Getting to know… Martin de Ronde

Martin de Ronde is an industry veteran, with over 10 years experience in games development and PR. During his career, De Ronde has been involved with a massive variety of games, from AAA hits like Killzone to TV games, MMO apps and casual titles. Now, as director of OneBigGame, de Ronde runs a charity organisation publishing games created entirely for the benefit of disadvantaged children around the world.

With such a long and storied history TVGB thought the man would be the ideal candidate for our ‘Getting to know…’ feature, in which we attempt to reveal the people behind the games we play. Here we chat about his top 3 industry changing titles, why Kick Off 2: Extra-Time is the world’s best game ever, and spending 3 years on a title that turns out to be shit.

That VideoGame Blog: What’s your primary motivation? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Martin de Ronde: The unexpected. The uncharted. The untried.

TVGB: Are you the same person you were when you first started out?

Martin de Ronde: Not even close. Life is a lesson, you’ll learn it when you’re through.

TVGB: From a personal perspective, what is the proudest achievement of your career?

Martin de Ronde: A very recent one: seeing Chime become a reality as the first game out of OneBigGame. Seeing that logo of ours on that wonderful game by Zoe Mode made me very proud.

TVGB: The lowest point of your career?

Martin de Ronde: Having to let go 10 people at Lost Boys Games (the precursor to Guerrilla Games).

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?

Martin de Ronde: Realize that you might be working on a game for 3 to 4 years in a row, which can get quite depressing, especially if the game ultimately turns out to be a pile of shit. That feels like 3 years of your life wasted. Also, making a game with a large team often means having to work on very small aspects of the game, you will sometimes find it hard to see yourself as an important contributor to the success, which again can be a bit offputting.

TVGB: What single mistake have you learned the most from?

Martin de Ronde: Doing too many things at the same time in the early stages of Guerrilla Games, cost a lot. Same thing happened with OneBigGame’s first phase. Too many things to do, leads to many things getting done in an average way.

TVGB: What would you say are the three games that have changed the industry most in the last 25 years, and why?

Martin de Ronde: So many influential games that kick-started genres: Street Fighter 2, Doom, Ultima Online etc. But if I had to choose 3, I would choose 3 games that came out at almost exactly the same time: Half Life 1, Metal Gear Solid PS1 and Ocarina of Time. These 3 marked the end of an era in 1998, perfecting the genre of the story driven action adventure games (each in their own unique way) and laying the foundation for it to become the most dominant genre of all over the next decade. And so they started a new era at the same time. They showed the true ‘interactive movie’ potential the movie industry was after in the early 90s. They paved the way for countless story driven first and third person action adventure games afterwards, but also paved the way for the death of innovation in game mechanics, in truly new genres. A paradigm shift.

I never again experienced that feeling of uncharted territories, truly new experiences than when I was walking the plains of Hyrule for the first time, when that train took me to the testing facility and when I had to switch the ps controller. Unforgettable for me personally, but I think these 3 are underestimated in what an influence they had on generations of action adventure games creators for years to come.

TVGB: Is there a particular game that has influenced you and your work more than any other?

Martin de Ronde: Mario 64. I keep coming back to it time and time again when I want to explain something to somebody that has something to do with games. Forget textbooks about videogame design, production etc. This is it. Play and analyze and you will slowly understand some of the secrets of game mechanic creation, balancing, game structure, progress, rewards etc.

TVGB: Is there a game you particularly admire that you wish you had worked on?

Martin de Ronde: Kick Off 2: Extra Time. My personal favorite and the WORLD’S BEST GAME EVER. Sandbox gameplay in a football game. Innovation in game mechanics. True multi-player fun. I must have clocked more hours on that game than any other. Close to modern times’ WoW addiction levels. Despite its brilliance, the game had so many shortcomings still, I would have loved to work on that game to improve it even further. As a combined tester, designer and producer. And finally marketing guy, letting the world know this is the best game ever. Period.

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? Why?

Martin de Ronde: Miyamoto-san. Obvious choice, but not because of his games (I am actually not such a big fan of some of his games) but the structure of his designs and his ability to translate imagination into practical solutions, which I think is the secret of his success. Would love to experience his work methodology.

TVGB: What kind of an industry change are you looking forward to and rooting for the most?

Martin de Ronde: A utopian smaller industry, the industry as it was round the middle of the 90s. Too many non-discerning consumers right now, who do justice to their name. They consume rather than contemplate and consider their choices. I don’t like mindless players. I like passionate gamers. Gamers that truly enjoy the games that are coming out, look forward to them and are grateful for the wonderful experiences. Also, fewer games, with less content. More compact game experiences.

TVGB: If you had to choose between critical or commercial success, which would it be?

Martin de Ronde: Critical, in a heartbeat. I am getting the same kick out of doing stuff for OneBigGame (which is non-profit) as I was getting out of my Guerrilla games work.

TVGB: What question would you like to ask our next interviewee?

Martin de Ronde: What is the most under-exploited genre or type of game in the industry at this moment, both in terms of commercial potential as well as in terms of potential for innovation, renovation, re-invention?

If you are interested in OneBigGame and their fantastic mission, you can find more details on the project over at the OneBigGame website.