A Day at RocketWerkz
by: Aston Talbot
While on a work visit to Dunedin, New Zealand, the local Stack Leader of the New Zealand chapter of the Stacks, had the opportunity to visit a local game development studio RocketWerkz. The CEO, Dean Hall is somewhat of a gaming celebrity… known for his mod DayZ that had global reach while Dean was living in London.
No stranger to a challenge (he was in New Zealand’s Airforce and Army, has climbed Mt. Everest and is an early adopter of one of the few Tesla Model S in New Zealand), Dean came home to establish a local studio in New Zealand… his vision? To be the Peter Jackson of game development… It’s pretty full on to put it that way but he did knock the busta… um Everest off after all.
From a small team in 2014, the studio has grown to 43 employees and is on track to expand at a similar rate. They are currently working on four projects. Having teased Ion at E3 2015, it appears to have evolved into Stationeers and has just hit its early access release on Steam. There is a mysterious AAA title in development as well as two others that were still under wraps… One has just been announced as Living Dark.
The Studio has had the backing of the Chinese tech giant Tencent so this Studio in the south of the South Island of New Zealand has attracted investment from one of, if not the largest, internet investment and gaming companies in the world.
Dean’s military background is forefront in his business approach… adopting many of those positive leadership attributes important in molding effective units and maintaining morale in some of the hardest environments and circumstances. There was even a former US Marine turned game developer in the team’s mix. The studio has two VR titles in the bucket. Out of Ammo, and it’s sequel Death Drive have had positive releases. On the day of the visit, news was even breaking on media outlets that Out of Ammo is getting a port and release on PS4 VR.
Dean himself has attracted a lot of success, and from the outside, RocketWerkz has undoubtedly benefited from this, but Dean has helped lead a company to achieve rapid growth and is shaking up leadership and management philosophies akin to men like Gates, Musk, and Branson, albeit on a Kiwi scale. RocketWorkz has achieved local media reporting interest around its company tenets of unlimited annual leave, open accounts and company performance for staff access, and capping the Boss’ salary to only 10% above that of the next.
Being fortunate to witness one of the group meetings about the development of Stationeers, the passion and professionalism was clear. From the Boss himself to the developers, sound guys, his Sister (a producer) and even meeting his Mum (aka Mom) it is clear that as these girls and guys down in Dunedin push hard, the focus of the studio is as a ‘creative factory’ and not on developing technology.
They are focused on PC games, new genres, and cooperative multiplayer experiences. Dean’s said as a company they are inefficient, rebellious, and unconventional.
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