“We Sold Everything We Could Sell, But Kept Faith In Success”

Managing partner at DTF Sergey Babayev spoke with the CEO of Wargaming Saint Petersburg and founder Lesta Studio Malik by Hatheway about game development, the difficult road of the company, sea and the creation of World of Warships. Sergey Babaev. The first time I saw you was many years ago — the last version of DTF. You were actively involved in the community. In particular, you belongs catch phrase “industry in the shadows” and the popular blog.

Try to restore your way into the industry. It all started with the fact that you graduated from the Leningrad higher marine engineering College and passed military service. Malik Gataev.

Generally speaking, limu (now State marine Academy named after Admiral Makarov) is a civil institution. It was a serious military training, but graduates trained to work in the civilian fleet. Along the way they received the naval specialty. In my case it is “the commander BCH-3 (mine-torpedo combat unit) diesel-electric SUBMARINE of project 641B”.

There studied military science. Of course. In the Soviet Union was a powerful and numerous Navy and a strong engineering education. At the time, possibly one of the best in the world.

Have the same “Makarovka” — limo there were four school campus in St. Petersburg, a serious technical base and own considerable fleet for the training of seafarers. Each graduating officer-the engineer knew all the details of Maritime Affairs in all related specialties and their field of expertise. Subsequently, I also tried to delve into aspects related occupations. This allows to understand better and more accurately make decisions.

Probably had a lot of work on a speciality and to go on expeditions?. After limo I was assigned to research and expedition court.

I participated in four Soviet Antarctic expeditions. The first “my” ship had just returned from the legendary Antarctic trek diesel-electric ship “Mikhail Somov”. Later about this drift made the film “Icebreaker”. It was not a ship of dreams, and the sea ox is a hard worker, who never tried to get.

Work extremely difficult, exhausting watches in the engine room in the tropics at a temperature of +60 to Antarctic samovyvozom, which went all free from watch sailors. It was all. Among other things — “the perfect storm”, when we went to rescue the ailing woman chef from the Australian station Mawson after the end of the navigation season in the Antarctic. The weather station showed the wind speed at 50 meters per second; cut off the tops of the gauges.

Almost gave the soul to the gods of the sea, but was lucky — came out in the “eye” of the hurricane. How did you discovered the world of it. I worked on state of the art “Academician Fedorov”, built in Finland.

A single power plant of the vessel was controlled by a computer, and it was stuffed with the most modern Western equipment. Then I was already “hooked” on computers, and it was a rare opportunity to touch the advanced Western technologies. But came perestroika, the Soviet Union began to crumble from the inside. In the first place was not necessary scientific fleet.

Started the great Soviet Western. Some cooperatives take the research vessels to and drove them to the Turkish textile and gum. Deciding that this farce has come to stay, I wasnt trying to drift, and tried to influence their lives. Moreover, I have had a daughter — was unacceptable to disappear into the sea and leave the family alone in the unfolding Orgy.

Then you decided to start Lesta Studio. By the way what the title means. Lesta, we have created a young naval engineers. The name appeared by accident — was trying to avoid repetitions and was looking for something unusual.

Hands on guide “in the Cultural life of St. Petersburg from 1876”. There was a poster. “in Mariinsky theatre an Opera “Lesta — Dneprovskaya mermaid””. It was necessary to feed the family.

We undertake any job, be it laying of cable networks, construction and sale of confectionery or the manufacturer of the tools. Someone left the company from that team. From the very first — no.

It was four in the beginning. Someone returned to the sea, someone didnt support the turn in the direction of computer technology. Then from whom is the core of the current team.

From past market fire and water veterans turn towards it. I highly value. Most importantly — we share the same values. I always tried to go for a “long” order, not razmenivayas on obvious passing. Accordingly, the company kept people with a similar Outlook.

Many find it hard to resist the quick and easy achievements. “I want now, not in the future”. Rare people can methodically go-to strategic goals, despite the difficulties and the constant temptation of short-term benefits. I am convinced that the long road to the “big” is always better small available mikrozella.

Proven life. Why chose computer graphics and cinema — then undeveloped in the CIS field. Work has brought money, but causing depression and hopelessness.

