Interning at Relic During Turbulent Times

Relic Entertainment Mine Splash Screen

My first step1 towards the video games industry was to come to Vancouver Film School to study Game Design in 2011, uprooting both my wife and our three beautiful, intelligent housepets to brave the rain, long hours, and Canucks fans on the Skytrain. I graduated in August of 2012, and just shy of two months later was successful in landing my first job in games interning as an Assistant Development Manager at Relic Entertainment.

I was thrilled, of course. By combing through Relic’s back-catalog of Triple-A games you can see that the studio hasn’t just paid lip-service to their mandates of innovation, passion, and pride in their work. Every game they’ve made, from the legendary Homeworld to the highest-rated RTS of all time, Company of Heroes, sought to break new ground. They are innovators and risk-takers in a risk-averse triple-A industry space, and I was proud to be there.

Relic Entertainment Game Design Intern Isaac Calon

When I started in November of 2012, Relic was under the umbrella of venerable games publisher THQ, and when my internship ended in March, the studio was owned by SEGA. While the story of that transition ultimately started years ago (and is thus beyond the scope of this article), I want to share with you the shorter version of having a front-row seat to the final stages of that often stressful and surprising transition.

But first, how I got there.
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An Interview with Game Design Instructor Chris Mitchell

Instructor Christopher Mitchell trains his body and his mind

Winning the Best Instructor and Best Course award in his first year of teaching at Vancouver Film School’s Game Design program, Chris Mitchell became an idol amongst students very quickly. Currently, he teaches Game Theory, Pre-Production Techniques and Project Design. I interviewed him him recently for my Game Journalism class assignment. All in all, it was a very nice interview. I got to know him better, and also got some good advice, which I would now like to share with all of you.

Hi Chris! First of all, I really appreciate your time, so thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for everyone to get to know you better, and we can steal some of your super powers to become very good game designers in the future.

So, why don’t you start by introducing yourself to our readers, ignoring the fact that you are well known in our school?

Chris Mitchell: Okay. Alright. I am Chris Mitchell. I am the guy who did quite a lot of design work in the game industry, and then also quite a lot of writing and voice direction as well. I suppose my first big success was Simpsons Hit and Run, where I got to do quite a lot of writing and worked with just tons of really cool people. I worked on things like Crash Bandicoot games after that. I also was lucky to be part of the group who made the DeathSpank franchise — I worked on all three of those games.

There is a quote I really like, which is, “the only thing that doesn’t change, is change itself.” Going from that, I would like to ask you: As the industry evolves, does the background of the Game Design students at VFS change as well? And if so, in what way?

Chris: Oh, that’s an interesting question. One thing I have noticed is that the students are much more technically savvy. I remember when I entered the industry, it was quite unusual to find people who already knew all the skills and tools that were required. Quite a lot of “on the job” learning happened back then. I am sure that’s still true to an extent today, but I keep meeting 18/19 year old students here who already know Maya, who are already programming, and what not. That was essentially unheard of when I first joined the game industry.

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