Oz Developer Watch: The Creative Assembly

GameSpot AU's Oz Developer Watch series is back with brand new home-grown developer interviews for 2009. Kicking things off is Sega's Brisbane-based development studio, The Creative Assembly. We spoke to general manager George Fidler about the studio's history and its up-and-coming releases.The...

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GameSpot AU's Oz Developer Watch series is back with brand new home-grown developer interviews for 2009. Kicking things off is Sega's Brisbane-based development studio, The Creative Assembly. We spoke to general manager George Fidler about the studio's history and its up-and-coming releases.

The Creative Assembly was founded in Brisbane in 2002 by George Fidler, whose previous position at EA saw him work with The Creative Assembly UK on several sporting titles.

No Caption ProvidedWhen Fidler left EA in 2002, The Creative Assembly asked him to establish a studio in Australia. A few years later the studio was acquired by Sega, and is now a fully owned subsidiary of SEGA Europe.

"We started small and focused," Fidler said. "Our goal was to grow the studio with the support of our parent studio in the UK, by working on the established Total War franchise. Having established our credentials in the strategy space on PC, we then turned our attention to taking strategy to console."

Stormrise is the realisation of that vision. With around 50 full time staff, The Creative Assembly has plans for growth if the game proves a success when it is released in mid-2009.

"We think there is a huge potential market for strategy games on console and we have only just scraped the surface," Fidler said. "Stormrise will hopefully start to open this market and from there the opportunities are endless."

The Creative Assembly's titles have to date been published by EA, Activision and Sega. Rome: Total War has been the most successful title based on both sales and review score, and the game has a huge fan base throughout Europe.

According to Fidler, working in the Australian game development industry is a hard slog. Quality games are expensive to develop, so developers need to make games that appeal to a wide audience.

"There is certainly money to be made if your games attract an overseas market. But simply relying on the Australian market is very difficult. In the case of The Creative Assembly, I think we're a good example of how an Australian developer can make good on a world stage.

"In saying that, we have world class creative talent here in Australia, and our educational institutions are amongst the best in the world. Australians are well represented on a world stage in both film and music and there is no reason why we can't be a leading force in video game development."

Fidler says there are already many examples of Australian developers retaining ownership of their IP and co-publishing with a multinational partner, which he believes is the best model for Australian developers to grow value in their business. For him, working in Australia is all about the quality of life.

"We have managed to attract many talented developers from overseas because of the quality of life we have here," Fidler said. "We also have some very talented home grown people here and working with them is my greatest reward."

Fidler also let in on the secret of The Creative Assembly's success--gamers.

"We have a number of serious gamers working for us. People with world rankings! We work closely with these guys in both design and quality assurance."

The Creative Assembly will launch its next title, Stormrise , in mid-2009.


VITAL STATISTICS

Name: The Creative Assembly
City: Brisbane
Company size: More than 50 employees
Games:
Rome: Total War, 2004, Activision (PC)
Rome: Total War--Barbarian Invasion, 2005, Sega (PC)
Medieval II: Total War, 2006, Sega (PC)
Medieval II: Total War--Kingdoms, 2007, Sega (PC)
Stormrise, 2009, Sega (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Be sure to check out our Oz Developer Watch series, including Tantalus, Transmission Games, Infinite Interactive, and Blue Tongue.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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