CRN: What was your reason for leaving the UK and setting up in the US in the first place?
DP: There is a bit of a misconception about me leaving the UK. I did not sit down and say: "Hey, let's go to the US!" I was offered a job at Virgin Games. They made an offer which I believe nobody could refuse.
They offered me an apartment in California right next to the beach, and a company car. Their request was to simply write one game and I could return to the UK and all expenses would be paid. I never intended to leave and possibly will not come back!
CRN: Are there any fundamental differences in the way companies are run in the States and the way programmers are treated?
DP: In the early days, in England, there were no multi-million pound contracts to be had, you were paid just enough to live. If you lived, you were paid less. Very quickly you would
run out of money and not be able to complete a game.
It was the English method that taught the Americans how to get things done properly. In the US, the industry is very much one where you are employed as an "employee" and so there are many nine to five programmers.
This has drawbacks as you will see many programmers sit playing Doom, not working, and so games take a long time to develop. In the US, as a relatively small guy working hard, you can make a fortune. All you have to do is to write something impressive, quickly. There is no point writing a game over a long period. I guess it was the British mentality that I took to the US which has achieved success.
CRN: Can you compare the US/UK in terms of how much control the developer has over their game? Is one market more receptive to the developer and, if so, why?
DP: America and Europe are really different, the cultures are just not the same. To ignore this by wearing blinkers and focusing on one continent is a total mistake. I think developers have equal opportunity worldwide to develop their games as they want to, I just think that a surprising percentage of American programmers tend to totally ignore the rest of the world.
CRN: Are there any differences in how software houses handle PR on behalf of the developer in the US/UK?
DP: In the UK, people are interested to know who made what. They quickly learn names and faces. In America, that opportunity is much less for a developer, magazines focus on games and just a few interview the people who actually built them. This I see changing over here during the next few years.
CRN: How are contracts handled in UK/USA between developer and software house? Good/bad points of both countries, negative rip-off stories or positive support strategy examples (i.e. pensions, insurance, good percentage splits on royalties, etc.) you may have experienced or heard about.
DP: In both the US and UK, it is easy to get a job in the industry, but publishers very rarely actually write a cheque to their employees whether they promised royalties to them or not. Royalties are the most important feature of making a game. If you do a crappy job, you don't deserve anything.
If the publisher is making hundreds of millions because your title made people bow down to worship it, then you deserve a damn good pay-day. Shiny actually pays royalties and has paid nearly $1 million to its employees for Earthworm Jim alone.
CRN: Is the day to day working practice different between UK/USA? I'm talking about things like: regular meetings to check progress, the way departments work with each other; possible misunderstandings, silly contract clauses that restrict or confuse and hinder working progress, how the press are entertained, etc.
DP: In America, teams tend to be bigger, they also tend to work 9-6 pm, they also get less holidays. In England they tend to get paid less, work harder and make better games - my humble opinion. Much of the Shiny team is from Europe.
CRN: Do you think publishers are afraid of developers becoming famous in their own right leaving them in the lurch?
DP: Publishers have realised, over the last few years, that developers, annoyingly, are required to make games. The publisher grows and grows, then when the developer leaves, they realise they have nothing to support their giant company. Developers will only gain strength over time, but a clever developer will have a strong backer so they can really fight with the Segas and Nintendos of this world who have unlimited funds for development.
Strong backers also offer strong marketing, developers that complain about PR and marketing need to get involved and understand the system.
Marketing people are not aliens, they like input from developers - if the ideas are feasible. So, ignoring them and then complaining about the job they did later is a common problem and the developer's fault!
CRN: Do the Americans have a problem with Europe? That is, due to cultural and geographical differences, do US companies fare worse than UK companies in performance, distribution, co-operation with distributors, etc?
DP: Many Americans have never been to Europe, they have no idea what they want or like. It would be like me trying to cook a meal for somebody from Iran. They would probably hate it. Actually they definitely would hate it as my cooking sucks!
CRN: You caused a stir at the last ECTS with a proposed speech about the merits of working in the US. You were even asked to cut this bit from your speech. What were your thoughts?
DP: I have an opinion and I will stand by it and I really piss people off by saying it, I'm afraid. I am a developer and I fully stand by my colleagues. Fact is, developers can have a much better life in America and they can earn much more money and generally have a higher standard of living than in Europe.
Tell that to developers in the UK and they will want to leave and that, in effect, is what will annoy publishers. I don't care, though, I'm a developer and I look after my own.
I can help fellow programmers obtain a green card for the US, set up an attorney and ensure they can get to the US without too much of a problem.
All I am doing is making their life better! The reality is that I would rather be good friends with developers than publishers.
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