In September 2018, Wargaming announced it was opening a new studio in the UK. Two months later, the World of Tanks maker snapped up Fracture Space developer Edge Case Games as part of its move into the UK.
"We looked at several places around the world and picked Guildford. I worked at EA before, so kind of knew the area,” says studio director Sean Decker (pictured).
“But we also looked at some other places, however, we decided to do it here. The idea was really to build it from scratch.”
Decker continues: “Guildford is a centre of gravity for video game development, it taps into a ton of talent for London in general, whether it's theatre, web, mobile games or voiceover artists. We have some people here who used to work in the movie industry who were now doing lighting for us as an example.
Wargaming CEO Victor Kisyli adds: “England, London, in particular, are high tech spots, much Silicon Valley. Guildford is extremely famous for gaming. There's a couple of spots, literally just a couple of spots on this planet where you can call it a Mecca of game development, Guildford is one of them.”
Guildford is a centre of gravity for video game development, it taps into a ton of talent for London in general, whether it's theatre, web, mobile games or voiceover artists.Sean Decker
Last year, the company acquired Edge Case Games, the timing of which was beneficial to both companies. It has allowed Wargaming to expand its team. That the studio was already working on a free-to-play title in Fracture Space was ideal for the World of Tanks maker, which favours this business model.
"They had done its own free-to-play game and had worked on Unreal, which we are using. They had done all of the very tough things you have to do in terms of a free to play MMO,” Decker explains.
"We bought Edge Case. Now we're 68 members of staff; 42 of those are new hires through the course of the year. So that's awesome and then 50 per cent of those are referrals."
Kislyi adds: “Approximately a year ago we had 20 people. The team here was handpicked and cherry-picked, it's way more expensive but here you can track talent from pretty much any country in the world and that's what Paul and Sean are doing. They are attracting, interviewing and testing people whom they think are the best. Half of the new employees are referrals and hopefully, this environment of this infrastructure will make them concentrate purely on game creativity.”
The company is planning to expand further by June of next year - it wants to add a second floor to the studio.
“So this floor will hold 96 and we're looking for another floor and we'd eventually like to get to about 150 people there,” says Decker.
“We originally brought in more senior people, and then those people hire other people. We've got a couple of key positions we're still looking for, but the majority of the key positions are filled and then we're hiring in a number of people from there."
When asked about what impact the referrals have had on the team, Decker claims it not only made for a close-knit team but “it also helps just from an openness point of view as well, because again, everybody knows pretty much everybody else.
“I mean, the industry isn't that big, to begin with. If you don't know somebody, you probably know somebody who does know that person, so it's good to have that kind of reference," he explains.
“I lived in LA for a year and a half and some of my friends worked in the movie industry and you talk to them about it, what's it like and all the rest of it and everybody knows everybody else. There it’s almost a reputation system where, yeah, work with this lighting guy, he's really good. Or, don't work with that one, he's not that good. It's almost the same in that, in that kind of respect.”
The team here was handpicked and cherry-pickedVictor Kislyi
During our studio tour, we got to witness the Wargaming UK team taking part in a Game Jam. Events like this appear to be a regular occurrence within the company and are designed to allow the team to relax and enjoy working on something different.
“Today you'll see the guys wearing all their game jam tee shirts. So yeah, it's team versus team,” says publishing manager Keith Anderson.
“Today, there's a whole bunch of folks working on the game jam projects. We've got seven different teams going or working on something for 48 hours. Before the opening party tonight, we'll be judging their results and picking a, an inaugural winner for our first winter game jam.”
Decker adds: “We would do a studio event every quarter. In the summertime we did an offsite event, where we did a lot of team building, basically running around in the woods doing games.
“Then six months or three months before that, we did a game jam as well. So basically every six months or so we do a game jam and the team loves it because they get to work on something different, interesting for 48 hours and just have fun and they all just pick each other like: 'Hey, audio guy need a team?' It works out well.”
Wargaming UK not only holds game jams, but it also holds a variety of different events to create a more friendly atmosphere for its staff.
“They do the usual stuff such as picnics. When we burned, they had to be in a very close space for a couple of months. It's for them to decide - go-carting, shooting etc,” Kislyi says.
“The new space also allows for BBQs in the summer.”
Anderson adds: “There's a board game cafe up in town. So we've had two evenings, where we've booked out the whole board game cafe did a studio evening up there. So pizza and board games for the evening.
“Well, our Christmas party is coming up. So we're inviting friends and family to come to a new studio. Father Christmas will be in the house, there'll be secret surprises for the kids of the staff.
"We're trying to make this a place that appeals to the diverse types of people we've got here, but then builds up a culture where we're all working on this together and we're doing some great things that aren't just about hard work.”
We're trying to make this a place that appeals to the diverse types of people we've got here, but then builds up a culture where we're all working on this togetherKeith Anderson
"At the Christmas party during the day, it's going to be families and there's a Christmas tree and Father Christmas in person for the kids. Then, we're going to take the kids home and then beer fridges will open up and there's karaoke and there's everything else with the younger folks are going to stay on afterwards.
"So it's appreciating that we've got a lot of different types of folks working for us, and making sure that there's something for everyone. As Sean mentioned, we're out in the countryside in the forest doing some activities and driving cars and diffusing bombs and various things in the woods.
Decker goes on to explain that they are trying to make the studio “interesting, diverse and fun.” Through doing this, He hopes that it reflects in the team and the work that they deliver. On top of this, Wargaming UK understands that individuals have different needs in terms of family, meaning schedules can vary from person to person.
“As an example, I am an early morning person. I am one of the first people in the office, but I'm also one of the first people leave the office,” says Decker.
“I don't keep programmer hours where, you know, you come in late and you stay late and that's fine. We don't have core hours, we don't have any of that. We have several people who don't work one day a week in the office, they work from home and it's fine.
“As long as everybody's getting their work done and they're comfortable doing that, we're super happy. You've just worked to create an environment that team's comfortable with and that's where you get the best work."
"How do we create an environment and a space that nurtures that, that bosses, if that makes it at the forefront of what we ultimately deliver as a game, right? Adaptability.”
Kislyi mentioned that the studio is working on a new IP - not a lot is known about the new project. However, the CEO did say that “it is going to be an action game, catered specifically to the North American and Western markets first.”