Q&A With Amazon Game Studios Craig Sullivan

Following on from the news that Craig Sullivan is joining Amazon Game Studios, we had a chat with the former Need for Speed creative director to talk about his new role, the new opportunities that technology like Lumberyard and Twitch bring and his experience of relocating for roles.

What are you looking forward to in your new role at Amazon Game Studios?

The short answer is “LOTS.” Moving companies after spending almost 20 years with Criterion and EA is a big change for me personally and professionally, but I really like and embrace new experiences. The prospect of building something new and huge with Amazon Game Studios is a challenge and adventure I just couldn’t pass up on. I’m really looking forward to working with new, talented teams, working with Rich Hilleman again, and being part of a company that is focused on bringing players fun, high-quality experiences that will surprise them.

How do you think your role will differ from your previous projects?

Being a Creative Director, my day-to-day job is never the same twice–that’s one of the reasons why I love it–so it’s hard to pin down specifics. The biggest difference will obviously be the new team and tech at Amazon Game Studios, and from what I’ve seen so far both are great, so we can concentrate our efforts on getting to the gameplay quickly and getting hands on with the fun.

You’ve come from a very technical background, working as a designer at Criterion before Ghost Games. How does this help joining a new outfit like AGS in a creative capacity?

I wouldn’t say I was super technical but yes, I’ve been very hands on with many aspects of the games I’ve worked on in the past. I think it’s a sign of a good team that works well together when you can collaborate and get to something you could not achieve individually. Going to Amazon Game Studios I already see that willingness to knit together as a team and treat games as something we all share a passion for and want to do our best at. With a team that is creatively open to innovation and quality in a collaborative environment you’re always going to get good results, and any team that communicates and collaborates more is always going to be better in my opinion.

You’ve gone from Guildford to Sweden and now Orange County. I’m sure you’ve racked up some frequent flier miles, but how has relocating been for you?

I’ll be based in Los Angeles but working closely with several studios in Seattle, Orange County and other Amazon locations around the globe. Game development has been multinational for a good few years now so I’m very used to travelling, working remotely and working with studios in other time zones and locations. The physical relocation is actually straightforward once you’ve decided where you’re going, but it does take time so you have to be patient and use the transition period as something that is setting you up for success when you finally get started. Obviously living in LA is a little bit sunnier than Sweden too, so that’s a nice bonus.

Hiring you, with your background on both AAA and racing based games, is a big statement of intent from the Amazon Game Studios’ Irvine studio. What are you hoping to achieve over the foreseeable future at the studio?

As I mentioned, I’ll be working with a variety of studios so I think it’s more a statement of intent from Amazon Game Studios as a wider group. One of the main reasons for working with AGS is that I fully believe we are committed to making great games for our players and becoming a source of consistent quality, which is definitely a big goal for us. Amazon is known for its commitment to good customer experiences across its business and that value translates directly to the players, broadcasters, and viewers we are working hard for. In terms of achievements we will be judged on how innovative, fun and high quality our games are, by players around the globe. I think that is the best judge of any gaming studio you can get, so I’m eager to get our games into players’ hands.

Amazon Game Studios and Lumberyard are very much in tune with customer focused implementation and community building integration with Twitch. How do you think you will approach these and is it exciting to see what you can do with these options. 

A big part of the attraction to Amazon Game Studios is the cool tech we get to use. Twitch, Lumberyard and AWS are pretty awesome already, and only getting better as game developers push them. Add to those with the new tech that Amazon is constantly working on, and I see the gaming experiences we are going to release as being very fresh and cutting edge. The player-centric experiences you have seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg and I see us going a lot further in the future. I can’t wait to get started.

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