Found a cure

Af­ter 20 years of mak­ing one game at a time, change is in the air at Remedy En­ter­tain­ment


Remedy En­ter­tain­ment changes tack af­ter two decades of fo­cus

Few stu­dios take quite so long to make games as Fin­nish stu­dio Remedy. Af­ter 2003’s Max Payne 2 it was seven years be­fore the com­pany shipped Alan Wake, and it took an­other six years af­ter that be­fore Quan­tum Break saw the light of day. But with Remedy en­ter­ing its third decade, it’s re­struc­tured so it can work on two games at once, thus re­duc­ing the gap be­tween re­leases. Here, busi­ness di­rec­tor Jo­hannes Palo­heimo and head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Thomas Puha ex­plain the pit­falls in­her­ent in re­build­ing a cre­ative com­pany to bet­ter meet the chal­lenges of an ever-chang­ing mar­ket. When did you de­cide that you wanted to make mul­ti­ple projects at once? Jo­hannes Palo­heimo Well, you have to go back quite far. We used to have a mo­bile team: in 2011 we put out Death Rally. We knew we needed to di­ver­sify. We’re in­de­pen­dent and we take great pride in that, but to be a strong indie de­vel­oper you need to have flex­i­bil­ity. When we were mak­ing Alan Wake: Amer­i­can Night­mare, we had a small team that was work­ing on what ended up be­ing Quan­tum Break. There’s a lot of plan­ning when you tran­si­tion from one big project to an­other, and if you only have one team then there’s a time dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion where a lot of peo­ple are twid­dling their thumbs. To have them work­ing on an­other project in con­junc­tion is more ef­fi­cient. How do you look back on your brief foray into mo­bile? JP The mar­ket looked very dif­fer­ent back then. In 2011 the pre­mium mar­ket was dom­i­nat­ing, and Death Rally was a pre­mium game. It paid it­self back in a few days. Then in 2012 the mar­ket started shift­ing to­wards free-to-play very rapidly. It was a re­ally good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – and learn­ing what you should not do is also a good thing. Now we’re fo­cused, we know what we want to do, and we took a lot from the free-toplay world – we’re util­is­ing it in up­com­ing projects. They’re not free-to-play, but from a de­sign per­spec­tive, build­ing a game as a ser­vice… we learnt a lot from the mo­bile stuff we did. The speed of mo­bile-game de­vel­op­ment must have ap­pealed, given your, well, his­tor­i­cal pro­duc­tion sched­ules. Thomas Puha It’s fair to say we took our bad old habits into the mo­bile world, too. But the whole point of re­struc­tur­ing is to get games out more quickly than in the past, right? TP Well, that de­pends on your def­i­ni­tion of quick [laughs]. But every­body at the stu­dio wants to ship faster. And the scope and scale of the games we’re work­ing on is… well, ‘smaller’ sounds bad. They’re still triple-A, but with Quan­tum Break there were so many things to fig­ure out, tech to be built – things we have to do less of now, knock on wood. JP With Quan­tum we tried to go straight to the moon. Now it’s, ‘OK, let’s build a rocket, and take it step by step, then [even­tu­ally] end up on Mars.’ Build on the foun­da­tions es­tab­lished in Quan­tum Break and Alan Wake, so we don’t al­ways have to start on a white can­vas. You’ve al­ways built your own en­gines, which slows things down. Have you dis­cussed us­ing third­party tech in­stead? TP A lot of it is his­tor­i­cal. Remedy has al­ways made its own tech, and when you look at other Scan­di­na­vian devs every­body’s us­ing their own tech – it’s just some­thing we do. It’s a size­able in­vest­ment, but it also means we have a lot of peo­ple in-house who know the tools very well and can use them ef­fi­ciently. JP Our games look good. They have this cin­e­matic feel to them – that’s en­abled by us­ing our own tech. So it’s a com­pet­i­tive edge, but we need to be smart about when to use it, and how much. What are the chal­lenges in re­struc­tur­ing a stu­dio like this? JP Wow, where do I start? You need to get every­body on board. Some un­der­stand it right away, but oth­ers, es­pe­cially when we’re talk­ing about cre­ative peo­ple and en­gi­neers... how can I put this gen­tly? They might be quite in­de­pen­dent and have strong opin­ions. TP Quan­tum Break was a re­ally big project for the stu­dio – we grew a lot. We started with about 50 guys, but it shipped with around 130. We need to start think­ing about the fu­ture, build­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion to sup­port these two teams. That puts a lot of pres­sure on the busi­ness side, doesn’t it? TP Yes. This is the 21st year of the stu­dio, and there aren’t many triple-A in­de­pen­dent stu­dios left. But the only con­stant in this in­dus­try is that it’s al­ways chang­ing. It’s been funny to talk to the heads of other stu­dios who are like, ‘We stopped pre­dict­ing the fu­ture a cou­ple of years ago, be­cause we kept get­ting it wrong.’ Now we’re just go­ing to take things as they come.

“This is the 21st year of Remedy, and there aren’t many triple-A in­de­pen­dent stu­dios left”

Busi­ness di­rec­tor Jo­hannes Palo­heimo

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