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CrowdStar: Big Studio Console Development 'Kind Of Insane'

Pete Hawley, ex-console game developer and current VP of product development for social game maker CrowdStar tells Gamsutra that huge console teams and budgets make for
Pete Hawley has worked at major "traditional" game developers such as Criterion, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Lionhead and GT Interactive. Now he's VP of product development with 90-person startup social game maker CrowdStar, and it's given him some perspective on the console game development business. "When I look back at my time at the big studios on the console side, I've seen so many mistakes," he told Gamsutra in a new feature interview. He previously worked on core gamer titles such as Burnout and Black, while social games like CrowdStar's It Girl and Happy Pets aim for a decidedly different audience. "When Electronic Arts grows a studio or Sony grows a studio to 200 people or more on one game, you just get to see what breaks socially within a group," he said. "It becomes really dysfunctional and hard to control 200 people to a three-year schedule and 50 million bucks. It's kind of insane." "What I was determined to do ... was that if I was going to come from a sort of EA and Sony background, I wasn't going to come in and build some sort of hierarchical studio model by default, like stamp an EA sort of executive-produced pyramid on top of the studio," said Hawley. Instead, the studio, founded by Jeff Tseng and Suren Markosian and chaired by Peter Relan, adopts a "flat" hierarchy, maintaining a lightweight development process with a singular mission reached through short-term goals. "EA called it the X statement, where you just have that one defining mission statement," said Hawley. "So, there's some definite things that I've introduced with the help of others to bring process, but make sure we don't break the process by just adding hierarchy and middle management levels, which would destroy the culture of CrowdStar and the speed and the agility of the staff." For more about CrowdStar's development process and Hawley's views on creating compelling social games using virality and data, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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