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HG Visits SSSI

Ah, Stainless Steel Studios. The home of the developer is Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I was invited to visit the offices for a tour and a number on interviews. Now, only a crazy man would turn that down, so I turned it do-nahhh, I accepted! A date for the visit was finalized, so I flew down to the Boston area and roomed with my buddy Angel Zen. The day after my flight arrived, we stopped by the studios.


Dave Boghdan at the entrance to SSSI

Upon arriving at the offices, we met up with Dave Boghdan (SSSI's Public Relations Manager) and began the tour, I must say, the place looked pretty snazzy; definitely the kind of place that you'd feel at home in. It has just about everything that someone would need to keep running during crunch weeks where people have 12+ hour days; in particular, fully stocked kitchens! There's not all that much that can beat that. The QA room looked pretty cool; a big room with lots of computers and a nice leather couch. Another room that was for gaming was the "War Room", with 8 computers set up for regular gaming between the staffers. And the central "meeting room" for lounging about in several couches and eating, that was pretty cool. It even had a small balcony so people could throw/pour things at the unsuspecting people below! One thing about the individual offices that was pretty cool was that everyone had their own stuff on the shelves and such, in particular action figures. Lots of action figures, especially Transformers; really cool stuff.


Lunch time!

After the tour, I had a relatively brief interview with Beran Peter, Stainless Steel's producer and "liason" to Activision, and asked him a number of questions on the kinds of things he does in his job as SSSI's link to its producer. Following that was the interview with the design team, who gave a number of very interesting answers but absolutely would not budge on anything about SSSI's next project. Understandable, but hey, I gotta try, eh? ;-) Lunch arrived and the entire SSSI staff came pouring into the room, including ourselves. Everyone grabbed something to eat and sat down to devour the food before something came by and stole it. I swear Boggy was eyeing my sandwich the entire time, he was up to somethin'.


Zen, Rick, and myself

We finished lunch and sat down with the programmers for some questions. The next person to be interviewed was the big cheese himself, Rick Goodman. We talked about a large range of subjects, from interaction with other developers to the future for Stainless Steel Studios. Afterwards, I got a chance to talk to each individual person in the art department about their specific job in the studios and what they did for the game; it was really interesting to see each individual aspect of the art in the game.


Getting my butt kicked!

Former HG staff Boston area residents Icefyre and Chooch stopped by the offices, and we mosied on down to the QA room to have quite the interview with QA guys. I use the word "interview" lightly, because it wasn't an interview as much as it was just a hilarious conversation on the kinds of things they do in their job. That conversation ended, and we headed to the war room for some gaming. What game did we play? Why Empires, of course! The group played a couple games, they were a lot of fun. Keep an eye on Empires Heaven for a warstory on at least one of the games we played!


Just chillin with my HG buddies

The gaming ended and we left to meet up with a number of Boston area HG guys (Chooch, Icefyre, Zen, Obsidian, Tonto_Samurai, and Angel Z) at VinnyT's, an Italian restaurant with absolutely enormous servings of food. I swear a single plate of the food was enough for 4 people to eat. I tried to shovel down as much as I could, but ole Soc's stomach just doesn't have a 10-gallon capacity. After we finished eating and talking, myself, Zen, Z, and Sammy went candlepin bowling, where Zen proceeded to crush the 3 of us singlehandedly. With bowling finished, we parted ways and Zen & I headed back to his place.


Entrance to the tournament

The next morning I packed and we drove around Boston a bit, stopped by the place where the Boston iGames regional tournament was being held. We said hi to Rick, Dave, and Dara-Lynn and the other gamers who were down there for the tournament, including the top ladder player, Pillars. My flight was leaving pretty soon though, so after saying hi and talking for a bit, I left for the airport and flew back home.

All in all, I'd say the trip was a blast. I had a lot of fun, and I'm glad the Stainless Steel guys invited me! It was really interesting to see just how a developer works and how a game is put together with each separate aspect being integrated into one final product. Definitely expect to see several more articles on the visit - in particular all of the interviews (approx. 3 1/2 hours total) - to be gradually added in the next month or so. The first interview will be the one with Rick, keep your eye on the site for that one!


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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a game by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision.