Here at EQ22, we know one of the primary reasons people investigate our website is with the promise of hitting the video game conversational jackpot. We know what we would want to read, so our very own Desmond Reardon took the initiative to track down four Professionals in the industry and asked them the pressing questions that we were all dying to know. Desmond had the fortune of interviewing Christian Allen, founder and creative director of TAKEDOWN and is an independent gaming consultant, a man living the video game lover dream.

Teaser: Three upcoming interviews you won’t want to miss include a producer from  Meteor Entertainment, a “Hero” for MadGlory Interactive & technical advisor at Agora Games, and a programmer & game designer at Retrolutionary.com.
 
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For my readers at EQ22 could you please give me a brief introduction/background?

"Sure, my name is Christian Allen, and I design video games.  Before games, my background includes military (USMC, USAFNG, USANG) and government service, and since I have been in games I have served in design roles from Scripter to Creative Director.  I have worked on titles such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Halo: Reach.  Most recently, I founded a studio called Serellan, working on a Kickstarter-started project called TAKEDOWN."

From my research, I can see that you’re a seasoned game designer. Could you tell us a little about your “break into the video game industry” (just a further elaboration from your intro about how you got your start working in video games)

"That is a great question that I get asked a lot.  I was a longtime gamer since a child, but I turned my eye towards PC mods in the late 1990’s after getting out of the military.  After a few years of making mods, I decided (actually my wife decided), that I might have a chance of getting into the games industry.  A few years later, I was hired by Red Storm Entertainment, as an Assistant Designer, and the rest is history."

Your resume features the who’s who of the gaming industry over the last 10+ years, that’s got to be rewarding right? Feeding off of that: Do you prefer working for the major studios or would like to work for smaller independent studio/publisher in the future?

"I am definitely lucky (or cursed, depending on if you consider people like Notch) to have jumped right into the AAA game.  Within a few years of getting my first industry job, I was the Lead Designer on a AAA Xbox title.   Having worked with studios like Red Storm and Bungie, and publishers like Ubisoft, Microsoft, and WB Games, it is definitely rewarding to be thrust into the limelight and work with top talent in both the games and entertainment industry.  As a kid from Eagle River, Alaska, it tends to be a big deal to my mom when games I have worked on are splashed across the media, or I am meeting with high-power movie directors in New Zealand.

That being said, after a decade of working in AAA, I felt the draw to the indie space, which is what drove me to start Serellan, after strong interest from fans that encouraged me to return to my roots in hardcore."

The staff at EQ22 (myself included) come from a primarily hardcore gaming background meaning we’ve spent more time than we’d care to share playing games MMORPGS (like World of Warcraft, assorted Blizzard titles, and other games) and are active among our respective gaming communities; that being said there’s a huge battle finding balance between hardcore and casual gamers, can you elaborate a little bit how that balance is addressed from inside the industry?

"That balance is a key question, and one that the industry as a whole is currently struggling with.  One of the challenges as an AAA core developer is the constant pressure from big publishers to “broaden” your game to capture the “casual” audience.  This can take the form of dumbing down of core gameplay elements, or insistence on inclusion of “social” features before the core gameplay is even established.

The “casual” market is ever-evolving, just like the core market.  Tetris, Solitaire, Farmville, Angry Birds, etc.  What is “casual” today might be gone tomorrow, or might be the next BIG thing.  Because of ever expanding budgets, there is huge pressure on big game publishers to figure out how to make their current franchises “blow it out.”  They key as a creative (if you can), is to make the folks who write your paychecks happy while still maintaining the core of what makes your franchise a real, sustainable, franchise."

It’s no secret that mobile gaming is growing and studies show that casual gamers are dominating the market place, as a game designer does that scare or excite you?

"I caution people to assume what is “dominating” the industry.  Look over the past years.  Subscription-based MMO’s “Dominated.”  Zynga “Dominated.”  F2P “Dominated.”  IOS “Dominated.”  Shooters “Dominated.” 

My philosophy is that I feel I know how to make good games.  If I start to fail at that, then maybe I need to stop making games.  I will continue to push what I feel is right for good gameplay, and continue to adapt to the market.  Does this scare me as a designer?  Not really.  Good games always seem to rise up and buck the trend.  For every GTA, there is an Uncharted.  For every Farmville, there is a Dishonored.  For every Fruit Ninja, there is an FTL.  For every Call of Duty, I hope there is a TAKEDOWN."

Let’s talk TAKEDOWN (if you’re allowed to); DISCLAIMER: I’m a huge fan of squad based tactical games. To say I was addicted to Rainbow Six 3 would be a gross understatement.  Could you tell me a bit about the Project and where you are currently in development?

"TAKEDOWN, for me has been a crazy ride and a dream come true.  After I left WB Games in 2011, I started a company, Serellan, to support my side-line of doing work for Hollywood companies who wanted consulting on their forays into video games.  I did some work for some high-profile Hollywood folks, but then I started getting emails from hardcore gamers.

They wanted a hardcore tactical shooter in the vein of games like the original Rainbow Six, SWAT, SOCOM, etc.  Because I was a modder and outspoken member of their community, they wanted me to do it.  At the time, Kickstarter was a new thing, so I decided to recruit some industry veterans and give it a go.  A year later, I am leading a studio staffed by hardened veterans from Zipper, Microsoft, Day 1, WB Games, Zombie, Ubisoft, Guerilla, Bungie, Midway, Red Storm, Etc.  I have a team of people who have shipped millions of titles, backed up by a motivated community of fans who WANT this game.  What more could someone ask for (except for maybe a billionaire’s check)?

TAKEDOWN is about embracing a community who wants a game that emphasizes thinking over running and gunning, real choices over linearity, actual tension over scripted cinematics.  A game that doesn’t assume its audience is stupid.  Our fans have spoken with their effort and their wallets to say that this is what they want.  We will work tirelessly to give them the game they have cried out for, and it’s up to them to show the rest of the world that this is NOT just a small audience, but a crucial market of gamers."

Thank you for time. It’s been incredible that people even responded to my interview request. For my last question do you have any advice or tips for young professionals who want to work in the video game industry? What barriers did you have to overcome to be where you are at today?

"As someone who has bucked the trends of getting into the industry, I encourage others to do the same.  Don’t read a bunch of blogs who tell you to get degrees from certain schools or break your back doing QA for so many years.  Find your own path, whether it be mods, releasing your own games, or just kicking ass in what you do.  Gary’s Mods, Notch, or even I will support that argument.

I’ve given a few talks at GDC about networking yourself into the industry.  Watch them.  Don’t watch shit from recruiters or college placement folks.  Recruiters want standardization and college placement folks have already failed at being in the games industry, that’s why they work at colleges and not games studios.

The names in the industry are not populated by people who followed what everyone else was doing.  Jason Jones, Richard Garriot, John Carmark, Clint Hocking, and even the little people like myself.  We struck our own path.  If you are motivated, talented, and have the drive to step outside the norm and make it fucking happen, you will.  Never give up, never surrender.   If you are going to do something, do it right, don’t half ass it."

Christian's Company: http://serellan.com/
TAKEDOWN WEBSITE: http://takedownthegame.com/about/
Check out the Promo video for his new game TAKEDOWN!

 


Comments

04/10/2013 6:48am

Future of gaming might be playing virtually with people online? How bout that concept?

Reply
07/17/2013 4:04am

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07/19/2013 8:24am

WB Games, it is definitely rewarding to be thrust into the limelight and work with top talent in both the games and entertainment industry. As a kid from Eagle River, Alaska, it tends to be a big deal to my mom when games I have worked on are splashed across the media, or I am meeting with high-power movie directors in New Zealand.

Reply
07/27/2013 10:50pm

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Reply
08/15/2013 2:51am

Bungie, and publishers like Ubisoft, Microsoft, and WB Games, it is definitely rewarding to be thrust into the limelight and work with top talent in both the games and entertainment industry. As a kid from Eagle River, Alaska, it tends to be a big deal to my mom when games I have worked on are splashed across the media, or I am meeting with high-power movie directors in New Zealand.

Reply
10/09/2013 5:17am

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