CSR 2 was recently revealed as one of PocketGamer.biz's most anticipated mobile title for 2016.
So, with that mind and as part of our regular HR interview series, we caught up with Julian Widdows, who is General Manager of CSR2 at Zynga-owned UK developer NaturalMotion, to find out more about his role and the studio behind the game.
PocketGamer.biz: Could you give us some background on NaturalMotion?
Julian Widdows: At NaturalMotion and Zynga, our mission is to wow people and connect the world through games. Combined, we have seen more than 3.5 billion installs across our games to date.
NaturalMotion is a leading mobile game developer in the UK. Founded in 2001 by CEO Torsten Reil while he was researching for a doctorate at Oxford University, the company was later acquired by Zynga in 2014.
With studios in a number of locations, including Oxford and London's Covent Garden, NaturalMotion has become synonymous with world-class game design marked by their stunning visuals and proprietary motion simulation technology used in triple-A games like Grand Theft Auto V and motion pictures like Lord of the Rings, as well as hit mobile titles including CSR Racing, Clumsy Ninja and the forthcoming Dawn Of Titans and CSR2 - both of which are slated to launch in 2016.
We pride ourselves on doing the hard things - the things that do not seem possible.
Our approach focuses on blending art and science to give players never before seen levels of visual fidelity.
Our approach focuses on blending art and science to give players never before seen levels of visual fidelity - whether it's the interactivity of a character in a game like Clumsy Ninja or the level of vehicle authenticity in CSR Racing and CSR2, which we'll be launching this year.
We are bringing console quality games to the mobile space by creating immersive, stunning entertainment experiences that truly 'wow' them.
Can you tell us a bit about your role at NaturalMotion and CSR2?
As General Manager for CSR2, my role is to set the overarching creative, strategic and business direction for the game.
A central part of my job is to make certain our execution matches the vision both for our game and the CSR brand by ensuring our team has the tools, support and guidance needed to deliver incredible experiences for our players.
It may sound a bit cliché but this means that no two days at NaturalMotion are the same.
Whether it's reviewing content with our incredibly experienced and talented art team, landing on which manufacturers we're going to work with over the coming year or identifying training and development programs for our team, we strive to provide every developer with the opportunities they need to be the best they can be.
What specific areas/disciplines are you currently hiring in?
At the moment, we're mostly hiring into the Technical team and Product disciplines.
At NaturalMotion, the games we create are mobile, however the visuals, gameplay production values and technology complexity, including, analysis, telemetry, back-end and network infrastructure, are close to or exceeding those of console games these days.
We look for people who are intelligent, adaptable, well-balanced, talented, hungry to excel and incredibly passionate about what they do.
Because of this, we hire experienced and gifted engineering talent from both the console and mobile sectors. In our offices we have a diverse and talented team representing every continent on the planet.
We're very proud of this diversity and the global culture it creates at NaturalMotion.
What do you look for in candidates?
We look for people who are intelligent, adaptable, well-balanced, talented, hungry to excel and incredibly passionate about what they do, whether it's building the next generation of shaders, designing a huge feature release or analysing a product's likely success in market.
From experience we know that passionate people are not only amazing individual contributors but that their passion is contagious, lifting the overall quality and execution of the team and product. Passion creates momentum that cannot be taught.
It's one of the things I'm most proud of in our CSR2 team - the people are just amazing.
You've been in the games industry for more than two decades. With so many exciting opportunities today across mobile, PC and console gaming, what advice would you give someone trying to break into the space?
There's never been a better time to be a developer, right? Our CSR2 team is based in London and it's incredible to think that in this city, within just a few miles, we have developers working on every platform in the gaming industry.
I can't think of a more exciting time to be entering this sector.
My advice today is the same as it was more than a decade ago - for graduates get a good first degree, and potentially a Masters, in a subject you're passionate about and that is widely recognised.
If you want to enter programming, Computer Science/Engineering with Math and/or Physics is ideal. Even if you eventually specialise in networking, graphics or backend work, a solid all-around foundation will serve you well.
While there are some great game development courses, recognise as a technologist that you're specialising early. If you choose this route, I strongly recommend attending a reputable university that has a track record of providing post-graduate employment.
Pure design courses can be a difficult route into the industry, with a very unreliable route to a job in gaming.
If you want to enter Product Management or even Design, a good Business Degree and/or Science Degree can prove invaluable. At NaturalMotion, we hire a significant number of Business Graduates and Analytical Scientists into our Product and Analysis teams.
Perhaps more important than earning your degree is demonstrating your passion.
Perhaps more important than earning your degree is demonstrating your passion. If you want to work with games, show that you play them, understand them and even make them in your spare time.
There are so many great tools out there, such as Unity or Unreal, to create games for your portfolio in your spare time.
For Designers this can be especially important as you may hold a non-traditional degree, including the arts and sciences, so tangibly showcasing how you think about game design and structure can make all the difference.
Finally, make sure you connect with the relevant recruiters or managers in the company you aspire to work in.
Start up a dialogue and look for opportunities to meet with them and share your passion. Attend industry events, shake some hands and get yourself out there. Do your homework, know what it is you want to do and where, and get applying.
NaturalMotion is based in London, Oxford and Brighton and the company is recruiting across all teams.
A list of current vacancies can be found on their website.