A Fireside Chat With Hidden Path Entertainment

We recently reached out to the fine folks at Hidden Path Entertainment to see if they would be kind enough to answer a few questions. Not only did they agree, but the questions were answered by the CEO of the company, Jeff Pobst.

Jeff provided his own introduction, so without further ado …

Hi, I'm Jeff Pobst of Hidden Path Entertainment. We're a small game developer with 35 or so people working on up to 4 games at one time. We have several programmers and artists, game designers, producers, and testers here, but for IT, well, I end up taking care of a lot of it myself. We also turn to support from a local IT vendor called NextPointIS who helps us maintain, monitor, and manage our servers and our network, and one of our awesome testers also helps keep folks personal PCs runnning. When it comes to in-house IT, some of us have to wear several hats. I'm CEO of the company and also one of the local IT folks too.

It's a lovely sunny morning, you arrive at work. What's the first order of business for the day?

Email is almost always the first order of the day - long before I arrive at work, I'm connected from home getting files from our network, transferring them to partners, and responding to customers and partners who are globally located and who were awake when I was sleeping. Also, should something on the network not be working over at the office, I tend to find out about it immediately.

Most days at work are rather mundane with fighting a few fires. What's it like there when the whole network decides to go down? Pure chaos?

Of course. The work of 35 people can come to a stop. Our business is creating entertainment software, and that means everyone is checking content, code or assets in and out of a pretty massive source control system, compiling builds across multiple machines, rendering out high resolution art across multiple machines, getting licenses from their software from other local machines, storing non-critical data on large fileshares and of course using email with our partners and customers is our lifeblood and that would be down too. The network needs to come back up and that means not just the access to the internet being down, but access to all those services internally as well.

It's lunchtime, where are we going and what are we having today?

We try to go to various places in and around Bellevue, WA where we are located. Perhaps it is somewhere close by such as 3 Pigs BBQ, The Pumphouse Grill, or Teriyaki Express.

Lunch is over, half the staff is in a food coma from eating too much. What tricks do you play on them when they are not watching?

When you're around so many creative and energetic people you pick your tricks very carefully. One thing to know about Hidden Path is that if you're going to share information on the internal social alias, you need to read it too. One time three or four different people posted stories about a crazy Cyclops fish without realizing others had posted already about it. Should you now post a story or information a second time after someone else already did and you didn't realize that you have the second post, well, expect one or more images of Cyclops fish coming your way to your inbox to remind you to read before posting.

Everyone's back awake. Who's actually working or who's just playing games pretending to work?

I have to say, I've worked at several companies over my career so far, a few in Aerospace Engineering, a few in games, and one big giant software company named Microsoft. I've never been around such talented hardworking folks as committed to making great games as I am here at Hidden Path Entertainment. By the nature of our job, people think we're playing games all the time, but we actually have to force ourselves to make time to play our games because it is actually too easy to not spend time looking at the game the way our customers will and instead spend time adding in just one more feature or one more asset. It's really important to understand our product and experience it the way the customer is going to experience it, so we do daily playtests of our games and then meet afterwards and go over the topic that the playtest focused on as a group and iterate to make the game better. It's play, but it is also a lot of work to make something that's great.

It's 5 bells and closing time. What are the odds you get to go home at a reasonable time?

I'm not sure most of us here go home at a "reasonable" time, but I will say we tend to spend a "reasonable" amount of time at work. Some people are early folks who leave earlier in the day and some come in later and leave later, but overall we have core hours for meetings between 10am and 4pm, and then people flex their day to put in 8 to 10 hours depending on day. We tend to avoid crunch because the quality of what you create in crunch typically doesn't measure up to our standards. We need very high quality results and crunching doesn't really provide that in our eyes.

Finally at home. What's the plan for the few hours you get to spend away from work? Does sleep come into the picture at all?

Oh, you mean home email time don't you? This is the part of the day where I catch up on email, update the IT systems for tomorrow (since most people aren't checking things in right now), and make sure the backups are going off like they should. I check the forums, do some customer service email following up on Kickstarter issues or game code issues, and respond to questions that people have. Our jobs are entertainment jobs and software is our medium where we create the entertainment. We do it for the audience and we love to entertain people well, so it's important that we try to give them a great experience in game, and also try to help them out if for some reason the game isn't working like it should.

We'd like to personally thank Jeff for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Never heard of Hidden Path Entertainment? Well check out Defense Grid: The Awakening and the add-ons for it for some outstanding tower defense actions. Hidden Path has also worked with Valve on Counter Strike: Global Offensive and has had a successful Kickstarter campaign to make Defense Grid 2. We'll keep you posted on upcoming news from Hidden Path and their upcoming projects.