How did Amazon Game Studios attract high-profile game makers?
A combination of small-focused team offerings and chance to create new technology drew developers like Clint Hocking and Kim Swift to the studioBy Jonathan Toyad 08 Apr, 2014
Names like Far Cry 2 director Clint Hocking, Portal lead and level designer Kim Swift and System Shock 2 level designer Ian Vogel usually won’t be associated with a mainstream online store brand like Amazon. Thanks to the debut of the Amazon Fire TV device and Amazon Game Studios however, the aforementioned three developers (along with game studio Double Helix Games and Halo writer Eric Nylund) will now be making games under the latter studio doing what they do best: make entertaining games.
So what is it that attracted these high-profile game-makers to Amazon? According to a report by Polygon, it started with a straightforward pitch that offered a mid-sized team between a large triple-A scale studio and a less-than-ten-people indie team. “We have a somewhat nuanced approach,” said Amazon Game Studios director Mike Frazzini, “There are studios that have hundreds of people working multiple years on a game — that’s not what where we’re going. That’s one end of the spectrum. On the other end, you have casual games that are really fun to play, like match-3 and puzzles. What we’re thinking about is building games that fall more in the middle.”
He said that all projects under the studio should only take about a year to 18 months with teams of 5 to 30 people working on it. Each game should just focus on creativity, craftsmanship and uniqueness; Frazzini cited The Walking Dead and The Room as examples.
Of course, the lure of creating new technology for games is also an attraction. Ian Vogel said that he prefers to be part of a project where he’s allowed more control and to not be in the loop of three to four years of a game’s development process. “Amazon offers so many unique things like the cloud structures, the devices they made, the services — it’s really alluring to creative minds,” said Vogel.
Frazzini added that the Amazon Game Studios developers get to influence the tech and products the brand will launch. One example was a game prototype Vogel created that featured thousands of enemies and individual AIs coming at the player. “You can’t run that game on any tablet today. It’s too complex. So we ran a huge portion of that game in Amazon Web Services and allowed [Vogel] to create a game that [wouldn’t have been possible without the infrastructure],” he said.
Both the gaming and technology development side at Amazon are suppose to work together and should be “super iterative”, according to Frazzini, “The closer those teams are working together, the better is is for everybody. The services are better, the games are better, the team morale is better.” He admitted that while this venture is going to feature a lot of experimentation, but the games it’ll launch will all be focus on fun. It’s still too early to tell as the device was released last week, but despite Amazon claiming that it’s not encroaching the next-gen gaming space, it’s hard not to ignore its possible impact if it fulfills its promise.