[To read out other recruitment spotlight's for more juicy tips on breaking into the industry, you can find them here]
RECRUITER HOT SEAT
This month: We quiz The Creative Assembly’s Emma Cole for tips on how to land a job and an insight into the company’s culture.
Name: Emma Cole
Title: Recruitment and HR assistant
What makes The Creative Assembly different from other companies?
It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but it’s our people. We haven’t manufactured a culture here; it’s evolved by itself and it’s one of great creativity and achievement.
We strive for a non-corporate working environment and, while we’re quite focused and structured, people have the freedom within that structure to really develop themselves and use their unique talents to make a big impact on the games we make.
What other benefits are there to working with the studio?
There are loads. Location for one – Horsham is within commuting distance of London, Brighton and Guildford, so it’s really well situated.
It’s also a lovely town in its own right, with good amenities, and quite a lot of us have ended up moving here, so there’s a really nice CA social scene in Horsham.
As we’re owned by Sega, we also benefit from the Sega package which offers pretty competitive benefits and includes some great perks such as gym discounts, season-tickets for parking, massages, free fruit and cereals; plus we regularly organise company social events.
Who is the best interviewee you’ve ever had and what did they do?
We once had a hugely skilled Iraqi animator apply. When his story unfolded during the interview, we were gobsmacked.
He’d grown up in a village with literally no modern technology at all and the first time he actually used a computer was in 2005.
He’d also spent time in a refugee camp in Afghanistan and had been caught in a roadside bomb-blast.
His first experience with animation came from seeing cartoons for the first time. Having grown up in such a technologically-isolated community, he was blown away – he thought ‘That’s what I want to do with my life’.
He found employment at ICE Animations in Pakistan and was soon working 80-hour weeks learning his skills on the fly – living and breathing animation. He was – and is – a person of remarkable passion and talent.
So what was the worst interview?
I had one interview where an applicant came in and was rude as soon as he walked through the door. He said: ‘I’d like to know what the studio is like but I don’t suppose you’d know, just being an office girl’.
What advice would you give for a successful interview?
Show us what you’re made of, not what you think we want to hear. You can’t manufacture a sense of passion and if you’ve genuinely got that, it shows. Also, do a little research and be aware of what we do.
It’s surprising how many people who apply don’t even know what games we make. Be honest about your abilities and don’t be afraid to show your past successes.
Since it’s easier than ever for developers to self-publish, why should they instead join The Creative Assembly?
With the Total War series and our upcoming Alien-related console title, we’re working on projects that are far beyond the scope and capabilities of smaller outfits.
There’s a tremendous amount of resources going into both our development teams, and joining us is an opportunity to help fashion world-class games that will have a significant impact.
We’re also a very stable studio. We work in a really collaborative way and everyone’s roles are well-defined.
What area of the industry needs more investment?
Human resources. I know, that’s a bit biased. But often, the recruitment experience for candidates can lack the personal touch, and just a simple email reply can make the difference between us finding or losing the right candidate.
For every applicant that we receive a CV from, we ensure we reply, even if they’re not successful.On a wider scale, I think it’s important that investment in education is taken more seriously.
Creating an exceptional pipeline of star graduates will invigorate UK development in the coming years, and this will rely on smart investment early on. More content makers means more content, and that’s an important aspect in the future of the UK economy.
How many people is The Creative Assembly planning to hire?
We grew from 160 people to 185 last year alone. This year, we wil be hiring to well past the 200 mark.
What fields are you recruiting from?
The Creative Assembly is hiring in virtually every discipline at the moment, for both PC and console development.
Lighting artists, multiplayer programmers, AI programmers, designers, audio engineers; the list is pretty big.
Given the success and critical acclaim of the Total War series, has this made it easier or harder to recruit for the company?
Both, to be honest. We’re known mostly for the Total War PC strategy series, which is obviously an ideal situation when you’re hiring for a team that consistently releases 90 per cent plus Metacritic games.
But we also have a large and fast-growing console team, which is now entering full production on our new project based on the Alien IP.
The game is enormously ambitious and exciting, and I want to shout about what they’ve achieved already from the rooftop, which is obviously hard when the game isn’t yet formally announced.
It’s shaping up to be an incredible experience, and I think that must be a very attractive prospect to potential CA candidates.
