Criterion fostered “more fear than confidence”, former Burnout artist reveals


Fireproof Studios co-founder and former Criterion senior artist Barry Meade has criticised the Burnout developer’s management style, revealing that a culture of fear, and not confidence, forced him and a number of his fellow Fireproof co-founders to leave the studio and create iOS puzzler The Room.

“Criterion was a great place to work in lots of ways and we still see the old Criterion crew every day in Guildford,” he tells us in an interview to be published tomorrow. “But the work rate was knackering there and the office had plenty of the usual industry complaints of the team being undervalued, underpaid and overworked.

“Over the years a management paranoia developed that instilled more fear than confidence which had a tremendous impact on the team. When you’re paid to be creative fear really is the mind killer so you are in a catch-22. It just became untenable so we needed a way out.”

Discussing Fireproof’s rather earnest development style, Meade says the atmosphere at Criterion was as “dramatic as a soap opera” in comparison. Fireproof, however, feels more like Bullfrog did 20 years ago, according to Meade, with the team content to “bumble [their] way through development” embracing mistakes.

“There’s a lot of theatre that goes on in big game studios, everybody likes to pretend that each decision is of extreme importance,” he continues. “Really an idea has no value until it’s in the game and proven to work with what you already have. We’ve found that if you strip your working day down to only what you are doing in the software you can achieve a shit load more pound for pound than a big studio system.

“In those places it’s the weight of constant measurement that clogs up the development arteries. We naturally wanted to strip away all office complications and concentrate on achieving simple creative goals.”

Look out for the full interview tomorrow, in which Meade discusses his surprise at The Room’s success, and why the industry’s obsession with metrics isn’t always helpful. And if you’d like to know more about The Room, here’s our review.