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Dev Box Interview: Gearbox Software’s President Randy Pitchford

Randy Pitchford Dev Box

It usually takes a small army to create the video games that we play, and, most of the time, all of the focus gets put on the game itself, and not on the people that came together to make it. Our Dev Box interview series takes a look at some of the unsung heroes that have committed their lives to entertaining all of us. In this week’s expanded Dev Box we are letting Gearbox Sofrware’s President Randy Pitchford provide us some insight into who he is as a gamer, and how he ended up working in the game’s industry.

On an unrelated note, Mr. Pitchford has the most amazing office ever.

Name: Randy Pitchford
Title: President
Company: Gearbox Software
Job Description: Studio Management, Executive Production, Creative Direction and Design, Public Relations and Marketing, Technical Direction and Design and Whatever-It-Takes.
First title worked on: Duke Nukem 3d
Most recent title worked on: Borderlands

What game has most influenced you, and why?
The Colossal Cave Adventure was a text-based game I first played on a CP/M based system my father built. I think that game is what started me down the path of being a game developer. I learned how to use hex-editors to look into the source code of the game for clues about how to beat it. From there, I discovered things about how the game was constructed that led me to dig deeper into learning how to program computers and to design video games of my own. From there, I would say that Hack and Nethack are the games that I have probably spent the most hours playing and for years I have said that DooM and DooM 2 are my favorite games of all time. I think it’s interesting that Borderlands, from a game design point-of-view, is fundamentally blending the first person shooter genre that DooM spawned with the collect-loot-and-level-up “RPG” genre that Nethack spawned.

What are you playing right now?
I have been travelling a LOT while promoting the launch of Borderlands. So Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, Patapon 2 and Scribblenauts have been where I’ve spent the most time playing. As I’m able to spend more time at home, I’m honestly looking most forward to playing Borderlands through with my final, retail copy of the game!

What was your first break in the games industry?
I moved to Texas in the mid-90’s to join 3dRealms to work on Duke Nukem 3d. Best decision I ever made.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The other day, a guy I work with named Fred Echols sent me a quote which was this: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” - Thomas A. Edison

Where do you look for inspiration?
I find inspiration every day in the people I have the pleasure of working with. I am constantly amazed, impressed and surprised by the ingenuity and passion of the people around me and the results that come from all of it mixing together.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about game development?
Play games. Play them as much as you make them. Be suspicious of the game developer who doesn’t play games.

Who do you think will come out on top this console generation?
That depends upon how you define “on top”. Nintendo will be the most profitable in terms of ROI and many others will attempt to apply what they think they’ve learned from Nintendo’s success. Microsoft will have the best software-to-hardware tie in rate of the set-top boxes and will no longer be doubted as to whether or not they are a viable and important driver of the home video game business. Sony will learn some incredible lessons that will help not just their future in the video game business, but will help them in their business at large. Apple will discover through their iPhone platform that video games are an important and valuable part of our culture around which a business can also be built.

What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?
Depends on the platform. On the consoles, we need to get to the point where we are purchasing credentials, not physical media. On the PC, we need to figure out how to create a stable, convenient, comfortable, usable and accessible platform that all types of gamers can trust.

What is the most important thing that has happened to gaming in the last 10 years?
Today, for the most part, we in the West are all connected to our platforms and to each other. This has brought gaming into the mainstream in the West as it’s become more and more true over the past 10 years.

Where do you see gaming in 5 years?
In the next 5 years, we’ll see the end of the “generation” we are currently in and will be shaken up a bit by the opportunity that follows and replaces it. The way that gaming will change within the next five years should increasingly be exciting for all gamers and perhaps a little scary for some who are very set in their ways and their preferences. The changes will be very challenging for some of the game publishers and developers, but those that are the most agile and that truly understand what is compelling about interactive entertainment will gain new ground. One consistent truth will be that the promises that are the most interesting, surprising and exciting and that are delivered with the highest quality will be generating the most value and love.

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