Fasahat Salim, Associate Producer at Crytek UK has worked on massive hits like Crysis 1 and Crysis 2. He has also worked for Electronic Arts in quality assurance. Spider speaks to Salim about working with such big names, his love for video games, and the gaming industry in general.
Q. How did you get into this field? And how was your decision to pursue game development taken by your friends and family?
A. Games have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to the medium at a really young age and my interest has only grown from there. It wasn’t until I was about 12 years old that I knew I wanted to work in the games industry. My family has always been incredibly supportive of whatever I’ve chosen to do. At that time a lot of people often questioned a full-time career in games, and occasionally laughed when I told them I wanted to pursue it. I suppose this had something to do with the fact that many people considered games as something for children and not an entertainment medium that adults pursued, especially as a career. However, my parents never discouraged me from pursuing what I wanted and allowed me to go ahead and study game development. I cannot thank them enough for their constant support.
Q. What’s the major difference between the game development industry of Pakistan and the UK?
A. There is a substantial difference between the two and currently they are poles apart in all honesty. The UK industry has a massive head-start with some of the earliest and most influential game developers in the business. They are definitely at the forefront, along with Canada, America and Japan. These countries attract some of the best talent from around the world, and it shows in the scale and quality of games being produced in these regions.
The Pakistani industry is still in its infancy and is only just beginning to grow. It is only recently that we have seen more and more developers emerge, thanks to the mobile gaming market. It’s a fantastic thing, as it is finally providing Pakistanis a platform to showcase their skills on a global scale – something that has not been easily available to Pakistani developers before. I think the app market is by far the best thing that could have happened for the Pakistani gaming industry. All of a sudden, small indie teams can get together and take the initiative to make that game they always wanted to make, without worrying (too much) about funding and exposure. Mobile gaming is definitely the biggest thing out there at the moment, with most people having a smartphone in their pockets, gaming has never been more accessible than it is now.
Q. Game developer or a producer? What do you find more gratifying?
A. In the games industry, producers are also developers. At Crytek, we have a dedicated team of Project Managers, so this allows us Producers to focus on the creative direction of the game. On a daily basis I’m working very closely with the design, art and code teams, ensuring that they are focusing on the relevant aspects of the game and highlighting any changes that need to be made from a quality perspective.
I find being a Producer extremely gratifying because I get to contribute to all aspects of our game’s development, whilst also corresponding with our Publisher to keep them up-to-date on progress, and finally talk to game journalists and promote our titles as well when we get closer to release. This work is extremely fulfilling and fun.
Q. What was the last great artistic work that really inspired you – in or outside your discipline?
A. As far as games go, I would have to say an indie title by the name of Bastion. It is simply an amazing experience from start to finish, with many subtle yet powerful moments. It utilises audio in a very distinctive manner that enriches the whole experience in a way that has not been seen before. It also has one of the finest soundtracks out there. I was also recently inspired by Charlie Brooker’s TV mini-series Black Mirror. I’ve always admired Charlie Brooker’s satirical style of writing and with this series he really dives into the dark side of society and the way social dynamics tend to play out in today’s world. Great stuff!
Q. The culture in indie game companies is more conducive to creativity as compared to that in large, commercial game development companies. What’s your take on this?
A. Larger game companies are usually working on big budget titles that are being funded by a publisher. With the budget of modern day ‘Triple A’ titles exceeding those of Hollywood blockbuster films, it is only natural that the publisher wants to ensure they get the most out of their investment. Therefore, the scope for experimentation and creativity usually sees a curb to some degree due to the tight deadlines and milestones that need to be met. However, I must say that creativity is never stifled in such environments; it is just that more people need to be convinced of an idea before it is pushed through. The publisher/developer relationship is always a hot topic; however, personally I feel that in order to build the epic blockbuster games we all love and want to play, you can’t have one without the other, unless you are a company like Valve!
There is no doubt that indie developers definitely have a lot more freedom when it comes to experimenting creatively, as they are usually a much smaller team, working with smaller budgets. This gives them the flexibility to make decisions quickly and with less pressure from external sources. Also, their scheduling is usually a lot more relaxed as compared to larger studios. All of these factors help contribute to a feeling of less restriction from a creative point of view.