After structured, technical marine last encounter with the murky world of the perestroika occurring on the distortions of the economy and the collapse of the Soviet system, does not lead to spiritual harmony. Soul yearned for edification, and not to the existence on the ruins of the once mighty state. Wanted difficult, extraordinary tasks and work in a smart “crew” with common goals and aspirations. I was accidentally introduced to the University by the genius programmers, who created a “miracle program to computer visualization”.

I immediately became interested and began to think how to use it in practice. Very intrigued by the ability of modern computers to generate images for television. But in fact the “geniuses” were “not very”. To obtain the image needed a completely different software, and the insanely expensive and rare equipment.

We found technique and began painfully to learn it. It was the work at the intersection of two rapidly developing segments — broadcast and technologies of computer visualization. In those days — magic “square”, but very difficult magic. Sounds complicated and risky.

As went to work in a new field. Today I would describe myself then humorous, but succinct term “dementia and courage”. The first 11 years we worked without weekends and holidays. All funds and family income were invested in the development of technologies, equipment and training of the people.

Any ready staff was not. Starved, sold everything you can sell from home. But for some reason kept faith in the success. We started with computer screen savers for TV, moved to advertising on the basis of computer graphics, then the emerging Russian cinema began to enjoy the special effects.

Interesting, difficult and a long way from a room rented in a dilapidated defense enterprise, to settled communal, then another and another. In the throes of increase is the same “crew”. We were set back by the crisis and collapse of banks, but in spite of everything, we moved forward, met and worked with interesting people, implemented a new technology “magic”. It turns out, a number of famous films we have seen, the special effects and production Lesta.

They brought sufficient income for the development of. Working in the advertising market is transient, the product is disposable — is exhausting race for orders, technology, creativity. Only overharvesting, sverhekonomichny and flexibility give a chance to exist.

Kinosaki with their formats and volumes gave stability and allowed better forecasting. But fundamental changes in the media market of St. Petersburg were seriously crippled by the business. Funding and decisions come from Moscow. Large TV channels are Moscow, there was a migration of creative personnel and production in the capital.

I have seen a trend towards monopolization of the advertising media market and its dependence on non-market centralization TV, therefore paid attention on the open market of computer games. How did you know about this industry. I just hit strategy Age of Empires and captured the idea of an interactive virtual world.

We began to try to create it. We didnt have a staff of programmers and technology for creating games, but we have worked with a skilled computer artists and 3D specialists. Our cry responded to two other students-programmers Zakhar Ignatyev Oleg Fedorov. They became “core” game development for a long time. Thoughtful and modest guys — I immediately felt that we are with them “one blood”.

Quickly making a prototype of our first game, suggested it to the publishers immediately responded “Buka”. At the time, she was one of the leading publishing houses of Russia. It was headed by the iconic persona of the gaming industry — Igor Ustinov.

It was the strategy of “Entente”. Its creation from prototype to the “Golden master disk” only took 11 months. Compared to advertising, the rabid customers, continuous “crunch”, a small and short budgets, ongoing emergency work and continuous stress, the production of the media project was just manna from heaven. Have the opportunity to schedule resources and continuously develop the Studio. And most importantly — was again a real market relationship, and this market was not limited to our country.

From the first income goal to make money on new games. As they build relationships the publisher – developer. Yes, the game brought a lot because of higher production efficiency, honed in the highly competitive advertising market.

All the money we have invested in technical modernisation and expansion. We always had an office in the property, which is constantly increasing, which gave stability during market disruptions. The conditions were standard for that time. Publisher funded development, in advance of the impending profit of monthly payments in the performance of our work plan.

After the release they had to repay it from our part of profit. In fact the margin was in advances — no control over sales and real profit publisher, the developer had. The portfolio is dominated by Lesta war games. You kept the love for first class and used this in work.

Not quite so. Im an engineer-electrician. This is a peaceful profession. And I was a good engineer.

A little later we had the direction of casual games, has managed to create projects that became hits in the world market — they are more “feminine” — peaceful and beautiful. And big games do military history. Probably made itself felt parents had instilled in me an interest in history and literature about the exciting events of the past and possible future. Plus the needs of the market.

Interestingly, Lesta Studio, in the old days, almost tried to go in trending markets like social or mobile games. It was a conscious decision — to do what you know. Or you do not have time, not enough free funds to experiment.

As I said, we quite successfully logged into the casual games market. With social games on several attempts did not get, but the mobile projects we are now engaged in the composition of Wargaming. I believe that in any case the strategy of jumping over cream trend — a very dangerous thing. Failure is assured, because the need to accumulate competencies, and different trends require different competencies. Race trend inevitably leads to the loss of previous competence, without acquiring a new.

