At Casual Connect Europe 2013, Verchere spoke about the evolution of Roadhouse’s 40 console developers to a high-performing live-game operations team. “We are now seeing, particularly in areas previously dependent on work-for-hire console development, many start-up companies in online and mobile making the transition to games-as-service,” Ian stated. “Hopefully by sharing what we have learned, we can help some of these new companies avoid the same mistakes.”
The transition from developing games with back-of-the-box feature lists sold in retail stores to the agile process of weekly deploys, live game management and servers going down in the night is a drastic paradigm shift. “A team making games as a services must learn, think, react, and operate in new and unfamiliar ways,” Ian Verchere, CCO and co-founder of Roadhouse Interactive explains. Verchere has produced, developed or directed dozens of games and was one of the founders of Radical Entertainment. In 2006, he moved to social/online games and from there to co-founding Roadhouse.
Skiing into Games
Verchere has produced, developed or directed dozens of games and was one of the founders of Radical Entertainment.
Before entering the games industry, Verchere was an alpine skier. Unfortunately, when he was offered the opportunity to ski in Japan in the 1988-1989 season, he didn’t realize it would be a terrible year for snow; luckily, as fate would have it, he was left with plenty of free time for other activities. Amazed to discover the pervasiveness of electronic entertainment in Japan, he decided when he returned to Canada he would get a job in the first company he could find that was making games. This brought him to Distinctive Software which later was purchased by EA and became EA Canada. Verchere, with two other members of the original Distinctive Software team, later left the company to start Radical Entertainment.
Verchere feels a special level of pride when he secretly discovers members of the team describing how much fun they have at work and how much they enjoy their current project. A member of the roller derby team Verchere coaches told him about her Ludum Dare project and that she worked at EA Canada. He realized here was someone who loved games enough to make them on her own time, but she was working at a large game company and not making games for them. 18 months later, she told Verchere the time she had spent with Roadhouse was the hardest she had ever worked but also the most fun. These are the times he gets the feeling of fulfillment; as he says, “It was awesome for me.”
The Games Industry Constant: Change
Verchere states that every game he has ever worked on, whether the game shipped, was cancelled just before launch, or was a 5+ million seller like SSX Tricky, has taught him and shaped his approach to making games. “There are some universal things about entertainment and story-telling which evolve slowly, but in the games industry, technology, platforms and business models are in constant flux.”
Roadhouse Interactive has grown from three when it was founded in December of 2009 to 60 at present.
Roadhouse Interactive, a Vancouver based company, grew out of the collapse of the work-for-hire console business. Verchere and his co-founders built the organization as a production company, putting products and teams together to create games the way television and films are made. The company has grown from 3 when it was founded in December of 2009 to 60 at present. The teams’ talent includes programmers, designers and artists. The company’s model continues to evolve, and now includes in-house engineering, but still uses the production model for art and as-need talent.
Verchere anticipates the greatest future opportunity in the games industry will be for companies which make quality games rather than focusing on people playing free games who may never convert to paying customers. He believes there is a middle ground, between the big budget $500 million RPG and the smaller budget $30,000 game apps, where opportunity for mid-core games with compelling game play and story can be found. He points out that one of the first games he worked on, The Battle of Olympus (GameBoy), resembles some of the better tablet RPGs, such asSword and Sworcery. “A good core game mechanic will always be of key importance, whether for mobile, tablet or whatever comes next.” He ends by emphasizing, “Keep the focus on quality.”
via GameSauce by Catherine Quinton