengths and look for a company that’s compatible with your goals. And if that company doesn’t exist, then there might be an opportunity to create one. Always remember what your goal is, be passionate about your work, and the rest will follow.

Thanks for your time

Brawl Busters is free-to-play and can be downloaded from