A half-year after he announced his plans to "abandon AAA" game development, former Battlefield and Payday 2 designer David Goldfarb has
revealed his next move. Teaming up with fellow DICE alumni Ben Cousins,
Goldfarb has founded a new studio, dubbed The Outsiders.
For Goldfarb, the transition from large-scale projects to
indie was born out of necessity. After serving in critical roles for the
development of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and Payday 2, the
divorced father of two took a hard look at his life and realized his
crunch-heavy lifestyle wasn't making him happy. It was time to recalibrate.
"I missed a year of my daughter's
life," he says. "I don't even remember what happened during the end of
Battlefield 3 because I was just wiped out. I think my daughter had colic for
like three months, so it was just an endless procession of knowing I was doing
the wrong thing. My father passed away when I was finalizing Bad Company 2. I
didn't go home to see him.
"At some point you make these
calls and you live with them, but they're not always the right call. Then you
have to come to terms with, 'Am I going to do that all the time? What does
that mean? Am I going to be 70 and look back and be like, "Jesus Christ, I was
making people billions of dollars. That's what I was doing. Was that worth it?"' The answer for me is no. So that was a big part of changing my life."
Sadly, stories like Goldfarb's are common in an industry where
time off can be scarce, overtime is the norm, and starting a family can be seen
as a betrayal to your fellow co-workers. In a survey of game developers
published by Gamasutra last March, more than 50 percent of respondents claimed they typically put in
40-60 hours of work during crunch, the nickname for the period of time when the
team is typically behind in achieving its milestones. Another 32 percent reported
that they work 61-80 hours. One of studio directives for The Outsiders is to break
this vicious cycle and find a better work-life balance.
"I think there is a humane way to
do that stuff and a right way to push toward the finish line with a really
measurable goal," Goldfarb says. "And then there's the wrong way – where you're
just in the office and you expect other people to be there because you're there.
That all comes from the top. I've been in situations where you feel guilty if
you are walking out on people. But I think management has to set that boundary.
It's okay to have a life and not be here."
Goldfarb's background is primarily in high-octane shootouts
fueled by endless streams of lead, and Cousins has spent the past few years as
a vocal free-to-play evangelist while running the European office for mobile
game developer DeNA. Given their backgrounds, some might expect the studio to
debut with a free-to-play shooter. Goldfarb has other ideas. He's excited to dive
into a project very different from the games listed on his resume, and he says
Cousins signed on as the company CEO because of the concept, not the economic
"I just want to make things that I
want to make," he says. "I've been very fortunate to work on other people's IPs
that have been successful. I feel like I've contributed to their success, but
they weren't mine. For me, it's really important when I write that I'm able to
deal with the things that are important to me in some fashion. When I made
those other games, they were never about things that mattered to me in the way
that maybe they needed to matter."
Goldfarb isn't ready to share the idea
at the heart of The Outsiders' first project yet, but he did confirm that it's
a survival role-playing game. Unlike many of the modern entries that bear the
"survival" tag, no zombies will be featured in the making of this game. "This
project is something I've wanted to make for 20 years," Goldfarb says. "It's a
culmination of a lot of things I've been making throughout my career, and then
a bunch of stuff I've never had the opportunity to do. I've been shoving RPG
elements into all these games I've been making since I first worked on a ***
The Outsiders is targeting the PC
platform first, but Goldfarb says that is "fluid" based on talks with
publishers. Unlike many game projects being started by indie developers, The
Outsiders won't be seeking crowdfunding regardless of how its pitches to
"I think Kickstarter is great, but
it's rolling the dice unless your name is Chris Avellone," Goldfarb says. "There's
a certain subset of people that are going to be really successful on
Kickstarter, but it's not a chance I'm willing to take with a concept that I really
care about. I admire people who have done it because it's a ton of work, but it's
just not my thing."
You can keep tabs on The Outsiders
on the studio's website.