As part of WN Dev Contest, we are discussing the industry with the jury members. In this installment, we catch up with Mikhail Isidorov, Head of Products at Wargaming Nexus.


Mikhail Isidorov, Head of Products at Wargaming Nexus.

WN Dev Contest is a competition for Unreal Engine game developers. It’s held by WN Media Group in collaboration with Unreal Engine and Reboot Develop.

Many teams, especially those that have secured funding and assistance from a publisher, tend to overestimate their strengths and understimate the time they need. Any thoughts on how best to plan the development stages and how much extra time should be added?

The best advice I can give at this stage is try and figure out the vision for the future project as thoroughly as you can, down to the tiniest detail.

As far as we are concerned, we study the audience that we are making a product for. We try to understand who these people are, what their motivations are. Only then do our designers start creating game concepts that will be tested later. The less uncertainty during the concept stage and its primary decomposition, the less chance you have of finding yourself struggling to meet deadlines.

You also want to be partners with the publisher from the very beginning. The external producer that the publisher assigns should be treated as another team member, and they would often have more substantial experience than the dev team. It helps you get a clear perspective on tasks, workload, and risks.

Now that you mentioned producers. Can you explain what Wargaming producers are responsible for in third-party projects?

Their responsibility spans all stages of the product life cycle: concept creation, perspective analysis, product delivery to the player, and much more.

Now, this is important. The role of the producer may vary depending on the company. It also depends on how the studio interacts with the publisher. The producer can be directly involved in game design, or just oversee the creative concept, simply guiding the studio.

Ok, so when working with a developer, the publisher assigns a producer to a project. In the eyes of the team, the producer is always an outsider. Will the producer impose any standards adopted by the publisher? For example, as a publisher, is it important to you that the developer uses the same management tools and systems as you?

Processes at the studio are not of paramount importance for us. When we evaluate the studio, before committing to any collaboration, it’s important to conduct a technical assessment, to find out if the team has created at least one successful product, if they have the motivation to work together.

Most often, this happens at the prototyping stage. On a daily basis, we work with the team, discuss ideas, work on game design, art and technical aspects of the game. Close communication like this makes it clear how mature the studio is, how the team members talk to each other, how well they interact. The team’s motivation, sustainability and responsibility for the result — that’s much more important to us than their processes.

By the way, how often does it happen that before signing a contract a team comes out and says that another publisher has offered them more? You know, to try and blackmail you into improving the terms of the deal.

Yes, cases like this do occur during negotiations, although I cannot say that they are widespread. We usually conduct a very thorough assessment of the studio to make sure it is the right fit specifically for the proposed type of product. Based on this assessment, we offer the most honest and decent terms. And from my point of view, in a situation like this, for an experienced team, the entire scope of the deal is important, and not just an attempt at a small win in terms of financial conditions.

And the last question: what kind of titles are you looking for in the competition?

Well, military videogames will always be our legacy. That said, I would also be happy to see fresh ideas appealing to a completely different audience. It will be especially interesting to look at products that effectively use the capabilities of Unreal Engine, that can engage the audience with innovative mechanics and have the potential of creating a community around them, ideally across multiple platforms.