In the hectic world of videogame marketing, there is rarely time to just stop and get to know exactly who we’re talking about. Sure, we know what products are being made, but exactly by whom? We here at TVGB have set out to correct that error, for without the people behind the games there would be no games at all. To that end, we proudly introduce the first installment of “Getting to know..,” an ongoing effort to learn a bit about those who provide content for our gaming pleasure. For this inaugural edition, we connected with Andres Bordeu, the co-founder of Chilean-based developer ACE Team who is best known for Zeno Clash, the PC first-person brawler that will be appearing on Xbox LIVE next year, and who is currently working on a sequel.
That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): What’s your primary motivation? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?
Andres Bordeu: I think that for any independent developer the answer is the same; work on your games! I guess it’s always different when you are developing a game that has a lot of yourself in it. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy my work before ACE Team, when I was hired to work on other people’s ideas, but having a lot of creative liberty is something any professional will appreciate. Of course there are also periods when you don’t get to focus that much on your game and you’re just doing administrative tasks, but still, it’s your company so even the hard days are worth it.
TVGB: Are you the same person you were when you first started out?
Andres Bordeu: I think in essence I’m the same person because my goals and motivations haven’t changed, but I have learned many things since I started working in the industry. So basically it’s the same me, only that now I know a lot more about the business and I’m learning more new things every day. In this industry you can’t allow yourself to stop learning and that’s one of the reason’s I think developing games is so exciting.
TVGB: What’s the proudest achievement of your career?
Andres Bordeu: That would definitely be releasing Zeno Clash. I’m prouder about the fact that we were able to get the game out more than any nomination or prize the game has received. Who would have thought that a small independent studio with very little resources and zero connections in the industry would have been able to release a title like Zeno Clash from a country in Latin America? Who would have thought that such an unconventional game in such a competitive genre would have had such a positive reception by the players and the media? Such a fragile concept could have easily failed if you take into account all the variables and the challenges we had to overcome. So again; just being able to complete and release Zeno Clash is definitely the achievement that I am proudest of.
TVGB: The lowest point of your career?
Andres Bordeu: I can’t think of a particular moment that would feel like the ‘lowest point’. I got to participate in some games, before ACE Team existed, that were not exactly my cup of tea. I think all work experiences are important and I think you can rescue something positive from all the developments you overcome. But I guess the project I have the less fond memories about is when I was working as technical art lead and game/level designer for a PC game called Evergirl. If you google it you’ll immediately understand why. I couldn’t say I was very encouraged with my work then, but still I think we did a good job with that game.
TVGB: As the industry expands and videogame design courses multiply in Universities around the world, more and more people are looking to establish themselves in the industry. But what are the downsides of the dream job?
Andres Bordeu: I think I could only give my perspective from this region, as I’ve only worked in game companies from Chile. The most common misconception I sense from students who ask about working in this industry is that they tend to underestimate the effort and dedication required to be part of a game development team.
Since we’re one of the only videogame companies in Chile (besides Wanako Games), we get a lot of curriculums, demo reels and requests to join us. Playing games and working in a videogame studio are completely different things. Game development is a hard and demanding job that requires passion and a lot of dedication. It’s not all about fun and games. Many times it’s about resolving problems where there is a lot of uncertainty and doing it under pressure.
TVGB: What single mistake have you learned the most from?
Andres Bordeu: Perhaps improper planning is the most dangerous mistake you can make. Because if you have time you can always try again, but if you are out of time you have to start doing things the way you didn’t want to do them, which will eventually harm your game.
TVGB: What would you say are the three games that have changed the industry most in the last 5 years, and why?
Andres Bordeu: That’s a really hard question! There’s been so much to play in the last 5 years and I’m sure I’ve missed very important titles. I’m not going to risk saying that these are the three most revolutionary games of the past years, but they are certainly three games that have caught my attention:
My first pick would go with Portal, because it managed to present a totally new concept in a somewhat static genre –- an achievement that you rarely see in the industry. Any company that is able to present something completely new should be extremely proud.
My second pick would be BioShock, because it proved that traditional genres can adopt unconventional and fresh new visual approaches that can appeal to a wide audience.
And my last pick would go with Braid, because it oozes creativity and it also managed to present a new concept in the platform gaming genre –- something I hadn’t seen in years. It’s also an excellent example that the independent developers are also producing high quality games and that indie games have definitely come to stay.
TVGB: Is there a particular game that has influenced you and your work more than any other?
Andres Bordeu: If I had to choose only one I’d choose the first Thief from Looking Glass. I’ve always been a huge FPS fan and I was truly impressed when I first played it. When we developed Zeno Clash we were trying to accomplish the same thing that Thief accomplished; move as far away as possible from the existing conventions while still creating a fun and memorable experience.
TVGB: Is there a game you particularly admire that you wish you had worked on yourself?
Andres Bordeu: I must say Thief again! My heart cried when Looking Glass Studios disappeared! :(
TVGB: Is there a particular developer/designer or team whose work you respect most? Someone you, if the opportunity would arise, would work with in a heartbeat?
Andres Bordeu: As a game designer I have to say that the person I admire the most is Shigeru Miyamoto. Who else has had a key role in so many concepts and ideas, setting the rules so we’ll all play along? It’s incredible how he manages to reinvent and create new experiences after all these years. Sometimes I think he’s shaped part of the industry in to what it is today. He is clearly one of the most important minds behind the videogame industry.
TVGB: What kind of a change in the industry are you looking forward to and rooting for the most?
Andres Bordeu: I’m currently looking at the latest developments from a spectator’s point of view. At ACE Team we still have to work on our next games before we have a steady position in this competitive industry. We’re certainly interested in the possibilities that will rise with the appearance of full motion controls, but that doesn’t mean that we will be looking in that direction in the near future.
I’m currently very interested in following independent gaming and watching how far it can get. This industry is constantly reshaping and I think independent games will be a strong force behind the form of the industry in the years to come. Digital distribution is something else that I’ll be rooting for.
TVGB: If you had to choose between critical or commercial success, which would it be?
Andres Bordeu: The truth is that my answer would depend directly on the status of our studio. If you only have a single game in the market and its commercial success will define whether you can continue to develop games or you have to quit I’d have to choose commercial success. However, if we had many projects that would sustain the company I could be more inclined to say critical success. In a perfect world critical success and commercial success should always come in hand, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. It’s always sad whenever great ideas are left behind because they are not backed up by a popular franchise or big name.