the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 06

Last time: I crow-barred open a behind-the-scenes inspection of Valve Software, and decided those guys have it pretty good. This time, I trot around Maxis, the creators of Spore.

Part 6: At the Core of Spore

You know your company’s doing well at the bank when large, and usually bronze versions of your game characters adorn a central foyer, and while nothing quite that outlandish greeted me at Maxis (although Will Wright has auctioned some pretty spectacular Spore models in the past), the “converted hispster warehouse” look was in full effect. Everything in the office is open-plan… at least everything I was allowed to see. Will Wright’s office is a good-sized (but not ostentatious) chamber resplendent with old computers, and a commanding view of the nearby scenery.

Everything is over-sized doors and chrome fixtures, and all the fixings of a team busy on an ultra-cool project; sketch and rendered art, and whiteboards of crazy design schematics with giant arrows pointing everywhere are part of the working environment. So are the flashy monitors; some folk have 24 inch models turned lengthways just so they can read their long (and presumably incredibly vertical) email in style. The whole studio is light, airy, offers generously-sized conference rooms, and a main wall where all the latest Survivor contestants were pinned up, with odds on their winning the competition.

I mentioned “large bronze game characters” because sometimes these give out slightly the wrong impression. I went to Microsoft once, and although their campus is nothing short of gob-smacking, I did enter (and share) a reception room with an eight-foot tall polystyrene statue of Azurik. Remember Azurik? Exactly. Now, how about an eight-foot version that’s in danger of blowing away if caught by a high-velocity sneeze, and with small chunks of its body missing, as the small children of executives pick at it. The whole experience was slightly bizarre….

But not as odd as my visit to Rare in Twycross, England, back in 1998.

Next time, I get tethered to my chair and told not to go anywhere under pain of death, and then get served a delicious fry-up. Just another day at Rare.

Just finished: Creating an extremely rough map of a particularly bonkers portion of Fallout 3.

Currently: Journeying through the Critical Path of the insanely massive Fallout 3.

About to: Seek medical attention (for insanty, naturally) after the Fallout 3 book is completed.



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