GET THAT JOB
This month: Designer
PopCap's senior game designer David Bishop offers tips on getting the role.
“Look at and play as many games as you can; not just ones you would naturally gravitate towards.
“Circulate your thoughts, findings and learnings, especially where you believe a game breaks new ground and/or does something particularly well – or badly – where lessons can be learnt.
“Look for any way to get or be involved in the creative process – ask to be invited to or included in brainstorm
and design review sessions. Do your homework so that you are well placed to contribute in a meaningful and memorable fashion.
“If you are already in a design team then offer to support and review the design work of your peers.
“Study design trends and best practices, especially in emerging areas such as social gaming, and position yourself as the company’s expert in one or more of these specific areas of game design.”
NEW STUDIO SPOTLIGHT
A new mobile studio named PlaySide has been launched by former staff of the now defunct Melbourne studio Visceral Games.
Founded by game designer Gerry Sakkas and devs Aaron Pasias and Mark Goulopoulos, the studio is to focus on bringing its triple-A skills to the mobile space.
“We are very fortunate to have a team that already knows how to develop triple-A console games,” says Sakkas. “So as the mobile space grows and matures we will easily be able to adapt to any changes that come our way.
SIX-SECOND STUDIO SPOTLIGHT
France-based studio Asobo was founded in 2002
It has developed games such as Wall-E, Toy Story 3 and Fuel for multiple platforms
The studio will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
Its most successful title Ratatouille has sold more than 2.5 million units
Currently working on Kinect title Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure to be released in March
The studio currently stands at more than 100 employees, and is looking for more senior staff to join its team
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
This month: Red 5, GamesAid, Bossa, Kixeye and Wooga add to ranks with young talent and veterans
RED 5 STUDIOS
Crytek developer Ury Zhilinsky has left the Crysis studio to join online outfit Red 5 Studios, where he will take up the role of senior graphics programmer.
Zhilinksy has worked in the industry for over ten years, most recently as R&D manager and senior R&D graphics programmer at Crytek.
“We’re still a relatively small team here at Red 5 Studios because we’ve been very selective when choosing ‘tribe’ members,” said Red 5 CEO, Mark Kern.
“It’s not just about talent, it’s about what happens when you put together a group that shares the same commitment to quality, community, and fun.
“Ury’s skill and experience make him an asset that any team would be happy to have, but it’s his development philosophy that makes him a good fit for the ‘tribe’.”
The studio added that it is currently recruiting programmers for work on its upcoming online action game Firefall for PC.
Social games developer Bossa Studios has appointed former Sony Computer Entertainment vice president Yoshifusa Hayama as creative director. He will strive to help the UK studio in its ambition to bring 3D to the social games market.
Hayama has previously worked on titles such as Ico, the Final Fantasy series and the upcoming PS3 title The Last Guardian, but left the company to join Bossa.
“The future of gaming is online and thanks to recent developments with Flash 11 there is no reason why a social game can no longer be as visually stunning and as compelling as the big console titles,” said Hayama.
“At Bossa we have plans to bring a plethora of games to Facebook and eventually other appropriate social media channels, which include 3D elements and can be enjoyed by all age and interest groups.”
Former Zynga exec and Lionside founder Brandon Barber has joined studio Kixeye as senior VP of marketing.
Barber, who was previously VP of marketing Zynga, has also worked at Electronic Arts as senior director of global online marketing.
“In order to continue crushing our competition, we need to bring in the best talent on the planet,” said Kixeye CEO Will Harbin
“Brandon fits that description. His track record of innovation, execution and entrepreneurialism will help us up our game as we develop the next generation of mind-blowing online combat games.”
Gitta Blatt has joined German social games studio Wooga as head of human resources.
Blatt, who previously held the same role at Bigpoint, will “focus first and foremost on personnel development and the recruitment of new employees”.
“Her views, her vitality and her commitment convinced me that she was the right person to guide the rapid growth that Wooga is currently experiencing,” said Wooga founder Jens Begemann.
“Her ideal company culture corresponds with mine, and her experience – both with the development of a company and in the gaming industry – is unique.”
The studio said it is currently hiring two new employees per week and plans to grow to 250 staff by the end of 2012.