Q&A: Relic's Alex Garden

Homeworld designer talks about selling his studio to THQ--and about just how far a $5,000 investment can take you.

Relic Entertainment cofounder Alex Garden was just 23 years old when he surprised the industry with the amazing Homeworld. Garden and his development team came out of nowhere to grab award after award after the release of many a reviewer's Best Game of 1999.

Five years later--after a Homeworld sequel and the quirky Impossible Creatures--Garden has sold the Vancouver-based development studio to THQ. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War is currently in development at Relic and is slated for a big E3 push--but that's a little over a week away. GameSpot spoke with Garden today and asked him to comment on the sale.

GameSpot: It seems like everyone sells their studio...eventually. What was the upside for you in this deal?

Alex Garden: The success of any game developer depends on the absolute focus of their talent on the most important issue: making great games. As an independent company, Relic was forced to constantly keep its best employees in a split-focus mode where we observed the market and the synergies between other publishers along with our own products. An acquisition by THQ brings together the best of both worlds. Now we have the benefit of internal exposure to the great planning resources at THQ, and we can devote our best talent internally to the goal of making great games.

GS: Be honest--what do you give up when you sell the company?

AG: When you sell your company, you should always gain more than you give up. This is my first partnership. Ask me again in six months!

GS: When you started Relic, what was the total investment? Can you provide a brief description of the company when it was just founded--the offices, the vibe, the work ethic?

AG: Relic was founded on an initial investment of CAD$5,000. Our first publishing deal was with Sierra On-Line for Homeworld. We started in a 3,000-square-foot office upstairs from a bar, and we managed to pack 16 people in there!

GS: Who were your role models when you started the company?

AG: Relic was built with the help of a number of great people. A few names that really stick out: Scott Lynch, Don Mattrick, Chris Taylor, Will Wright, Michel E. Giasson, Jack Welch, David Rentz...the list goes on.

GS: Who are your role models today?

AG: As above... I’m no different than I was yesterday.

GS: How do you expect the new status to affect the present-day culture of Relic?

AG: Apart from the obvious benefits we can take advantage of in sharing our operational overhead (accounting, planning, etc.), we do not foresee a radical departure from Relic’s current plans. We are focused on being the number one RTS developer in the world, which is a passion shared by our partners at THQ. By leveraging the tremendous resources THQ has at their disposal, if anything we anticipate a faster progression towards our goals. On the corporate culture side, we anticipate that the right policies and procedures will remain in effect, as they are part of our success today and in the future.

GS: Is there opportunity still for someone with a great idea to start their own development studio, or are those times in the past?

AG: Everyone should follow their dreams. Realistically, though, the stakes are very high these days.

GS: What do you expect to be doing for THQ? And who calls the shots?

AG: I’m not sure if we’re ready to discuss this in detail, but I will be moving into an executive role at THQ reporting to Jack Sorensen.

GS: THQ has some pretty focused plans in the area of PC gaming. Any chance you'd code for a console?

AG: We’re not discussing any of our future plans just yet.

GS: Any chance of rolling up the carpet in Vancouver and moving to sunny SoCal? Not as much rain in that part of the world, you know?

AG: I think the staff at Relic is very happy in Vancouver.

GS: What's your E3 plan this year, Alex? Demoing product or scanning the show floor for great games and inspiration?

AG: Both!

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