Amid the hustle, bustle, ice cream and sun (with a few game developers thrown in) that made up this year's Develop Conference I was lucky enough to speak with Chris Deering.
While Mr Deering is someone of whom you can accurately say 'he needs little introduction', I'm going to give you one. Currently he sits on the boards of Codemasters (as chairman), IGA Worldwide, Playspan, Wayfinder Systems, the Edinburgh Interactive Festival (again as chairman) and (most importantly in the case of this interview) Geomerics.
Geomerics, if you haven't come across it, produces Enlighten, an in-game lighting tool that simulates the real way in which light bounces from surface to surface to make games look... well, really damn pretty.
Oh, and Mr Deering also acted as president and CEO of a little company called Sony Computer Entertainment Europe from 1995-2005. Yeah. That guy.
Read on for an interview that spans everything from Geomerics to the inter-connected future of gaming...
Hi Chris. Thanks very much for talking to us. First up, how are you finding the conference so far?
Well, I just came in from the States yesterday, so I didn't see too much of yesterday, but I hear it was well-received and I ran into Matt (Bellows) from Vivox this morning – he said his session went well, and today I've been with Geomerics and last night, of course, the awards – that was a a lot of fun. I want to go see Margaret Robertson's presentation about ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) later, I've got a panel at 2:30 about 'Game's Up?' - you know, those issues with ELSPA and TIGA.
Can we talk about that for a moment? Obviously there's loads going on with people clamouring for tax breaks and so on and we're seeing operations moving to places like Canada... As someone who's worked heavily within the European games industry, do you think the government should bring in UK tax breaks?
Well, I think the UK has always been proudly ahead of the pack in terms of proportionate representation of movies and computer programming in general and games in particular. There is a number of reasons that it makes sense to produce in the UK. I mean, in Codemasters we have 350/400 people developing in the UK, but it is becoming increasingly expensive, relative to other options, so it's difficult to justify further expansion.
There's been a lot of changes lately with the aggressive postures of Quebec in particular and Canada in general, but they're not alone. France has just made some changes and Singapore and Malaysia and other Asian areas (too). So, you could call a tax break, that's kind of a tool, but there are many other ways to help balance the playing field.
There are other issues relating to the quality of talent coming out of schools, and I think that we don't want to be sending a message to the government that they have to match the highest bidder when it comes to bribes. They can't listen to that, it would be dangerous for them to get in to that ratchet wrench. But, I think it is important that we make it clear there are genuine issues and certainly tax relief is an easier thing for most governments to entertain than outright grants to pay for development directly.
So, perhaps that direction would make sense, but we're saying, 'Look, we have a problem. We're willing to work with you, we want to stay, there's many reasons to be here, you don't have to match the highest bidder, but you have to recognise that there is a change in the way the environment is playing out. Take the industry seriously for it's current and future clean and green (grins) benefit to the UK for it attractiveness to all kinds of investment.