— How do you and your team come up with new ideas? Do you play similar games from other devs for inspiration? (What feature did you recently see and think "Ah, this would be cool to add?")
— There are many passionate people at Bohemia Interactive, constantly bringing up various ideas. Be it military history fans, airsoft players or sim gamers, most of them also actively play Arma and are aware of the scope and vision of the game. Playing other games is important as well, but we also watch movies or read books. Of course, all the ideas are thoroughly assessed, considering feasibility, influence of gameplay or fit to the momentary setting. We also want to remain true to good old Flashpoint's heritage of being challenging, and offering freedom and meaningful consequences to players' actions.
— What do Creative Directors in AAA companies usually do? What does a typical workday of a Creative Director in Bohemia Interactive look like?
— As far as I know, the label may describe completely different roles in various companies or even teams, with particular team setup and a Creative Director's personality and skill set. I cannot speak for other companies or teams, but as far as my role is concerned, it's partly the solidification of vision, partly intense work on a game's setting and narrative in its broadest sense, and of course the responsibility for a game's "look and feel."
Given this fairly broad area, my day can be anything from meeting people or playing a game we work on to field trips. My common "office day" usually starts at 6:30 am by handling daily communication, checking out latest builds or more creative tasks, as the offices are fairly calm in the mornings. Then, the first round of meeting people and talking is around 10 am, followed by an early lunch, after which it's either more meetings or some more work, which often includes checking out various parts of the game as part of the production process. I leave the office rather early to be with my family, and in the evenings, I usually end up handling emergent tasks, chatting with colleagues or friends, and playing games. In any case, I am trying to stay in touch with the game and its development team as much as possible, in order to know the state of the product and provide a good service to my colleagues.
— There is a rather famous quote by Soren Johnson (GD of Civilization): "Given the opportunity, players will optimize the fun out of a game." Do you agree? How does this apply to Arma and DayZ?
— I certainly do! My colleague Karel Mořický, author of Arma 3's in-game 3D scenario editor and Zeus DLC, once said that Arma is "a game as entertaining as its player," and I can only agree. Both Arma and DayZ are meant to facilitate player freedom and provide interesting emergent situations, but the "optimization by players" does not end with the experience itself. Both our flagship games are fairly easy to modify, and we provide deliberate support to these community activities: the community can use the same tools we have, there are sample data available under community-friendly licenses.
— Development of such titles as Arma involves hundreds of people, and good and quick communication is, to my mind, one of the key elements of success. How do you maintain communication between different departments in Bohemia while working on your projects?
— There's a good unified infrastructure for documentation, task tracking, and chatting available across the offices, allowing us to collaborate efficiently. Talking in person or via online video calls is regarded as vital, and we try to constantly revise and improve the communication in the company, inspiring people to handle the daily communication diligently and with initiative. Transparency is also an important thing to maintain, as with so many people involved in making a single huge product, everyone needs to be aware of the main changes. On the other hand, we try to avoid meetings for the sake of meetings or letting too many opinions into a discussion, as things like this tend to hinder or stop the development.
— A lot of popular games are seen as auteur projects. People say "a Hideo Kojima game" or "a Peter Molyneux game." What do you think about such a perсeption of collaborative art?
— It's a strong way of branding, especially when it comes to the few legendary developers around. I think there's merit in realizing the contribution of strong bearers of vision to the "face" of a final product. I can fully understand Hideo Kojima's statement about his personal attention to every detail of Death Stranding making it "a Hideo Kojima game," but there are many other people like him with the same degree of centralized subjective control over "their" games, they just chose not to make their personality a part of their game's brand. As far as our games are concerned, we are Bohemia Interactive and we understand that nothing would be possible without the concerted effort of the whole team.
— Why are there so many remasters and remakes nowadays, and why do you think a lot of them are so successful?
— While I generally prefer to experience new things in games, I don't mind playing a good remake of an old game I enjoyed in the past – many older games are still worth playing today. Of course, there's also business involved, and not a bad one: a game with a strong brand and proven concept remade to current standards has a good chance to impress new audiences due to its timeless qualities and contemporary industry standard solutions (e.g. in UX or art), and a team doing such a remake operates on safe ground, following the known recipe.
I bet there are also remakes made out of passion, and it would be my case if I'd have the chance to pick: there are two old Czech shooter games I adore and would love to see remade: Vietcong and Hidden & Dangerous 2.
— In the last few years, we've seen a few games released as a service with the detailed roadmap for the upcoming years that were later abandoned because the player base turned out to be too small. How to ensure that the service-like model would add to the experience and not drive players away?
— There's probably no obvious correct answer, otherwise we probably wouldn't see many of such games failing. Along with the necessary qualities of the game itself, I believe good marketing and a good attitude towards customers are among the key prerequisites. Also, every game probably needs a dash of luck to succeed on the market
— Let's go beyond the shooter genre for a second. Why do you think realistic or simulative games are limited to a number of comfortable genres? Like vehicle or occupation sims. Where are realistic GTAs and Hitmans? Can there be ultrarealistic RPG simulators?
— These are two worlds offering completely different kind of entertainment to a completely different target audience. Some people want to create, take their time, build something; on the other hand, there are players who want fast-paced action, destruction, a different kind of fantasy they want to live through in their game. Employing realism in video games is certainly tempting, and reality with its depth and complexity has always been a great inspiration to me, but copying it mindlessly and literally would probably end in disaster rather than a game worth playing.