It’s not often that journalists take the time to sit down with marketing folk for interviews because, well, it usually goes one of two ways. The first way is that you get press-release diatribe that isn’t really publishable, and the other way is that you get a passionate insight into a company. Thankfully, my time with Pete Hines slotted firmly into the latter. I got the chance to chat with him at QuakeCon about the future of Bethesda, challenges of games development and gamer feedback. Here’s what my time with Pete Hines revealed.
Atomic: How’s QuakeCon 2012?
Pete: It’s been great. BYOC [Bring Your Own Computer] is full, and I’ve never seen it like this. I don’t think we’ve had this many people here ever, and I certainly don’t think we’ve been at capacity since 2002. We were doing things like pulling chairs out of the tech-support area to give people additional seats, just because there were so many people here. We hate turning anyone away. It was just a case of lots of folks registered in advance, but then so many folks just showed up unannounced to try and get a seat. It’s been great. The panels have been good. The exhibit hall is full.
Atomic: How many people are actually in the BYOC section?
Pete: The capacity is 3,100, but it’s a little bit over that now. I can’t tell you… it won’t be full until after 7 o’clock tonight because it’s a little wonky but, basically, if you select your seat in advance and say I want to sit here, it has your name on it. We give you until 7 o’clock tonight, basically after work on Friday to show up. So we have seats. All of the unnamed seats in there are full. But there are a handful of them where those people have until 7 o’clock to show up. So they’re empty right now, but if they’re still empty at 7, we’ve told them, you lose your seat if you’re not here. And then we have a giant list of folks who are basically hanging out or just at the show, and we have like, ‘Okay, you were in line, you’re number one. Do you want in?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Okay, grab your stuff, you’re in.’ We won’t technically be full until sometime tonight, and once we figure out the no-shows and fill it with the folks who’ve been waiting. But it’ll be over 3,100.
Atomic: That’s awesome.
Pete: It’s pretty amazing.
Atomic: As a big PC gamer, I think it’s just inspiring to see. Every once in a while you hear publishers, not you guys, but you hear publishers saying the PC community is dying. And it clearly isn’t.
Pete: Yeah, it’s great.
Atomic: What sorts of things are you looking at doing with the future of QuakeCon?
Pete: That’s a good question, and the honest answer is that I don’t know. I think every year our goal is to try and simply do some things better than we did the year before. Maybe try a new thing here or there to see if it improves but, ultimately, not unlike a videogame, it’s not about the features, it’s about the level of execution. So we have panels today all day. It’s not necessarily, like, how many of those we do; it’s more about who are the people we’re getting on there? How interesting is that? So we’re not just providing, ‘Hey, here’s a place to come play videogames with a room full of other people.’ But there’s that, there are the exhibits. We’ve started bringing in other folks so you’ve got the Minecraft PvP guys in there, and the guys that announced Rise of Triads, you know what I mean? We’re not afraid to have other companies come and show their stuff as part of QuakeCon because it makes the show more fun, it gives you more stuff to do in the exhibit hall; it’s like a better value for those folks, and it doesn’t hurt us. So we’ll just continue to look for areas where we can expand in and improve on what we’re already doing; maybe just execute it better.
Atomic: What sort of collaboration do you have between your studios? You’ve got id who are FPS legends and you’ve obviously got the Bethesda studio that’s dominating RPG stuff. Do you have any cross-collaboration between those two?
Atomic: Can you talk to me a bit about that?
Pete: It’s largely informal and just sort of depends on what a studio has going on, and whether or not there is something going on that they know a different studio has done in terms of, ‘Hey, how did you guys handle this? Or how did you do this?’ So a lot of that happens on the fly. We formalise it a bit, or we get some folks together from different studios in a similar discipline. So we’ll have, like, all of the lead-producer folks get together and have a roundtable, and the lead artist guys will talk about some stuff, but most of it is encouraged to be done as needed. Only the studios really know what the studios need, so we just try and make sure that there’s lots of sharing of information, and then if a studio wants to know, ‘How did you guys do that?’ Or, ‘How did you guys do that in Skyrim? How does this work?’ That kind of sharing of information at a personal level is what is seen to be the most beneficial.
Atomic: So, it’s really informal?
Pete: Keeping it informal and, ultimately, letting the studios decide what they need, what they want. And whenever there’s an ask, whoever’s being asked is always, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ I think Todd, even, when he was down here swung by id and spent a couple of hours walking around with them, seeing what they’re up to. ‘Tell me how you’re doing this, and how does that work?’ So, every opportunity that we can we make sure that we facilitate it.