Latest news
Exclusive Interview: Adam Parsons (part 1 of 2)
by Chris Hawke

Adam Parsons was Executive Producer at Codemasters' Action Studio for over twelve years. Before leaving the company at the beginning of August for new horizons, Adam was kind enough to give Gamer's Guide to an exclusive interview about everything gaming; the industry as a whole, his personal challenges, and some tantalising hints about his next project.

What, in your view, is the best way to get into the industry? Getting degrees and qualifications, or the home-made mod/indie route?

That really depends on what you want to create and how much control you want over your project. For me, I spent about twelve years in various industries after completing University with a degree in three-dimensional design (product design). Then I moved into graphic design, then web design, and finally multimedia. Towards the end of that phase it was leading teams and then joining Codemasters.

I wouldn’t have done anything differently, as the variety of experience in different trades removes the blinkered and cynical view of the games industry today that those who have grown tired or spent their life only in games have. I still wake up each morning excited about what the day will bring, and what I’ll help create or deliver.

My advice to those who have less financial burden and plenty of talent and creativity is to do what was done in the 8-bit days, and what is being repeated again now: self-publish on iOS/Android or PC (Steam). There’s discussion that the world can only take so many four-man dev teams pushing out indie titles, but I disagree. These fledgling teams are doing some very cool work, and help to keep the games industry on its toes, being agile whilst bigger companies act like oil tankers, trying to keep turning swiftly but lumbering, or snapping up those that do pioneer new, interesting concepts. This approach is, however, more risky, as there are counter arguments that only one-in-twenty iOS games ever reach the dizzy heights of success.

Of course, for those with less experience yet keen to learn from the seasoned professionals, having a great portfolio or demo straight from University helps to secure a position in a successful dev team. We certainly had some superstars on Red River who had just graduated, and had bags of energy and enthusiasm to deliver the game.

What is your favourite game ever, and why? What game are you looking forward to most?

Oooh, that's so difficult. It was always a toss up between Battlefield 1942 and Aliens vs. Predator on PC. 1942 was so much damn fun and so well balanced; I lost many hours online and at work during lunch to that game. AvP gets a honourable mention because it was the first game (now only perhaps superseded by Dead Space) that actually scared the crap out of me with its incredible atmosphere.

The game I'm looking forward to most is equally difficult. I’m a massive shooter fan, so it’s a battle between Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3, but Bioshock Infinite gets a look in too.

What are your thoughts on the Wii U? Do you think it could be a revolution, or is it a misstep for Nintendo?

I’m not sure if it’s the Emperor’s new clothes or not. As game makers we’re fighting for consumers' leisure time, and whilst there’ll be a segment of the market that will welcome it, the price, the quality of launch games and the new experience it brings will be the tipping point. Guessing the consumer is a tricky business, but Apple seems to have done very well with its products and targeting what engages consumers. Their games and apps have enabled people to experiment at low cost, whilst their catalogue grows daily, and the infrastructure is already in place. I was quite disappointed at having to wait for a 3DS web browser (although it's pretty hard to read on a 3DS screen); if Nintendo are aiming to make the Wii U a success, they'd better be in a position to fully support it from launch with keen pricing.

I do know that Nintendo will push its classics out with bespoke mechanics for the new controller, but I’m not sure this is going to be enough to move a large percentage of people from their current-gen console.

You're leaving Codemasters after more than twelve years. What do you think the future holds for the company?

I’ve spent twelve-and-a-half years of my life at Codemasters, and it’s a fantastic company, driven by very talented developers with a passion for making games within a high-pressure environment. I’ve made some very good friends there, who I’ll be watching out for. In terms of the future, I can only speculate of course, but I’m sure their key brands will go from strength to strength and I’m especially interested in what the next game will be from the Action Studio.

When can we hear about your next project?

I’m starting at my new company pretty soon, which I’m stoked about. I wanted to work for three or four developers before I die, and this is one of them. The next project is, of course, confidential, so all I can say is watch this space.

Codemasters recently suffered a hacking attack on their website, a growing trend in the industry. Could hacking pose a real threat to developers and companies, or is it a passing fad?

Any security breach is a worrying experience, from someone breaking into your house to identity theft. The justification for Sony, for example, was theorised as having been an act of vigilante justice resulting directly or indirectly from Sony's lawsuit against George Hotz. Either way, you can’t condone it; perhaps they were pissed at Sony for removing the Other-OS function that consumers thought they were entitled to (waits for the comments to explode).

The damage could be huge to developers and companies alike, and this won’t go away like some fad. Hackers have been around for years, but with such pervasive networking through social media and the web, these stories just become more glorified to attract attention. With more movement towards digital distribution, there’s a likelihood that hackers will see these services as a challenge to hack. Certainly, there’s been mixed reaction to EA’s Origin, with some viewing that as EA having a monopoly on being able to charge whatever they like for an EA product distributed solely through their own outlet. I’m sure hackers will attempt to circumvent the system to 'protect the people', so it’s obvious that greater effort is required to stop these modern day Robin Hoods.

What can we expect from the next Operation Flashpoint; a 'milsim' or the 'tactical' approach used in Red River?

Well, this is going to be speculation, as I’m under NDA. At a personal level, I’d like to see another Flashpoint focussed towards the tactical side of gameplay. We had such a short development cycle for Red River that we were proud of what we’d done, but aware of the shortcomings once it had been out there for a while. Certainly, there was an opportunity to fix some of the issues via updates, but as I’m not part of the organisation I don’t know what their support plans are. One thing is for sure, we never wanted or claimed to be a milsim; we left that to other developers.

Do you think that the current trend for 'online passes' and the like is actually going to positively benefit development teams, or is it just a greedy ploy by publishers spurred on by shareholders and investors to make a quick buck?

Personally I like online passes, and hate the idea of used games being sold without the orginators seeing any royalties.

It’s pretty simple; developers spend large budgets on making games. If the sales don’t add up, they lose money. If they lose money, they cut staff, release fewer games and so on. There’s the counter argument, what with games being of a lower quality, that once bought - to recoup your losses - you sell it used because you feel you’ve been cheated. Again, this is why there are many online games sites reviewing games, demos on the various console stores, and our beloved Metacritic to protect those from games that don’t meet their expectations.

Without digging into the legalities of software licensing, selling a used game via Gamestop or HMV means the retailer profits and not the consumer, so actually it’s the retailer that can appear greedy, cutting out the developer who bust their balls making the game in the first place.

That’s what I’m opposed to, but it’s such a complex issue and there are arguments supporting both sides. I’d like to see more of the free-to-play model or freemium, so that consumers can try the game in depth without having to spend $60 on a gamble. An alternative idea is a lower-cost launch platform, with modes and episodes being bought ad hoc.

In your time in the games industry, what has been your single biggest challenge of all?

Every game is a big challenge from a quality and delivery perspective, knowing what to focus on and how best to spend your time, and keeping the team happy. I spent some time with MercurySteam (of Jericho and Castlevania fame), and with most of their team only able to speak Spanish that was a real challenge, as we co-ordinated between Clive Barker and the dev team. Given the amount of development time we had for Red River, that was my biggest challenge; to make a great game in such a compressed timeframe. But, with a totally committed and dedicated team, we made it possible.

The second part of our interview with Adam Parsons will find its way onto your computer screens over the next week - to ensure that you don't miss it, be certain to follow our Twitter account for all our updates.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

- Chris Hawke

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.