GamesBeat: I was going to ask how you raised your money, but I assume PUBG Corp. is really the way that was done. Is it fairly traditional in that respect?
Schofield: Yeah, they’ve got the resources. When I looked around, from starting it on my own — do I go out and get funding? Do I go and get a big publisher, a big company? I talked with everybody. It was really me interviewing them to see what was going to be the best fit. I just really enjoyed talking with C. H. and with Ashley, who run PUBG. C. H. is the CEO. Great guy. Came out of development, was an engineer himself. His philosophy was, “Tell us what game you want to make and let’s see if we can fit it loosely in this world we created with PUBG. But build a game and we’re gonna leave you alone.”
As a matter of fact, I’ve had to tell them, “Hey, we do want milestone meetings with you guys.” Even in the milestone meetings, they may make a suggestion or two, but C. H. is always saying, “But it’s your game. You decide what you want in it, what you want to do.” They gave me the money to go build the studio where I wanted, how I wanted, hire who I wanted. It really is a dream come true. I’m building the studio I want in the place I want with the people I want and making a game I really want to make. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
GamesBeat: Did you ever think that maybe the bay area isn’t really the place to make games? Did you consider any other, lower-cost areas?
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Schofield: I never really considered that, because I knew how many great developers are here. Now you have Sledgehammer and ILM and so many game companies around here. I could see it becoming a hub again. Maybe EA isn’t making as many games here, but they still have a big presence. 2K has a big presence. I know that there are other areas to go, but I was going after where I knew the greatest developers were.
GamesBeat: It seems like there is an important distinction to be made between San Francisco or San Mateo and then the Greater Bay Area. The wider bay area hasn’t been exploited as much as it could be.
Schofield: The truth is, this is a lower-cost area. Comparing what we paid at Sledgehammer to what we get here, it’s so much more. I’m also part of this great community, which has really embraced us. We’re right near everything. We’re in a place called Bishop Ranch. They have bus systems to and from — even the city, you can get a bus from here if you want to. They have their own bus stop to go to the BART. They have bikes and scooters to go from building to building. They have all the amenities, everything we wanted here. It was kind of a no-brainer.
GamesBeat: We’re getting a bit into the area of what we wanted you to talk about at the conference, the creative side. Did you approach being creative in a different way this time around, having the opportunity to start everything new and try to come up with your ideas?
Schofield: I approach each game a bit differently. This one is a complete — there’s no license. I don’t have a Call of Duty or a World War II where I have to fit a game that I want to make into that framework. Advanced Warfare was one that gave me more creative freedom, but again, you knew it was a particular style of game. This one I was just coming at it saying, “What’s the game I want to play?”
That’s what I’m able to make, the game I want to play. It’s going to be near and dear to my heart. So far, so good. We’re coming at it from that perspective. What is it that I want to do? That’s been a lot of fun.
GamesBeat: I remember the DICE Summit talk you gave, where you talked a lot about throwing images on a wall and trying to look for something that would inspire you. Is that part of what you think about now?
Schofield: It’s a good thing to bring up. One of the first people I hired was my lead concept artist. I said, “Go out and get a team of eight people. Let’s start drawing and painting and creating things.” We have walls up of concept art. “No, that one doesn’t work, but this one over here works. Let’s change this up.” We spend a lot of time with the concept artists building stuff. If it’s not exactly right, it’s early enough that we can get it right.
GamesBeat: Did you do any of that yourself, or are you more managing what happens there?
Schofield: I’ll give them little sketches here and there. I’m always writing on the boards and drawing little things. I can get an idea across a lot easier through the fact that I can draw. But no, I leave that up to the experts on digital stuff. I’m still just a guy who likes to get his hands dirty and paint. I’m clean now. I’m still painting things over here. But the fact that I can draw helps a lot with explaining my vision.
GamesBeat: You seem to be pretty unique in the game industry that way, a studio head who has a real hand in art. That doesn’t seem very common.
Schofield: I get a lot of questions from other artists. “How did you move up? How did you get so involved?” Right from the beginning I always asked a lot of questions. I would be the artist who would — because I started out in art, started out doing backgrounds for the game industry. My first four or five years I was an artist. Then I moved into art direction, where I was still doing some art. That was on the Genesis and the Nintendo 64, stuff like that. I think the last game where I did any art was on the PlayStation. When I was directing games, I would do some art here and there, but I’d just do it to kind of keep my hand in. When 3D came along, though, I’m not that good at it.
I guess we all come up different ways as directors, different paths. But I eventually went on and got an MBA, so that I could understand the business aspect of this as well. Especially since we started to work with large budgets and companies that are public and things like that. It really helped me understand the business end a lot better.
GamesBeat: With this kind of company, would you tap a lot of outside people? The traditional thing is to have art direction inside a company and then find artists in other places to execute on it.
Schofield: We’re doing some of that. There’s no doubt that you have to outsource. We’ll probably keep the studio to around 150 people, but a game like this is going to take 300 people to make, something like that. Then you add in testing and you maybe double that these days. I’m working with a couple of outside places. We’re actually getting more technology than we are art as far as help right now. We’re bringing a lot of the artists in-house, so I can work closely with them. I work better that way. We’re working with others. They can take on different portions of the game. We’re working together very closely. But we are the managing and head studio, the creative part.
GamesBeat: I wondered, with the whole remote thing now, whether there are some things — it seems like mocap is going to be a real problem. You can’t do that remotely.
Schofield: Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one. Luckily we don’t need it for a few months. We have a bunch of animators who luckily got a bunch of mocap done before this. We have enough to keep us going for the next few months, all the moves we need to get our characters up and running. But yeah, once you get into the different movies and things like that, we’re going to need to get actors. We’re going to need to scan the actors and do a lot of the technical stuff that we just can’t do right now because of the virus.
Audio is going to be tough, because the audio guys need to go out and work with the composers and things like that. Eventually we’ll have to get some music. But again, that’s down the line a bit.
GamesBeat: People have these ideas for designing games inside virtual reality, putting on headsets and creating the environment. Is that starting to get anywhere near maturity or the mainstream in game development?
Schofield: Not within our studio. Now, there are two concept artists that do work in VR. I’ve put it on a few times, and it’s pretty cool. But after a while, getting in there, you kind of have to bring it into Maya. What they’re doing in many cases is building the quick geometry in 3D. It’s pretty cool to see. But then at some point they bring it into Maya or Photoshop and all that and they’ll work on it there. They can get it up and running quickly.
I could see art directing a game like that someday. I could go down the hallway and point to something on the ceiling or on the floor and say, “Let’s work on that texture. Let’s make this hang down further.” I could see that being helpful. But then you have to get a lot more different types of equipment. We’ll have to see how helpful that could be. I can envision it.
GamesBeat: Well, congratulations on starting something new.
Schofield: I’m really happy. I’m looking forward to making a great game again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this working from home setup means more of my studio will work from home from time to time. It gives me the confidence to say, “Hey, go ahead and work from home for a week.” It was harder before. You’re going to work from home? How does that work? But I get it now.
We have a seasoned group here. We hope to just make something triple-A. We’re actually calling it quad-A. We want to go above and beyond and make something special. That’s what PUBG has allowed me to do. Hopefully we’ll have something great to release to our fans.
And we’re hiring! We’re not slowing down hiring. We need to build that team. We’re trying to keep this from slowing us down. We’ve got lots of jobs. We’ll hire during this period. We’ll move people. We’re doing all of that. It’s good for the industry. We have a lot of great jobs here.
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