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Jordan Weisman – Harebrained Schemes

Jordan Weisman has one of the most eclectic and successful careers of the many developers I’ve interviewed. His work ranges from novels to tabletop games to video games. He’s created some extremely enduring intellectual properties like Shadowrun, Battletech, and Crimson Skies. His current venture, Harebrained Schemes, has found success on kickstarter with three separate projects. Its hard to characterize all of Jordan’s work, as it runs such a large range of mediums and styles. He may sum it up best in his description of the “three-legged-table”. Jordan says that three “struts” – story, gameplay, and socialization – all in varying measure, support every project he’s worked on.

 

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 2:23 – The recent Shadowrun : Hong Kong crowdfunding campaign. Co-financing on kickstarter, and the relationship between HBS and their backers.
  • 5:04 – The differences between pitching a publisher-backed project and a crowd-funded one, and why connecting with consumers directly is so much fun.
  • 8:16 – Incorporating backer feedback mid-development. Letting consumers see inside the chaos of development.
  • 10:23 – Peter Molyneux, Godus, and the intrinsic unpredictability of game development. How HBS fell short of development goals for Shadowrun Returns and communicated with their backers.
  • 13:23 – How to convince a business-minded person to invest in your creative work. Why pitching investors is like stand-up comedy.
  • 16:16 – How to get comfortable with the inherent risks of creating art for commercial consumption. Mixing your artistic ambition with the realities of running a business.
  • 22:18 – Why Jordan still prefers to work in smaller companies, on small teams.
  • 29:04 – The differences between making games today and when Jordan started creating video games in the 1980s.
  • 31:26 – The overhead of communicating with backers versus working with a publisher. The boost in team moral that results from sharing development with consumers.
  • 36:09 – How to create the perfect intellectual property. A step-by-step guide using Crimson Skies as an example.
  • 43:55 – The emotional challenge of losing rights to an IP you’ve created.
  • 46:43 – How it felt to return to Shadowrun after so many years away. Why Jordan feels like the fans of Shadwrun are the true owners of the property.
  • 50:17 – The formation of Jordan’s first company, FASA Corporation, in 1979. How a bridge simulator inspired him to leave school.
  • 55:02 – Jordan tells me what he would do differently if he could start over again at the beginning of his career.
  • 58:03 – I ask Jordan about working with his father and other members of his family in the companies he founded.
  • 1:00:57 – Jordan discusses the 3-legged table; socialization, story, and gameplay. Why these things are central to the human experience.
  • 1:04:02 – Thank you, and goodbye!

Rob is a software engineer and amateur game developer. He lives in Bellevue, Washington.

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