Why the casual market abandoned. Time determined his decline. Had all the same symptoms as that of the boxed games, but they came even more rapidly.

The competition quickly grew, the demand began to fall. So the requirements for quality projects and, consequently, to the cost of them, increased and income decreased. We have seen such a situation in the market of social games, now the same thing will happen on mobile. Expansion practically stops, the risks grow.

But hes a giant — in fact, includes segments from previous markets. Analysis of contemporary trends and our experience of big games objectively pushed into the side of the big MMOs. What are the main casual hits were from Lesta.

Our best casual games, in my opinion, Nightmare Realm, Nightmare Realm 2 and Fright (maximum places in the top of the publisher, respectively, first, second and third). Were there difficult times when the company was “on the edge” and had to find ways to survive. The whole period of existence in the media market is more of an extreme sport than something stable.

There was a strong impact from the bankrupted banks (“Bank”, “Incombank”, “Promstroybank of Russia”), which was missing part of the money. Was bankruptcy clients and cine contractors. The strongest blow was the collapse of the classic boxed publishing in Russia because of our hard-work and commitments. Multiapartment work and strong videoproduction helped in difficult situations.

The decline of gaming destination we compensated for increased work in the market and Vice versa. This diversification has helped overcome almost all of the firms in Saint-Petersburg. But through all these difficulties you have passed without attracting third-party investors.

We were our own investors — earned money and invest it in their development. The it field is rapidly changing and is growing rapidly. On the one hand, it is possible, with other risks. We need to develop and learn, there is no static level of professionalism as, for example, in basic Economics. We slowed down a little and youre lagging, if not an outsider.

Boxed projects Lesta Studio was popular in the world market. Of course, all the boxed games were published abroad (unless the project kinolitsenzii “9” had a clear Russian orientation). Somehow so it turned out that our products are sold better abroad than in Russia.

Given that the world of boxed games and their distribution in the West is a pretty structured market, will not say that they were a mega hit. But in the line of our publishers projects kept in the first place. With Western publishers we quite successfully worked on the casual market. The best, in my opinion, the game we created in collaboration with Big Fish Games — which was virtually a monopoly of the casual market.

At the same time it was a most professional production. She correctly informed about trends in the industry and gave good recommendations for the development of the project, almost without interfering with the creativity. Colleagues told me that you were thinking about the multiplayer project about ships long before World of Tanks and War Thunder. You already knew that session PvP-projects is a trend, or otherwise imagined the concept of the game.

To be honest, thoughts were only about the multiplayer online project, and it was not the ships, and my favorite RTS (real time strategy — Prim. Ed.). During the creation of a massive Pacific Storm, we realized that ships are very difficult to build the essence of gameplay.

How did the concept of “sessional”. The session, IMO, an extremely successful paradigm which is realized WoT was created by Victor Kislyi and Rollin. Happened fantastic alloy of accumulated competencies. Viktor and his wonderful team gave the experience and technologies of war games in the setting of world war II.

Slava Makarov knew how to make great session browser games. It turned out World of Tanks — symbiosis short gaming sessions and hard competition the best “brauzerok” interactive combat world where all that matters is the essence and the personality of the player. The variability of the gameplay has become almost inexhaustible.

How did you start working with Wargaming. It was difficult to get in touch. With Victor Kislyi we met a long time in the closed club of Directors of game development, where they discussed development trends of industry trends and sharing of experiences. Plus we were market competitors and worked in one setting military-historical strategy.

Well, I participated in the jury of the CREE, where Wargaming took prizes. In life always happens what should happen and when should. Production of large computer games for me slowly and painfully dying. The prospect of a return to a small video projects and the beginning of a downturn in the casual games market under the pressure of mobile is not happy.

I understand that changing the paradigm of the market, and alternatives online games no. But to create them need other technology and huge amounts of money, which we did not possess. No one, including me, did not yet know the true extent of the success of WoT. One evening my phone rang.

Victor asked if we wanted to participate in creating an MMO. That is effort I did not take any, but immediately agreed. Tell me more how the collaboration with Wargaming.

