Arkane Studios' president, Raphael Colantonio, shepherded the studio he founded through some of its best and worst times. After leading the studio for 18 years, Colantonio steps down to take time for himself, and from the way he tells it, this is a long overdue vacation for the president of a video game studio that finally hit its stride. That's according to a recent talk he gave, as well as in a new interview.
"It's been 18 years of very fascinating adventures - some super hard times, because as you know we were independent, and we almost went out of business several times," Colantonio said in on-stage interview at Gamelab in Barcelona, Spain. According to Colantonio, there were three periods in Arkane's history where the studio was just a few months away from running out of money, and surviving. The last time that happened to Arkane, it was saved by ZeniMax Media who purchased the studio.
Since then, Arkane Studios released a string of games like Dishonored 2 and Prey, with Dishonored: Death of the Outsider coming out later this year. "Leaving this is actually a hard, hard choice, but at the same time I've been doing this for 18 years...I feel like I've never ever sat down, for even a minute."
GamesIndustry.biz, whose 2009 interview with the studio that signalled Bethesda to acquire Arkane Studios, caught up with Colantonio after his talk in Barcelona for further details about his departure. The portrait Colantonio paints is that of a man who saw his indie studio grow, while navigating the stress and burnout that comes with running a game studio that underwent many struggles and successes. A mix of "negative pressure" and "positive pressure" he says.
"I will always favour the pressure of making things than the pressure of not having oxygen," he tells GamesIndustry.biz. "But that's been my life for the past 18 years; alternating between the pressure of lacking oxygen and the pressure of making impossible things."
Colantonio also cites the shift in managing a small studio to a big one. Back when Arkane was much smaller, Colantonio was hands-on in almost all aspects of making Arx Fatalis, an early Arkane Studios game. From coding to 3D modeling, Colantonio says he felt really involved. "There's a moment where, as an artist, you're not sure what you control and what you don't control any more," says Colantonio. "But the more the industry goes towards huge, huge games, where you worry about modelling the wind in the eyebrows, and you need an eyebrow specialist that you have to hire from Hollywood who costs a fortune."
Ultimately for Colantonio is was about needing a rest. "I'm sure some people could go like this for 30 years and work it... But I can't, and I think a lot of other people can't either. And that's because of the way [the industry] is set up."
After 18 years of setting up a studio and seeing it change from something small to part of this large video game enterprise, Colantonio just needs to time to recharge creatively. This involves spending more time with his family and working on personal creative pursuits like music. He's not even thinking about coming back some time in the near future as an indie developer. "It's the way it is, and it's why some people get burnt out. It's too hard."