WIG­GLE ROOM

EDGE - - END GAME -

Ev­ery com­puter on ev­ery desk on Rock­steady’s open-plan de­vel­op­ment floor has the same screen­saver. It’s a slideshow of org charts, a per­sonal pro­file for each of the stu­dio’s 160 staff, and a re­cruit­ment time­line that shows how the company has grown in tan­dem with the scope of its games. Over the years, Rock­steady has grad­u­ally taken over more of the for­mer car­pet fac­tory in North London’s Ken­tish Town in which it’s based, but it has not grown solely to ac­com­mo­date its ris­ing head­count. Its most re­cent ex­pan­sion two years ago saw it build a big­ger kitchen and com­mu­nal din­ing space, but much of Rock­steady’s growth has fo­cused on mak­ing it eas­ier to make games. Hav­ing your own vo­cal booths may save money, but as co-founder and stu­dio di­rec­tor Jamie Walker ex­plains, it’s about more than that.

“The rea­son we built th­ese [booths] is to bring ev­ery­thing that makes a dif­fer­ence here, rather than out­sourc­ing,” he tells us. “We do a lot of work in LA; the voice of Bat­man, Kevin Con­roy, lives in LA, and as soon as he gets on the plane, the me­ter’s run­ning. He’s amaz­ing, but it’s much more ef­fec­tive to record that in LA. But where we can, we bring peo­ple here: Andy [Quinn, sound de­signer] can record it, it can go straight into the game and peo­ple can see the dif­fer­ence straight away. Hav­ing it here makes a lot of sense.”

QA has been brought in-house, too, with 20 staff tucked away next to the pro­gram­mers. If more are needed as June nears, Walker plans to put them in the ping-pong area.

The jewel in the stu­dio’s crown, how­ever, is its mo­tion-cap­ture stu­dio. It, too, has grown – Rock­steady learned what Walker calls “the dark arts of mo­cap” in a small cor­ner of the stu­dio, but now it is so big that the space is also used for company meet­ings and train­ing ses­sions. Many stu­dios would kill to have such a fa­cil­ity in-house, and Rock­steady cer­tainly makes the most of it.

“Some com­pa­nies might do three or four shoots for an en­tire game. We do three or four a week,” Walker ex­plains. “An­i­ma­tors here will get to a cer­tain point in the week where they have an hour’s worth of stuff to shoot, they’ll suit up and come in. It’s very low main­te­nance: you just turn ev­ery­thing on, get in the suit and start shoot­ing. And by the end of the day, it’s in the game.”

You might think that get­ting an an­i­ma­tor to do an ac­tor’s job is a fool’s er­rand, but Walker points out that the team knows ex­actly what it wants, and if it needs a spe­cific ac­tion, it’s quicker to just do it than ex­plain it. If you’re scep­ti­cal, con­sider this: Har­ley Quinn’s las­civ­i­ous sashay was per­formed by a Rock­steady an­i­ma­tor. One of its male ones. It’s all part of Walker’s phi­los­o­phy, which is well re­flected by the black-and-white theme that runs through the dé­cor. “The idea is that we’re the colour,” he says. “The stu­dio is just a tool.”

FAR LEFT An in-house mo­cap stu­dio is a rar­ity, but here it’s part of life. “You’ll be there eat­ing your lunch,” Walker says, “and there’ll be some­one next to you cov­ered in ping-pong balls, weights and a head­cam.”

LEFT A glass cab­i­net in the board­room houses Bat­man: Black & White stat­uettes.

BE­LOW The whole stu­dio shares the same open-plan space. De­part­ments are laid out log­i­cally: an­i­ma­tion next to de­sign, and the QA team by the coders

Jamie Walker, stu­dio di­rec­tor and co-founder

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