You have creative independence. This is a very complex term. I think, for serious and complex projects it is generally not applicable. “Creative independence” is radically influenced by the needs of the market, characteristics of the setting, technologies, qualification and experience of team members, structural relationships, and so on.

And IMO even worse. Initially, after the success of WoT, Wargaming has created an expert group, which was assigned the production and development of military-historical MMO games. After tanks, of course, decided to do “airplanes” and “ships”. The second was World of Warplanes, and the third World of Warships.

Work on the latest we were invited because of their experience with Pacific Storm. Joint work with Wargaming was very comfortable and showed the similarity of the culture of the companies. We didnt experience discomfort, our knowledge about the setting proved very popular, and the experience of colleagues in an MMO allowed us to avoid unnecessary risks and mistakes.

With the help of expert team of Wargaming we have optimized and standardized structure and management team, have prepared the necessary personnel changes. Casual team continued to make products under contracts. Had to sacrifice something for the sake of this partnership.

Yes, our internal engine, Adico Engine, which we developed for many years, and had serious advantages and great development potential. The choice was made in favor of the Australian Big World for small-scale mining operations it server side, tested on high loads. BigWorld later became a part of Wargaming. Have the opportunity to combine our Adico is a client server engine with BW, but it was too late.

Development has advanced far, but horses in midstream not change. World of Warships is a difficult enough project. In development you probably ran into some problems.

We create “ships” were “tanks” on the water. Only with open spaces, devoid of variation of gameplay, which created the landscape and the ability of players to “tank” to use it. Very challenging gameplay and the very essence of the ships are too difficult to control, rigidity, slowness, long range combat, a large number of weapons, the need for monitoring of air and surfaces, taking into consideration the numerous constraints of aiming angles and distances. This reduces the variability and limited segment of the audience.

Many in the company dropped his hands, even raised the question of the closure of a hopeless project. A crucial role was played by a close-knit team — we started to completely rework the entire paradigm of the game, all the mechanics, to simplify management, increase variability of gameplay. Quickly created a prototype was approved, Victor Kislyi gave us the opportunity to develop their own project in a new direction.

There were many experiments — both local and at the level of the big Wargaming to develop new, more effective model of the domestic economy, and “flow” of the game. To work attracted leading Western experts. But in the end, we adopted and adapted the economic model of WoT, which was developed in Minsk under the guidance of the great designer Sergei Burkatovskaya. He helped us in its “fine-tuning”.

This complicated motivational, mathematical and economic system, the complexity and efficiency which are understanding of the unit, proved to be a great. Had as something special “setup” work to change the methodology, to further educate people.

Surprisingly, we did not feel any voltage in-plant tasks. The biggest difficulty was waiting for the level of interaction with existing institutions operating the project — they were all built around WoT and very hard to adjust to the multi-project work. However, collaboration Wargaming managed to make almost impossible — now from the local “the company of one of the project” it became an international, capable of creating the hits of different settings, areas and platforms. World of Warships is one of them.

How do you feel about the concept of War Thunder, the creators of which seek to combine many types of equipment within the same game (like different modes or even in one battle). Every successful game needs to be personality, some special offer for players. The creators of War Thunder and I respect them for years are friends. They solve a difficult task — integrating in a single game mechanism dissimilar gaming entity.

It is very difficult to create a balanced world. This is a very interesting experience with interest analyze all MMO designers. Can share the achievements of World of Warships.

Open data on the market of the CIS (CIS) for all types of online games are about (information service SuperData — Prim. Eighth place for audience and revenue for January 2017. The may data for the world among the free-to-play MMO look like this.

21 place for audience and 13 in revenue. You mentioned two projects of Wargaming — “the ships” and “planes”. World of Warplanes, that is, “do not go”, and World of Warships — hit.

It is clear that the comparison is incorrect, but did you make any conclusions from the next game, avoiding its errors and problems. On the side of “planes” was a good organization of production processes, common to all who worked on the outsource with major Western companies. Not without its shortcomings — less experience in the “magic” that is characteristic of this type of development organization.

The main thing that we have learned by studying the successes and failures of colleagues is the importance of variability of gameplay for an MMO. It determines the replay value of the sessions for the players. That is, in mechanics an MMO needs to be based on principles that ensure all new and new combinations depending on how they interact with users. And it is desirable that the combination of the gaming entity of the people and the mechanic gave an infinite number of interesting options for the development of the match.

