TE: You're known for being an EQ player, and you've worked with the EQ and EQ2 dev teams in fundraising events. Have you ever had your hand in game design?
CS: Not other than the other billion of us gaming geeks out there who said, "Wow, I can do it better than that," or "That sucks." I've been a critic my whole life. Over the last decade, I've gotten to realize that when you sit around and say "How cool would it be if ..." and you have all of those great concepts, when you sit down and start developing a computer game, the globe spins. You go to the other side of the world; it's a totally different world. The focus for me, from a founder's standpoint - and obviously I am a gamer and I have my head in different aspects of the company - but the goal for me is not to make my game. There's been a lot people who have made that mistake. The goal for me is to make the game.
And to do that, you need passionate, accountable, talented, resourceful, outside-the-box thinking people. And not just one or two, but everyone on your team has to possess those kinds of traits. And you bring those types of people into something, and you make them understand that as an employer, you're gonna care about them more than anybody they've ever worked for. And the only thing you ask in return is their devotion to the company. And you make them understand that the company will never be more important than the family, never more important than their real lives.
You do things to make them understand [you care]. We pay 100 percent of their insurance premiums; we have matching 401(k); our benefits package is as good as anybody's ... in the industry; to make sure that they understand that the care and commitment I'm telling them this company has for them is not lip service.
TE: If you compare that to the mentality that EA has, for example, with their employees. Their employees are pretty much wage slaves.
CS: There are so many lessons to be learned. The cliché of "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" - this industry is just ripe for that.
You look around, and obviously, it's a small industry. And bringing in incredibly talented people is hard to do, because those incredibly talented people - who are passionate and have character and are accountable - they're employed. And a lot of the time, they're employed in a position they're comfortable in. And having been able to get those people as the core part of our team has been an immensely challenging and incredibly rewarding experience, because this is far more than a company to me - this is a family. These people believe in me and believe in this company, and to that end, they're picking up their families and they're moving them around the country, around the world, to be a part of something that I've had as a vision. That's an immense amount of responsibility for me.
TE: How did Todd McFarlane and R.A. Salvatore get involved? Where did you meet them?
CS: Todd was a friend of mine from my days in Arizona, playing with the Diamondbacks. I met him out there. We've collaborated on some stuff with the ALS Foundation, through philanthropic work, and I basically pitched them both. I pitched them together on a road trip in Kansas City during the season.
The ironic thing is five or six years ago, I penciled out my dream team from a creative standpoint, who I'd want and what I would want them to do. R.A. was the guy behind the creative vision, and I talked to some people that handle some PR stuff for me, and I said, "I'd love to talk to this guy." Ten minutes later, I'm on the phone talking to him. He lives a half hour from me in Boston, and he's the biggest Boston Red Sox fan on the planet. We've become very close friends very fast. He's an incredible man, obviously incredibly creative; I'm a huge fan. But beyond all that, he's a fantastic person. And that was a huge, huge plus for me, to add him to the creative process.