Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software Interview
I recently had a chance to talk to Randy Pitchford who is the President of Gearbox Software. I met Randy this past summer at Microsoft’s Halo Fanstock in Dallas, TX. Several Halo Fansite webmasters and myself got a chance to eat dinner with him while we were down there. I didn’t know that he had worked on Duke Nukem 3d and several other big name projects before he founded Gearbox.
Can you tell us who you are and what company you work for?
I’m the President of Gearbox Software.
How did you break into the gaming biz?
My father put me in front of computers most of my life. He taught me CP/M and how to program in Basic when I was in fourth and fifth grade. I immediately started using what I was learning to make games – simple ones at first. This kind of behavior continued mostly as an obsessive hobby that captured time from the other things I did things, like go to school. My first industry job was with 3dRealms – working on Duke. That was a crazy time in this business…
What was it like working with some of legends of gaming back then?
There are lots of cool stories from that time, but we’re making new stories every day. I still work with some of those gaming legends. Frankly, some of these new guys we’re getting are going to be the game dev. legends of the future. They’re smart, passionate and know what quality is.
What is your favorite memory/story from that era?
The first time I met Tom Hall, I didn’t know who he was. We hit it off pretty quickly, which is surprising because I was in a discussion with him where I felt I needed to explain to him how id Software got its name. Tom, of course, was one of the original id guys…
How did Gearbox managed to snag a tasty project like Halo PC?
I’m still trying to figure that out 🙂 It probably had something to do with timing and our history / experience. Mostly luck, I think…
Was is hard to port the game to the PC?
What is better about the PC version?
Keyboard and mouse, High resolution, Scalable support for wider range of hardware (more people can play now), Internet multiplayer, cool new stuff (weapons, maps, vehicles, game modes, features, etc.)
What made it in that you wanted to? What didn’t?
I’m really pleased that we were able to really get a true client/server networking architecture written that knows how to deal with latency and bandwidth. We’re tuning that core system to improve the experience now that we’re seeing how it works in “the real world”.
I wished coop could’ve been re-written for network play before launch. The cooperative model on the Xbox was designed to support split-screen, but not system link modes (like the competitive multiplayer modes in Halo do) – as a result, adding networked coop to Halo for Windows would have taken far more coding and architecture reworking, significantly pushing out the launch of the game.
Will we ever see Halo PC Co-op?
Maybe. We want to do it and have spent resources figuring out how to do it and working on it. We know how to do it and understand the risks involved now. It’s a tricky problem and doing it could change things about the game so I don’t want anyone to be expecting it. If it never happens, I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. If we do eventually get it in, I think it would be great.
Gearbox is known for it’s hands-on approach to it’s fanbase. What ideas do you have to keep this going in the future?
I’m really proud of the team we have here – these are the smartest, most capable developers I’ve ever worked with. But, amongst us there are only so many hours in the day. We depend upon the customers to tell us what they want and to give us feedback about what they’ve given us. It’s difficult to hear, because some customers don’t always have nice things to say, but we do our best to stay objective and listen. The guys here all strive for quality. It’s important to them to understand what their customers’ idea of quality is.
What is the possibility of Gearbox porting Halo 2 over sometime in the future?
We’re really busy supporting Halo right now, so that idea is beyond the radar. We’re working on improvements and new things that will make Halo better and better – especially on-line. We’re all playing the game and are having loads of fun and we’re really amazed and surprised at the support and demand there is from the community – but we always want to make things even better. That’s why we programmed the auto-update feature – we wanted to make it easy and convenient to improve the game over time. The kinds of improvements we’re making could only have been discovered from the great feedback and experience we’ve got now that the game has been launched to the world.
Finally, what is your favorite weapon in the game?
My favorite is the Fuel Rod gun and the Flamethrower – In capable hands, these are serious weapons of mass destruction.
I want to thank Randy for taking some time to talk with us. I am very much looking forward to Gearbox’s future projects.