Every single player game “died” for me when I started to understand the logic of actions of the opponent, the game intelligence. I easily won and was not interested. In an MMO, players fight together and against each other. Mechanics must multiply the variety of their entities, creating an infinitely repeatable gameplay.

On the one hand this is obvious, and with another — to realize this arbitrade, especially in the games historical setting, imposes its own limitations. You said that the field of “big games” in the CIS is dead. Is there any chance of its revival.

Nothing lasts forever, but nothing ever disappears without a trace. Retail games will remain, significantly reduced attention to them and the time spent in them players. Its like the theatre and cinema. Cinema partly “killed” theatre, but he did not disappear, but became a niche in the entertainment industry and will remain there for a long time. And then the TV also came with the cinema.

On the Internet appeared, online movie, and so on — its a never ending story. Remember, one of the CREE you have shown an interesting project about a walking robot “Monolith”. It was a game in the old “box” paradigm, or did you see her big MMO product. Why not have it to finish.

Already then it was clear that the market is “boxed” games are reduced to a critical level, and to access the MMO need huge funds. We did not have them. So we tried to move the cast into the side consoles (the development of which is too expensive). But to self-development in this direction did not have enough money.

There was a complete collapse of the “bottom” of the market. It is possible that the new experience acquired by this thread in games, well be back. On the old DTF you posted of the legendary material “industry in the shadows”.

Remind me, please, to our readers, what was it about and how you came to him. It was an article warning of an impending severe crisis. I wrote it on the eve of the New year, about a year before the onset of “Armageddon 2008”. Probably the fact that my head is a very good approximator-data analyzer.

I do not know whether from nature, whether it evolved in a “stressed market conditions”. I was very depressed situation on the market of that time and its impact on business, including gaming. Was already obvious serious imbalances in the economic structure and the violation of the functions of money. Everyone uses money, but few people actually think about what they are.

“Money was invented to mankind (note, it is important every word). Universal means free exchange of knowledge and skills. And if the function of the free exchange of knowledge and skills is severely disturbed in one direction or another, expect severe crisis”. Then Russias economy was flooded with “unearned” money, bearing her carcinogenic nature.

I was very irritated with full awareness of the approaching correction nightmare, and had an inner need to share the knowledge of approaching danger, to warn people. The article provoked a wide-ranging discussion. Not to say that people were thankful for a large percentage of readers just scoffed. But for me important, many people thanked me in 2008.

If my thoughts and my warning has helped someone, then, no wonder I sat and suffered on this text all night. What to play for the soul. There is time to explore other projects.

Try to play all the notable games, but only, of course, not grasp. Latest — Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. Most play World of Warships, and it does not bother me. It is complex, requires a certain intelligence, attention, calculation, not just spinal reactions. Very sorry that I had rented sector strategic games, havent seen anything catchy, except Civilization.

Advise readers are interested in books — recently read or something influenced you. In the 1990s, we accidentally met with an interesting guy, his name was Dmitry Kostygin. He discovered the anthem of the market economy — “Atlas shrugged”, which helped in the formation of a worldview.

He translated all the books Ayn Rand (then completely unknown to us) and published them in Russia. From him I got copies of “Atlanta” and “Source”. Cant say that I read them avidly, I have long pondered and have underlined many quotes. From a literary point of view, it is not a masterpiece, but literaturesurvey model for the development of the social economy to the modelled long-term consequences of “effective” regulatory-market economy solutions.

It struck me that in our state for a long time implemented the scenario described there with roughly the same consequences. Many years later I found out that Dmitry was the founder of a trading network “the Tape” in St.-Petersburg, then “Smile of the rainbow” and “Olmert”. We never met, but Im still grateful to him for opening these books.

I read so much literature that it is difficult to distinguish something special. The management helped me with books Ichak Adizes. It should be understood that the application of knowledge of these texts is impossible without your own conscious experience. You simply will not understand what the author writes, or that understanding is perverted and wrong. Books and the experience of others is just a way to organize knowledge and to structure them.

Here on my Desk is an interesting book — Charles Duhigg “Force of habit”. You can read, it is useful. Traditional question — what to drive.

I think that machine — fetish and reflects the mentality of the owner. Now I drive a Volvo XC90 of the second generation is a good, practical car for the Northern regions. If you want to write the material for the rubric “the Market” tell us about the development of your game or in case of its growth to send the material on [email protected]

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