Max Schaefer: Torchlight Mobile Keeps PC's Elements, But Has Shorter Game Flow
Hi, would you like to make a brief introduction about yourself?
Yeah, I am Max Schaefer. I am Runic Games' CEO and Senior Producer, and the creator of Torchlight. Before that, I was the founder and CEO of Blizzard North. I made Diablo series there.
As a game developer, do you think how is the relationship between developers and gamers?
The relationship between gamers and developers is an ongoing process. At the beginning, the developer just developed a game, placed it on the market and hope to sell well. As time passes, their relationship deepens and intensifies. Both sides got exposure in whole game industries and the process of game development, and constantly communicate with each other, and make progress. Now, the relationship is very close.
There are often some misunderstandings between users and developers, How do you deal with them? How do you feel about that?
Sometimes, you can't please everybody. Sometimes, you must follow your God, follow your best intuition to decide what to performance and what to make. To some extent, developers and users support each other. We have to bring new things, interesting innovations to gamers. They also need to tell us how they react to these. This is a two-directional relationship.
You have worked with Chinese companies, could tell about the differences between the dev teams of China and America?
Many things in the places I have been are same. The offices and the work men are similar. The biggest difference is the business model. The difference of business model decides what kinds of projects will be made, and what kinds of style will be selected.
So, I am often troubled by this. Whenever I go to a new company, the making way of developers is same, the Japanese like that, the German like that, the American also like that. We do the same, but the only difference is the business model.
How do you think about Chinese game industry, especially the phenomenon of plagiarism in China?
I think it's the most obvious phenomenon of business-driven, but not innovation-driven. Compared with America, China's market environment is more inclined to evade risk. In America, there is more space to do something crazy and take greater risks.
From the business model, Chinese game companies must have a larger scale and also needs more investments. They must reduce the market risks. So, I think they are more inclined to safety in a long term, which means to make the products that can create profit in the pass. It is reasonable for them. Meanwhile, I think the trend is in the constant change. We see more and more innovative and creative products from China, and also see similar products from America because they must recognize the reality of the market.
What do you think is the most important trait to be a leader of a dev team?
I want to say than it is very difficult to develop games. So many things may go wrong in a project, from initial game concept, development period, the cost of development, to the project implementation. And you need to spend at least 6 month with these difficulties, with a very heavy workload and sleep deprivation. Everyone is exhausted to mad.
So, what a leader should do is to keep whole team conscious, keep excitement, and insist on the ideas and the overall direction of game systems in your mind. During the development, you need to deal with art designers' wild imaginations and programmers' distinctive coding style, but all people should focus on the overall direction of the game. Of course, you must ensure the direction is correct. So, the biggest challenge to lead a team is constantly striving to uphold your ideas of overall direction, and ensuring the members of your team are heading in the right direction.
Do you think a developer should focus on the current development or look to the future?
Now, many products would take 3 or 5 years development period to complete. So, at its absolute basic, you have to foresee the things in 3 or 5 years later, such as our users' status, what their main features are. And you also need to predict the change of people's taste and how the game tendency is. So, it requires basically 3 to 5 years.
Meantime, you have to see that you need to accompany your developing product for 3 to 5 years, while seeing the things in 3 to 5 years later during the development to ensure the sustainable product development and constantly adapting your society. So, I think the most important thing is to keep some perspective during the product development to deal with unpredictable things.