Harvey Smith confirmed for Midway-Austin role

[UPDATE] Publisher continues to stock up on development talent, naming former Ion Storm staffer as the creative director of its new Texas studio. Smith speaks about the future.

Midway Games has shown an unrivaled appetite for both companies and talent in recent months. Today it confirmed yet another acquisition of sorts: the hire of former Ion Storm executive producer Harvey Smith.

Smith, who himself confirmed the move to Midway last week, will act as creative director of the new Austin studio. His hire follows that of another Ion staffer, Denise Fulton, who was put charge of the Austin operation in mid-November.

Smith, a longtime game designer (and presenter on the conference circuit), is credited on a number of high-profile titles, including Deus Ex: Invisible War and Thief: Deadly Shadows. Less contemporary games that Smith has worked on include Fire Storm, CyberMage, System Shock, Ultima VIII, and Super Wing Commander 3DO. Smith left Ion Storm last April.

Today's news builds on other company acquisitions as of late. As reported last week, Midway acquired Shaolin Monks-developer Paradox Development. Earlier this year, Midway purchased The Suffering creator Surreal Software, and last October it purchased Austin-based Inevitable Entertainment, developer of the upcoming Area 51.

[UPDATE] We spoke with Smith shortly after the news was confirmed.

GameSpot: From the boutique operation of Looking Glass Studios, to the midsized shop of Ion Storm Austin, to the ranks of what is fast-becoming one of the game industry's behemoths, what was it that appealed to you about this opportunity?

Harvey Smith: I believe that Midway is in a great spot: a powerful, mature company that is still building up an empire, still seeking creative talent, still trying to define itself. There's a story being told here. It's an exciting time to get involved. By struggling to work with teams and struggling to express myself creatively, I've learned a tremendous amount over the last decade, and I hope to apply all of that over the next few years here at Midway Austin in my capacity as studio creative director.

GS: Was there a particular tip-off that Midway was coming around?

HS: This year, I played Psi-Ops and The Suffering, and I came to believe that Midway is headed in the right direction. I believe the best work is done by people who are committed to changing the world, committed to working constantly to improve.

GS: How have you been spending the time since leaving Ion in April?

HS: You don't want to know...mostly too good to be true. I was waking up at 10am, drinking a pot of coffee, doing some writing, walking my dog for an hour, listening to live music in Austin, working on video game docs, seeing movies, playing games, hanging out with friends, swimming, and stuff like that...almost as if I was 16 and not 37. If you have spent a couple of decades in the workforce, often in stressful situations or crunching, you really should try taking eight months off. It's fairly amazing. You forget how much stress you carry around on a daily basis.

I was also consulting with a few game companies. I traveled a lot, including trips to Montreal, Australia, and Chicago. I learned a lot and met some great people.

Additionally, of course, I was thinking about starting a new game studio. During this process, I was spending a lot of time doing stuff that is outside my core interests and strengths. Just before I went insane [from] wrestling with publishers, Midway came along. Working with the team here in Austin is really exciting and keeps me focused on the fun stuff.

GS: What will your first projects be at the new studio?

HS: Well, right now I am trying to be useful to the Area 51 team. They are putting the final touches on the game, which is a fast-paced shooter with squadmates who accompany the player, [in addition to included] mutation-based powers. Also, there's a lot of conspiracy theory stuff interwoven with the story. The guys here have done their homework. I'm evaluating the game, making some minor recommendations, and writing some small pieces of fiction. I'm having a blast and getting to know the team, so it's "back into Area 51" for me. Seriously, they've done great work, and the game is gorgeous.

Starting in January, we will begin work on two exciting (and still secret) high concepts. This is largely why Midway was so attractive. I get to work with two teams on two high-end, next-gen games.

GS: Are you looking forward to working with Denise Fulton, who also hails from Ion Storm?

HS: Absolutely. I believe there are a bunch of keys to creative success. Most companies have a few. Right now, with me, Cyrus Lum, Craig Galley, Denise Fulton, and the other leads here at Midway Austin, I hope that we are setting ourselves up for great success in a bunch of critical areas for the next round of games. Denise brings a lot to the process and is a conservative voice. In the end, creative teams work best within constraints.

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