We've forgotten what makes game development fun - The Room dev

Many larger game companies have forgotten exactly what it is that makes games so exciting, and instead clog development up with arbitrary goals and formulas, says The Room's Barry Meade.
Many of the larger video game companies have forgotten exactly what it is that makes games so exciting, and instead clog development up with arbitrary goals and formulas. This is why Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios -- the team behind last year's The Room on mobile -- moved away from his AAA job at Criterion, he explained at Develop Conference today. "Criterion was a very tough place to work," he noted, "and all of us, we'd been there long enough, so we'd seen it all -- we've been through the wringer." Larger companies like Criterion have a multitude of methods for checking up on employees, he reasons, and they set goals and timeframes that constrict development in a negative way. When Meade was at Bullfrog in the 90s, he found that the way that Peter Molyneux ran the company, allowing his employees to get on with their work and explore any possible ideas, was the perfect formula for making a game. "It was like a big playground," he added. "It was an amazing place to work." But many companies have forgotten exactly why it is that we make games. "It's so joyless, so airless," he says. And no-one wants to talk about how this affects the end result, he reasons. Although he found it hard at Criterion, there were upsides to the company's tough culture. "The expectations were very high," he said, adding, "to be honest, that's what you need." "If you have a huge team, you need to set some sort of standard," he explains. "We were very aware of the previous games that got great reviews." Indeed, this made the whole team feel like it needed to make games that received at least a 90 on Metacritic -- that was just the culture behind development at the studio. "It was tough, but we were making good games," he says. "It could have been worse, but people still wouldn't have left." Although he later added, "[Criterion] didn't really guide you... I know some people found that difficult."

A room with a view

Meade became worried that the skills and knowledge he had learnt alongside his fellow employees might be lost when the team was inevitably split up -- hence, he left Criterion along with five other staffers to form Fireproof. Fireproof began as six lead artists, all of whom had built tracks for the various Burnout games. They began outsourcing on games, although it was tricky to begin with. "Our first year was really tough," he admits -- it was four months before the team actually got its first work, and they had no seed capital or investors. "If things didn't change, we'd have to wind up the company," Meade says of that 12 month period. However, once Fireproof slowly but surely became known as a great outsourcing company, the going became far easier. Yet it was four years later that the team finally was in a position where they could hire a programmer, and begin work on their own game. "It was 4 years of pent up frustration," Meade notes -- which actually meant that development on The Room was relatively easy.

Latest Jobs

Double Fine Productions

Hybrid, San Francisco CA, USA
Senior Systems Programmer

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN, USA
Clinical Assistant Professor in Game Development

Digital Extremes

Lead AI Programmer
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more