Games/VFX Studio Research (part 1)

Red Thread Games

  • Founded in September 2012 and based in Oslo (Norway), they’re an independent games company that was formed after Ragnar Tørnquist split off from Funcom.
  • They are currently working through their final instalment of their video game Dreamfall: Chapters – a sequel to The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
  • There are also two other games being made at the moment: Draugen, which is a first-person survival horror adventure, and Svalbard, a post-apocalyptic polar-punk RPG.
  • Overall, the company seems to focus on hiring enthusiastic employees who are self-motivated and bring their own initiative, preferably with prior industry experience and a university degree. They don’t have any specific job roles posted on their website, but rather ask that any interested parties send their portfolio, cover letter, and CV to an email address for consideration. This seems a big vague, but is likely common for a smaller games company.
  • I would love to work on a game like Dreamfall: Chapters, which has unique story-driven gameplay and engaging characters. While I’m still not 100% certain about my decision on what I’d like to do once this course is complete, I still feel like I lean towards Programming and Game Design. The design of Red Thread’s games is award-worthy and (in my opinion) the most appealing thing about them as a company. They invest heavily in giving the player control over the story and making decisions that shape the world.
  • Having played all three of their front-runner games, from The Longest Dream in 1999 right up to the most recent Dreamfall: Chapters, I’m a huge fan of their company and their ethos. I know they ask for passionate employees who have a long of story-telling and role-playing, which I like to think I tick the boxes for.

Dontnod Entertainment

  • This video game developer is based in Paris and was founded in 2008 – so it’s still a relatively young company. However, they have made two absolutely fantastic games, one of which I’ve done a game review for on this blog (link). Remember Me is a cyperpunk action-adventure RPG distributed by Capcom, while their more recent game Life Is Strange is a choice-based, story-driven episodic adventure distributed by Square Enix.
  • They’re currently working on the release of a new game called Vampyr, which is where the player takes on the role of a doctor in London where the city is being ravaged by the Spanish Flu. The artwork and story look as amazing as would be expected of Dontnod.
  • There are a few jobs currently advertised on their website, including more senior programmer roles. They actually seem to favour the Unreal Engine, which is something to keep in mind for my own personal studies if we don’t touch on it throughout this course. They also ask for programmers to have a niche focus on top of a broader understanding of game design (ie: UI, animation, 3d design, etc.).
  • Of course, they ask for their employees to have a passion for the gaming industry, which I feel like all of us students have in spades… otherwise we wouldn’t be on this course! On top of the knowledge I’m gaining through this course, I also have a leg up in the fact that I can speak French – albeit, I need some more practice and would be a bit rusty, but combined with my enthusiasm I’m sure I’d improve quickly enough.
  • Once again, I think their games are some of the best I’ve played and would be more than pleased to one day work for a company like Dontnod. They have a firm grasp on what an RPG should be, shown clearly through Remember Me, or what a player looks for in a story-based adventure like Life Is Strange. If nothing else, these sorts of games are my favourite genres, therefore I gravitate and strive to be the best in order to one day work for a company like this.

Remedy

  • Founded over 20 years ago in 1995, the Finnish company has been developing award-winning games ever since. To me, their most renowned games include their Max Payne series, Alan Wake, and their most recent visually-astounding Quantum Break.
  • They have on their website that they’re “storytellers at heart” and invest their time in creating “cinematic blockbuster action games that break media boundaries and push the envelope of 3D character technology and visual effects”. I think this is a perfect description for their work, where they seem to push the visual bar with each game they make.
  • They have a number of jobs on their website that match what I would imagine being standard in the industry, including those for game designers and programmers. They seem to use a combination of software for their design work, such as CryEngine and Unreal for level editing. They also mention the scripting language Lua on top of C#, which is something I’d like to look into.
  • I read a very interesting presentation Remedy had done last year about using the D scripting language (dlang) to make Quantum Break. According to this presentation, it started out as a statically typed, compile language that was designed to succeed C++. It’s a new language that has all the bells and whistles, plus compiles very quickly, so it was appealing to their programmers. It’s important to know that Remedy is, if nothing else, a very cutting-edge company that pushes the boundaries on the latest technologies.
  • While I’ve not played all of their games, I think Alan Wake is a work of genius and deserves so much praise for its story and game mechanics. Working for a company like Remedy would be about learning something new every day and constantly expanding ones own abilities; I am a firm advocate of being a lifetime learner and this seems like the sort of environment that would suit someone like me very well.

Ubisoft Reflections

  • Ubisoft was founded over 30 years ago by Martin Edmondson in 1984 (so two years older than me!) with their headquaters now in Newcastle. It’s obviously a subsidiary of Ubisoft, but was once part of Atari until it was sold on for $24 million in 2006.
  • Interestingly, I hadn’t realised that Shadow of the Beast, which I thought was done by Psygnosis on its own, was actually the first game Reflections used its name – this was in 1989. There have been many, many other games since there, primarily ones that are part of their Driver series. They have co-developed many other games (or installation of games within a series) with their sister Ubisoft locations, including Just Dance, Watch Dogs, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy.
  • Their website is very well-presented and proves that they value their employees as an extension of their brand, showcasing photographs and quotes all over the place. They seem to be constantly expanding with a healthy number of job vacancies.
  • However, I think because of the reputation Ubisoft has and the fact that it is a producer of many AAA titles, their job requirements are rather grander than something like the course might provide: they seem to consistently require someone who has a number of years’ experience or a university degree. C and/or C++ also seems to feature heavily in a lot of the programmer job descriptions, I’ve seen more mention of Lua and Kismet, and even their junior game developer position requires up to a years’ relevent experience. To me, this is equally daunting and challenging, showing the quality of the employees they look for and makes me want to strive for their requirements.

Cloud Imperium Games/Foundry 42

  • Its parent company (Roberts Space Industry) originally launched in 2010, founded by Chris Roberts – he wanted to work on a new game with his business partner Ortwin Freyermuth. In 2012, Cloud Imperium crowdfunded for the production of a new space MMO sim game that would be built with CryEngine 3: Squadron 42 would be a single-player branching story-line taking place in the larger MMO Star Citizen universe. As of January 2017, they have raised over $141 million, garnering them the honour of having the most successful crowdfunding campaign for a video game so far.
  • They are in the midst of recruiting a number of roles in their Manchester-based location, including some interesting programming and designer jobs. However, because I think the company is pushing the bar with creating such a massive game, the requirements are a little more involved than some other placed I’ve looked at previously.
  • Of course, working with the CryEngine is a big requirement for a majority of their job listings, outside of the usual previous experiences. They also ask for C++ knowledge and a familiarity with ActionScript/Flash in some cases. Some other pluses are (once again) Lua, Python, Scaleform, and naturally a passion for science fiction and space exploration!
  • Unlike some other job descriptions I’ve seen, they don’t focus as heavily on education and primarily look at previous experience or knowledge. I think these sorts of positions are ones that I can contribute most to, as they seem to regard passion, self-education, and skills more than formal certificates/documentation. My own enthusiasm for the industry and desire to pursue this as a career may be more to my advantage in companies such as Foundry 42.

 

It was very interesting to look into some of the companies I would like to work for or the types of places I would apply for once this course is complete. It’s also given me further insight into what I might have to prepare myself outside of the course if we don’t touch on some of the experiences/skills companies such as these as for.

I’m going to continue looking into other companies for the next few weeks, to further explore what opportunities are out there. In my next post, I’ll write about Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Rockstar North, CD Projekt Red, and Bethesda.

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