COLOGNE, Germany--Though it started out as a humble mod developer for such games as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Doom 3, Splash Damage now has a major publishing deal with Bethesda to release its own games. The first title under that agreement is Brink, a first-person shooter based on a highly modified id Tech 4 engine. With this in mind, Splash Damage Paul Wedgwood's GDC Europe session focused on the need to be "AAA" in the current development environment, from "hiring in people more talented than yourself," as Wedgwood put it, to creating "one of the best-run game developer Web sites in the UK."
From its origins in Wedgwood's bedroom to its current purpose-built office in London, Splash Damage's focus has been on investing in people. "For years we'd always recruited from the mod community, but when we decided to make console games, we needed people who were capable of making hits." Wedgwood listed the major components of his company's ethos: more talent, better facilities, an HR manager, better staff benefits, parties, training, better recruitment agencies, visa lawyers, and higher salaries. "This will attract and retain talent, and then the money will come," he concluded.
Wedgwood also had some controversial advice for developers looking to set up their own studios. "Budgets are pointless," he said, alluding to the fact that he still doesn't fully understand how a balance sheet works. His conclusion: "Don't be a businessman. Management consultants are better than you, and you can get them for £25 ($40) a day through the British Chambers of Commerce," he advised. "Be transparent with publishers," he said, "And when you must budget, budget for growth."
Above all, Wedgwood advised budding developers to lay everything on the line to pursue what they believe in. "If you're running short of money, and you're being offered a movie license, you have to say no. If you have to put your house and your car on the line, then that's what you have to do."
Brink is set for a 2010 release date, and for more on the game, check out GameSpot's E3 2009 impressions.