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