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Interview with Beran Peter


Working With Activison

Socvazius: How are things different in dealing with Activision than in dealing with Sierra?


Beran: I wasn’t actually here for Sierra, but the relationship with Activision has been a great relationship.


Socvazius: How large is the QA team in Activision?


Beran: Well, at its peak, it had 50 people that were being run 24/7; they had 3 shifts: day, evening, and night shift. Though it didn’t get to that point until later on in the production, but they had a QA team on December of last year, well before we did.


Socvazius: So the entire Stainless Steel team and around 50 people from Activision were testing Empires; it should turn out to be pretty balanced, eh?


Beran: We weren’t really as focused on balance as we were on fixing. Richard and Nate and the multiplayer guys made a lot of the balancing prior to that. Balancing is tested differently from the rest of the game. So Richard is the one that works in the database; the database contains all the values for the game. They work on that well in advance of QA. QA makes sure things aren’t broken and everything works. Sometimes they overlap; Hwarang is a good example of something that was broken, and when we fixed it it screwed up the work they put from the balancing perspective. So we made the unit work properly when we shipped the game, but we never really had enough time to make sure it was balanced properly. Those are the things we’re going to fix in the patch.

"I have a perspective that’s top-down, so I see all the departments, all their schedules, and I actually create documents for every milestone."

Socvazius: How do you like working in your dealings with Activision?


Beran: I love it; I mean I have a unique position in SSSI because I bridge the gap between our internal development team and an external publisher. So I get to see what’s going on in both worlds and get involved with those; so I go to LA and visit with them. I have a perspective that’s top-down, so I see all the departments, all their schedules, and I actually create documents for every milestone. That’s an internal document that we use and say “hey this is what we delivered on this milestone in our game.” The same thing is true as we handed it off to Activision and said “this is what’s in the game so far, and this is what’s not in the game.” It’s really nice to see a top-down picture of the game coming together.


Socvazius: So you have a whole idea of what’s going on.


Beran: Which is very different from, say, the artists who are very focused on how much they have done out of all the art that they have to do. And they see that changing in the game, but I get to see all of it together.


Socvazius: For your dealings with Activision, have you spent your entire time during the development of the game in dealing with it, or has it just been a burst of work with Activision here and another there?


Beran: No, it’s very cooperative. During the development time, I would have a weekly phone call – scheduled on Mondays – and then we’d often talk more than that via Instant Messaging. I’m not involved with the PR and marketing which is a whole other thing, but as far as day-to-day project management – what’s being delivered when and what their needs are, I’m involved all the time. And as the last couple months ago, we’d have two or three times a week when we’d communicate; then also included at least one meeting on site at either place.


Socvazius: So a pretty continuous contact with them. You know, both of the companies have an idea of what’s going on in each.


Beran: Yeah, I think that’s really important, the codependency and relationship is a very important thing to maintain and cultivate. You think about the game being the ultimate product of the shipping, but we have E3 where at lot of things are delivered, you’ve got the demo and what’s going to be contained in the demo, they needed to provide some exclusivicity to magazines and Best Buy and EB/GameStop. We were making sure that we were making things that they could use; they’d say “well, that won’t work. You can’t put all that in the game because it’s not easy for us to put into our schedules, it won’t work.” So it was an intricate process, I would understand what we could get done and then say “ok, this is what we can get done.”

"Their structure is very similar to ours, except for the art, programming, and design."


David:
Like Beran has said, he’s been back to the Activision offices and they in turn have sent some people here to come and work along side us. It’s definitely very much a cooperative effort.


Beran: Their structure is very similar to ours, except for the art, programming, and design. You know, they’ve got a lead producer who is my counterpart; they’ve got a lead QA person who is Scott’s counterpart, so from that perspective Scott and their QA person were talking every day. There is a shared database of bugs that are being addressed or fixed.


Socvazius: You say you’re a pretty big fan of Activision’s games. What are some of your more favorite games that Activision has published in the past?


Beran: Call of Duty is awesome. Let’s see, what else? I’ve been playing a lot of their Star Trek games, Elite Force in particular. What other games that I play are Counterstrike, especially; although now I’m waiting for Condition Zero.

Next: Beran's History
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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a game by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision.