Interview with CA's Studio Director
August 18 2020 | Studio
Gareth Edmondson took over as Creative Assembly’s Studio Director in April 2020, when the UK first entered lockdown. In this interview he reflects on his first few months of leading the 33 year old studio and its 700 staff.
You’ve taken over as Studio Director during a global health crisis (COVID-19), how has that been?
Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are in a very fortunate position. Many studios, other industries and individuals have been so severely affected by the COVID-19 crises, and I am grateful that we are able to continue working, and to support our staff remotely.
As the largest studio in the UK and one of the oldest, the transition to getting everyone working remotely was a monumental undertaking. The challenges we have faced have no doubt been much like those of other studios. We’ve focused on the health and wellbeing of our staff, getting the tech right to work remotely and being more purposeful and considered with our communication channels than ever before.
Of course, this is not how I had imagined my first few months as Studio Director to be. There have been challenges but this period has also really demonstrated the strength of our studio culture, it’s an incredibly supportive environment and in short, it’s been a reminder of why I joined CA in the first place.
As a studio we act to our values. ‘Teamwork’, ‘Trust’ and ‘Respect’ are not just meaningless words and during times of crises like this, it’s crucial we go above and beyond to look after each other. Since our full transition to remote-working I have held a weekly studio-wide livestream to keep everyone as updated as I can. Our priority has been our staff wellbeing and over-communicating to ensure no one gets left behind. We are not just working remotely; we are working during a global crisis. I am particularly conscious of those who may be high-risk, high-anxiety, or perhaps living alone and more vulnerable to feeling isolated.
Do you expect the COVID-19 situation to change how CA sets itself up in the future?
We were already exploring more opportunities for flexible working and the COVID-19 crises has of course forced us to move much faster. There are still challenges but the way the team responded has been fantastic. We have proven the technology can work for large-scale remote working, and our processes and communications are still effective.
With Total War: Three Kingdoms – A World Betrayed we released our first product with a fully remote team only a few weeks after moving everyone off-site. In Bulgaria, Creative Assembly Sofia has just released their first standalone product; A Total War Saga Troy, all while working remotely. These are huge achievements.
We are actively moving towards more flexible working opportunities. We currently have around 90 open vacancies and we are still onboarding new talent with 60 having started since we’ve been in lockdown. We’ve adapted our processes to get them set up remotely and after a few initial bumps, its working well.
What does the next phase for Creative Assembly look like?
The next phase for CA focuses on 3 important aspects; our studio life, our players, and our products. We will keep hold of the things we do well and with over 700 people in 2 countries there are challenges at that scale. We are still growing, and my priority is to protect our fantastic studio culture; keeping bureaucracy as low as possible, whilst still improving our processes and keeping communications clear. Supporting and nurturing our talented team touches on all of these – it is the single most important aspect of my job.
Alongside that we will focus more on our players. We will be listening more to them, adapting and continually improving our products. We do this well with Total War and we want to build on that approach.
Of course, we will also be launching a new IP. It’s incredibly exciting and significant in the next phase of CA.
What is your long-term goal for CA?
CA has a long and successful history; we are currently celebrating our 33rd anniversary (CA was founded on 18th August 1987). Building on that without taking away the things that make CA a great studio are the challenges that we face. We need to continually learn, improve, support and develop our talent, listen to our customers, and ultimately deliver fantastic experiences to our players, both current and future.
I’m not an artist, designer, programmer or other technical expert, but what drives me is seeing creative people come together and achieve incredible things. Game development is a fantastic collision of different talents and skills, it always amazes me, and I see so much of that talent at CA. My goal is to nurture that talent and to see it realised in our future products.