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Feargus Urquhart at IGDA Leadership Forum


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  • 2 months later...

Live Blog: Day 1 @ IGDA Leadership Forum


2:45pm-3:45pm: Trials and Tribulations of Leading an Independent Studio [Feargus Urquhart | CEO, Obsidian Entertainment]



Lesson #1: Honesty. Personal and organizational honesty is key. It helps maintain trust, keeps the ship running smooth, and helps Feargus sleep at night (clean conscious). Obsidian has about 120 employees.



Lesson #2: Money Management. For Obsidian, 85% of the money goes to people. They tend to overspend on equipment to make sure employees have up-to-date equipment, tools for high productivity and enjoy being at work. He doesn't want people to fret over spending money, it's a waste of time. They allot $1k for people to get stuff to improve their work flow and they don't even manage the spending because employees generally use it with integrity. It's very important to understand one slip up can cost a months worth of profit, so they work proactively with internal team to correct wrongs ASAP.



Lesson #3: Focus. They make RPGs and only RPGs. "Be great at one thing, not good at many". This lazer focus allows business development to flourish because they've staked their space in the RPG arena - everyone knows what they do and that they're great at it.



Lesson #4: Tools not Brute Force. Work smarter, not harder - let the tools and tight pipeline do the heavy lifting. Junior level employees know the tools and can make a shippable level. This allows them to make games with less staff and higher standards (which means less bugs!). Standardization also allows creative exploration and awesome, surprising achievements.



Lesson #5: Original IP is Hard. Creativity is a great opportunity, but costs time. They constantly have to resell the product.



Lesson #6: The Solid Pitch. They develop presentations, tone movies, source books, short pitches, and demos for ease of explanation. These tools are polished and make the project feel solid and real. It's much easier to get funding when you're well equipped with these packaged items. Source book reference - www.docucopies.com. In regards to the presentation, they practice over and over and over again, and refine over and over and over again. Practice the presentation in different time frames - 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90 minute versions. Images are really important for presentations. Know what the publishers want with the proposal. In other words, sell to the particular publishers features, help them understand the marketing potential.



Lesson #7: Give them What they Want. What will the player expect from the game? What are the publishers expectations? What does the press think of the idea? Make sure you're paying attention to all parties involved in the project. Pay attention to the QA department and truly implement their feedback. The designers watch the play testers to see how they interact with the game. This helps improve the product tremendously. Feargus started out as a QA.



Lesson #8: Alpha is the Wall of Quality. 3 B's = BioWare, Blizzard, Bethesda - all of these companies spend a ton of time in alpha perfecting the game. Two important MUST hit dates, Entering Production and Alpha. Development debt kills the quality.



Lesson #9: Sharing and Organization. Bigger teams means worse communication, so it's key to have streamlined communication (he recommends SharePoint, has been using it since 2007). It's critical to have all information in one place, including integrated bug tracking. For full transparency they share access for all internal documents with publishers - "it's worked out really well for us". He is showing a screenshot of the SharePoint doc which will be included in the presentation.



Lesson #10: We make games for the players, this is the number one thing.



Q & A: How do you stay fresh in the publishers mind for when opportunities come up? A: I'm always inviting publishers to lunch. I'm not always pitching to them, but keep in frequent touch. It's a fine line, you have to be careful and not stalk anyone, but be consistent. It's their job to go to lunch with me o:) So I invite them to lunch and don't always talk business.



Q & A: Are you always pitching? Do you fear over promising? A: Yes, we're always concerned with over committing. However, we're always pitching and keep the pipeline clean by making agreements far in advance.

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Lesson #10: We make games for the players, this is the number one thing.


Chuckled a bit at that. The number one thing being 10, I mean.

Edited by Malcador

Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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I wanted DSIII, and AP isn't half as bad as you make it sound to be :sorcerer:

Walsingham said:

I was struggling to understand ths until I noticed you are from Finland. And having been educated solely by mkreku in this respect I am convinced that Finland essentially IS the wh40k universe.

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"What makes you think this isn't a lesson they really learned after AP's release and subsequent bad reception?"


L0L Good point. I shall await their next reelase to see if this is so. btw, if their nextr elease is IWD3 then it's obviously they have no interest in giving players what they want.. and, I say that being someone who mnight be inetrested in IWD3.



"wanted AP from the very second it was announced, because of the unused setting."


That's fantastic! But, when Mr. FU says 'players' I don't think he means Morgoth or Volourn specifically. Just sayin' you shouldn't be so arroagnt to assume so.


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  • 4 weeks later...

All good stuff, its funny alot of the stuff he's talking about seems like common sense, but when you've seen those things go wrong first hand, you really really begin to understand the importance of stuff like ease of use, ease to understand concept, simplification isn't about dumbing down, its about clarity, and it seems to be the core thing he's speaking of.

I came up with Crate 3.0 technology. 

Crate 4.0 - we shall just have to wait and see.

Down and out on the Solomani Rim
Now the Spinward Marches don't look so GRIM!


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