Glen Schofield: How to build a new triple-A game studio in the midst of a pandemic

Maddox

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Dec 11, 2018
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I had a nice conversation with Glen Schofield, the former co-head of Sledgehammer Games and now founder of Striking Distance Studios. I asked him if he was making “Call of Dead Space,” referring to the past franchises that he worked on in his storied career.

“You’re trying to get me to say what I’m making,” Schofield replied.

While he couldn’t talk about that just yet, Schofield chatted about something that is relevant to a lot of game developers and publishers right now. And that’s how to build a large studio with dozens of employees in the middle of a pandemic.

Schofield left Activision’s Sledgehammer Games studio last year. There, he had run a studio with Michael Condrey and made games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: WWII. Before that, they had created Electronic Arts’ Visceral Games studio and made the Dead Space games. After starting anew on his own, Schofield lined up funding from PUBG Corp., the maker of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which has been downloaded more than 600 million times.

Schofield picked his hometown, San Ramon, California, for his new studio. He had just started moving his dozens of new employees into a new headquarters in the suburban city of the East Bay Area region, a couple dozen miles away from San Francisco. They found a place nine months ago and started moving in on March 1. But just a couple of weeks later, the company had to dismantle the office and send everyone home, Schofield said in our interview.

The building has a motion-capture studio, but the team can’t use it yet, as that involves a lot of people working closely together. And it’s not the kind of thing you can do at home, with everyone isolated. But Schofield said the company made three offers for jobs last week, and he is still hiring. They don’t need the mo-cap studio for a while, and they can get by working individually and using online video calls. The day starts with a 15-minute Zoom call for the whole team.

“We saw this coming and we had a couple of days where we told everybody to practice working from home,” Schofield said. “They came back and told us what they needed and what wasn’t working. We had our network guys fix things. We got cameras. Now we are getting underway, and starting to build.”

Schofield will give a solo talk about creativity in games at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit Digital online-only event on April 28 and April 29.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

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