Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month we talk to Richard Jolly, co-founder & CEO of Splash Damage
You‘ve been CEO at Splash Damage for almost two years now, what’s your vision for the studio?
When we founded the studio almost 20 years ago. We didn’t know much about values, vision, or pillars, but we knew we wanted to make games that allowed people to make friends online, just as we had. That’s now our studio mission: ‘We create lifelong friendships through multiplayer games’.
But that means something different now. We realised that people were building lifelong friendships at Splash Damage while making our games. That was a lightbulb moment for us; we realised that we have a huge responsibility, not only to the amazing IP we work on, or our partners, or even our fans but to the people who work here.
That vision of creating friendships has informed so much in my 20 years at Splash, but especially the past two as CEO. Our teams have worked to build an amazing culture, and the last two years have really seen a drive to make Splash Damage more progressive, diverse, and welcoming. I wish I could take credit for it, but in truth, I just got out the way and empowered those in the know.
You’ve worked on some huge IPs owned by others, what’s your advice for such successful partnerships?
This is going to sound weird, but being a huge nerd helps!
We’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some big IPs; Batman, Halo, Gears, etc, and the one thing that all of those projects had in common was our love of that IP.
This goes back to our origins as well, of working on Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein, we grew up playing these games. Quake was my true first experience of playing online albeit on a rickety 56K modem, so of course we’d jump at the opportunity to work on it.
That’s one part. The second is about understanding your partner. What’s important to them? How do they work? Where do they want to take the IP? I know it sounds like I’m teaching people to suck eggs, but being clear and communicating well are so important to any successful relationship, business or otherwise. And I guess, most importantly remembering that each big IP will already have existing fans, so do your homework and treat them with respect.
With respect to your current role, what is/was your dream job?
Much to my dad’s horror, two years into my architecture degree, I chose to switch to one focused on games (the first in the world at the time). Given the choice I would have always chosen games, but back then it wasn’t the known career path it is today.
There is no greater freedom than building games where the laws of physics need not apply, but I still have a passion for designing ‘physical’ environments all the same.
So while our teams are all fully working remotely, we’re taking the opportunity to redesign parts of the studio. I’m currently getting under the feet of our facilities team helping to rebuild our breakout spaces to create a great environment for everyone to come back to.
What are the biggest challenges today in the games industry?
How much time do you have? Brexit, the impact of COVID on development, issues around abuse and harassment, a lack of diversity, poor representation from poorer economic backgrounds, sustainable development, preservation of gaming history… the list is long.
I’m not an expert in lots of these areas, but what I can do is use my position for good. I can empower the right people to make the right changes. To give them the support and resources they need to help make a difference.