Games/VFX Studio Research (part 2)

I thought it would be good to continue looking into some more game developers/distributors after the first post I made a few weeks back (found here). In the next post I make, I’d like to look at some VFX studios instead, such as ILM and Milk.

Electronic Arts/Criterion Games

  • Criterion Games (who is the British child company of EA, acquired in 2004 for a rumoured £40 million) was first founded in 1993 and has their current headquarters in Guildford, Surrey.
  • While the company developed a couple of games for Windows, the Dreamcast, and PS2/Gamecube/Xbox, its best known game before the acquisition was Burnout – since its 2001 release, it has had six other sequels or iterations. There were also a number of other 3D racing games.
  • Besides Burnout, they have contributed games to the Need for Speed collection (Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted, and Rivals) as well as Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission and a soon-to-be-announced Battlefront sequel.
  • It seems like the company is focused on finding “world class people to make world-class games,” so they pride themselves on their competitive hiring packages as well as thriving workplace atmosphere. They don’t specifically describe scholastic standards in their job adverts, however they do focus a lot on what a potential employee “should have,” such as extensive industry experience, previously worked on shipped AAA games, current/next-gen console experience, and so on.
  • I think it would be more about the experience of working for a company like Criterion rather than the types of games they make. I enjoy racing games every now and then, but it’s more the idea of working for a big-budget company who have a favoured reputation in the gaming industry, to see what it would be like working for a larger company would be an enriching experience.

Square Enix

  • Square Enix Europe is the British publisher of its parent Japanese company – the latter was founded in 1975, while the former was only founded in 2009. Its current location is in London, however it doesn’t appear that there are actually any game-making jobs out of this particular headquarters. Instead, its subsidaries that are the primary game developers: the most notable ones to me are Crystal Dynamics in California, IO Interactive in Copenhagen, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal.
  • I actually used to live in Quebec and worked in the same building as the employees of Eidos Montreal. I sometimes was in the elevator when it would stop to pick-up or drop-off employees on their level. It was interesting to see the colourful environment and tech-heavy location from a distance.
  • There have been so many games produced/developed by Square Enix that I find it difficult to list them all. Crystal Dynamics’ biggest titles are likely the Tomb Raider series, Eidos Monreal’s are the Deus Ex installments and Thief, and IO Interactive has focused on the Hitman series as well as Kaine & Lynch.
  • I think it would be amazing to work with/for the people who are responsible for the Tomb Raider series – I can still remember playing the first game when I was eleven years old. It was such an influential video game at the time, paving the way for so many other 3D action-adventure games AND having a capable female protagonist as the controlable character.
  • As expected of a company like this, they do ask for A LOT of requirements for mid-level positions. At the very least, they want 3 years’ professional AAA development, have at least several developed games under the belt, and a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Perhaps there are less requirements for junior positions, but this is certainly more demanding than some of the other positions I’ve seen at other companies.
  • Looking at some of the other locations, the job requirements are essentially the same. IO Interactive seemed to be one of the few Square Enix child companies who are a little more lenient where quality of experience in, for example, coding is more important then years of experience or a degree.

Rockstar North

  • This is actually a subsidiary of Rockstar Games, based in Edinburgh, and is the primary developer of the Grand Theft Auto series as well as having contributed to the Red Dead Redemption series and Max Paye 3. It was founded in 2002 after being acquired.
  • Before being bought out by Rockstar, when it was still known as DMA Design, in 1991 it had a major game-changer on its hands with Lemmings – five years later it was considered the eighth-greatest game of all time. Six years after Lemmings, the company came up with the first Grand Theft Auto (originally called Race and Chase). Since then, there have been ten other GTA games developed by Rockstar North.
  • Beyond what I mentioned above, they have collaborated with a number of other Rockstar subsidiaries/companies to create a lot of well-known action-adventure games. I think this teamwork is impressive and inspiring, since the resulting games are some of the biggest AAA titles around.
  • I think it would be very interesting to work for a company like Rockstar North, because of their regular collaborations and previous game library – the hilarity of playing some of the GTA instalments over the years has endeared me to their story-writing and the ideas they’ve come up with during that time, while still adhering to the core mechanics that made their first instalments so good.
  • Looking at some of the job opportunities – there are many more in Scotland than there are down in their London branch – their junior positions have a stronger focus on skills and having a degree, rather than previous industry experience. Sometimes something like that could work to my advantage, which is nice to know. However, their mid-level positions still do ask for industry experience. Many of the programming jobs don’t specifically mention software they use, so having a broad knowledge-base will likely be advantageous.

CD Projekt Red

  • This is a Polish game developer established 23 years ago (according to Wikipedia)… or in 2002 (according to their own website); I would have to be inclined to believe their website first. With its headquarters in Warsaw and another location in Krakow, they are best known for their Witcher series.
  • They have an upcoming project called Cyberpunk 2077, which will be an open-world RP based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop game. I think this is an absolutely brilliant bit of news, since I’m quite the fan of tabletop RPGs and love the cyberpunk genre. It will be interesting to see the development and release of this game, following on their success with Witcher 3.
  • In 2008, they actually introduced a video game and film distribution service called GOG (Good Old Games) so they could provide DRM-free games as well as sell these games during regularly organised promotions. It’s interesting to see how the company has developed and where they’re putting their priorities; they push the boundaries of their place in the business with this and the games they’ve made so far.
  • This is the sort of company you would want to work for if you had the option, using their own in-house engine to produce high-quality video games. They have a very fond outlook on their employees, including bringing in foreign blood to keep their workforce as skilled as possible. They actually have assistance set up for relocating new staff and wishing to learn Polish – to me, this seems like they’re trying their best to accommodate their foreign employees so they have a pick of many talented individuals.
  • The bonuses are certainly matched by the company’s required job skills/experience. Most of their mid-level positions require 5 years’ experience in the industry, although many of them don’t outwardly ask for any particular level of education, and a very deep understanding of the position’s responsibilities.

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