Raven Software – interview

Raven Software is one of the most well-known game companies. A lot of players consider this firm to be the queen of 1st person shooters development teams. Right now, they are working on a few expected games – Quake IV, an unannounced PC title and an unannounced console title. We have spoken with Kenn Hoekstra about these games, Raven´s history and future.
Raven Software – interview

Doupe: First of all, please tell us something more about yourself. What is your position in Raven Software, how did you get a job at Raven, how long have you been working there, etc.
Kenn Hoekstra: My name is Kenn Hoekstra and I am the Project Administrator at Raven Software. I started as a level designer in 1997 and became the PA in 1998. I got my job through a chance encounter with Eric Biessman, who was working on Hexen II at the time. He helped me secure an interview and provided a job reference for me. It was really one of those accidental things.

Doupe: What was the first game you worked on?
K.H.: The first Raven game I worked on was Take No Prisoners, a top down action game developed by Raven and published by Red Orb Entertainment. I did about a third of the level design for the game.

Doupe: What are you working on now?
K.H.: Right now Raven is ramping up support for two PC games and a console title and are expanding the staff from 60 to 73 developers. As a result, I`m spending most of my time setting up equipment, ordering software, moving people to their new cubes and offices, etc. I`m also doing tech support for our current library of games, maintaining our website, gathering PR materials and a host of other things. I`m pretty busy right now, as are we all.

Doupe: Is there any game by Raven Software that you like most? And why?
K.H.: My favorite Raven game was Heretic II. To this day, it`s the most fun I`ve ever had playing multiplayer.

Doupe: Could you please introduce Raven Software to our readers?  Its history, successes, games and so on.
K.H.: Heh… We have a pretty long and storied history, so that could take quite a while. Here`s a great article on the history of the company up until the release of Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force and the original Soldier of Fortune.

Since that article was written, Raven went on to release Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast along with LucasArts and Activision and Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix. We`ve also signed on to develop Quake IV with Id Software and are currently working on an unannounced PC title and an unannounced console title.

Doupe: Raven Software is a really notorious firm especially in the field of FPS games. A lot of players consider your firm to be the queen of 1st person shooters development teams. What do you think about it?
K.H.: Raven`s success, popularity and fan base have grown tremendously since I first started at the company five years ago. We`ve put together quite a string of hit games, both from a critical acclaim standpoint and a sales standpoint. We`re very good at listening to our fans and doing our best to give them what they want. I think staying in touch with our core audience and contributing regularly to the gaming community are some of the major reasons our popularity has reached the level it has. It`s a success we hope to continue with our next run of projects.

Doupe: Which of the games by Raven was in the most successful?
K.H.: At this time, I believe Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast would be (arguably) our most successful game.

Doupe: How long does it usually take to create a game? How many employees usually work on it?
K.H.: Our development cycles generally run for 18 months to two years with a team of approximately 20 to 25 people, including management and support staff. That number can go up or down based on scheduling, deadlines and other factors.

Doupe: There are some games in the works at Raven Software - for example Quake 4 and one yet unannounced project. Could you give us any bit of information about these games?
K.H.: Unfortunately there`s not much I can say at this time about our current slate of games. Hopefully we`ll be able to release more information soon.

Doupe: I know that you usually don´t answer questions about Quake 4. Still better, how long has the game been in development?
K.H.: The project was announced at last year`s QuakeCon, August 2001, so that should give you a pretty good idea of when we started. 

Doupe: What about the unannounced projects? When will you reveal it?
K.H.: That`s up to Activision at this point. We`re just working away until they (and we) decide the time is right to unveil them.

Doupe: Your games are mostly of the FPS genre. Do you have any plans to move into another genre?
K.H.: The console game we`re developing is not a FPS game. It`s a rather large divergence for us because it`s really our first full-fledged non-PC and non-FPS game. I think our experience developing this game will prove to be the test for Raven`s future with non-FPS games.

Doupe: Do you plan to make fantasy games again? Raven Software had a long line of fantasy projects (for example ShadowCaster or Heretic...)
K.H.: It`s not out of the realm of possibility. We`ve certainly thought about it, but we currently have nothing Fantasy-based in development. A good number of people here would love to work on a fantasy game again…

Doupe: What are your thoughts on the future evolution of the FPS & action genre?
K.H.: The technology aspect of the FPS genre shows no signs of slowing down, so from that standpoint I see many more leaps and bounds when it comes to graphics and engine tech. Each new game that`s released puts a new spin on the genre with new innovations and gameplay tweaks and I don`t really see a limit to those, either, because of the potential to meld FPS games with other genres` elements and gameplay. I believe FPS games will remain popular for a long time to come.

Doupe: Where do you see Raven`s position in the future?
K.H.: I think we`ll continue to develop PC games and eventually expand more into the console side of things. I don`t see us growing much beyond the three team structure we`re shooting for now, but then again, that`s what I said when we reached two full teams. I`m confident that the sky`s the limit for Raven`s future. There are a lot of talented people working under this roof and each one of them cares a great deal about the fans and playing and developing games.

Doupe: Thank you very much for talking to us. I wish you good luck.
K.H.: Thank you. Best wishes to you in the future as well.

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