Normally, Michael Paeck, executive producer at THQ Nordic in Vienna, travels at least ten days a month. It’s a natural consequence of him working with five game studios in four different countries. With the outbreak of Covid-19, this all changed. All five of the studios have solved their specific working situations in different ways. For example, one of the studios created a virtual office on Discord, complete with work stations and a kitchen to hang out in.
This is part seven in a series of videos about how game studios and people within Embracer Group are dealing with the pandemic.
In the spring of 2020, 4A Games was about to, for the first time, send many of their co-workers in Malta and Ukraine to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 made them cancel the trip which meant that all the money spent on the plane tickets went up in the air. Managing two studios in two different countries during the pandemic, has been challenging for Dean Sharpe, CEO of 4A Games. ”I feel like there has not been any right decision, just bad ones. No one knew how to do this”, Sharpe says.
Early in 2020 Milan, Italy, was the epicentre of Covid-19 pandemic. In the middle of all this, racing game studio Milestone, had to deal with a new reality. The studio’s CEO Luisa Bixio had to not only handle the shipping of two nearly finished games, but also manage a shift to working from home, for all of their 250 employees. The first such shift in the company’s long history. And just as things seemed to ease up in early autumn, the second wave hit Milan hard.
”It’s a mixture of excitement and horror”, says Lisa Kolfjord. Late last year she was hired as a 3D artist and community manager by a small indie studio, developing their first game. The game was called Valheim. When it was released in February, Valheim became a huge hit, with millions of players. As the person in charge of such a big player community, Lisa Kolfjord’s working life has changed. A lot.
When the first wave of Covid-19 hit Madrid in March 2020, Vermila Studios had to adapt quickly. For CEO David Carrasco, however, something happened that was much worse than just difficulties in game development. Something that affected him in a deeply personal way. His father became infected with the virus.
Lenore Gilbert, CEO of Rainbow Studios in Phoenix, was heading to Milan on a routine business trip. Or so she thought. What she experienced there gave her and her studio a head start when the pandemic hit the US a few weeks later. They are now even launching a new game.
When the pandemic struck ”the Silicon Prairie” in the American Midwest, Deep Silver Volition managed to adapt quickly. The first obstacle was practical – arranging for the studio’s 200 employees to work from home. It soon became clear to James Torbit, General Manager at the studio, that there were also big challenges of a more human nature.
In March 2020, Covid-19 was spreading throughout England. In Nottingham, everyone at Deep Silver Dambuster Studios was forced to start working from home. Studio head Rob Matthews did something he, until recently, never imagined having to do: he went shopping for web cameras for all his co-workers.
What do you do when you are a brilliant game developer who just wants to make the games of your dreams, but really don’t want to have to deal with the business side of things? Well, you could do what Mattias Kylén did.
Developing a game is hard under the best of circumstances, but how do you cope when a pandemic strikes unexpectedly? Producer Michele Caletti knows all about it.