I made it down to Liverpool over the weekend for the leaving do of Clemens, who was the manager of the Studio before, during and after my time at Sony. I had been looking for a reason to return before the year was out, and the news of Clemens seemingly sudden departure from Studio Liverpool was all the excuse I needed to book my train tickets.
Arrived at Colin & Penny’s place (they would be putting up with me for the weekend) at coming on for 6pm gave me enough time to freshen up before we took a taxi to the venue in the city centre – a bar that I’d never been to before.
We were among the first to arrive, which worked out kind of well, as it meant I got to see people as they filtered in and to say hello and catch up in measured time as opposed to not knowing where to start. Bearing in mind that I hadn’t seen most of those present for about a year and a half, the many old faces brought a flood of memories back from my six great years with them.
Even before I travelled down I’d made up my mind to try and speak to as many people as possible, as I didn’t know when I’d be down again and able to mix with the same crowd. There’s a lot of churn in the games industry over time and a few of those present had already moved on to other places, so I didn’t know if or when I’d get to speak to many of them again.
In the event, I spent most time with those I became closest to over the years. As we spoke, I found it sad to think that of the gang of lads who made up ? ?, now only two remain there. I remember those days of gathering round the kitchen table at 3pm for a cup of tea, a pie, and some occasionally hilarious banter with great fondness.
Of course, ? ? being scattered to the winds is small beans compared with Clemens leaving after 15 years at Studio Liverpool, and it really did feel like the end of an era. Supporting cast members can come and go, but when the leading man calls it a day it’s hard to think of what’s left in the same way, even if there are still familiar faces around.
I’ve regretted leaving in no small amount since that hasty decision to hand in my notice in March 2008. Lured away by a job that ultimately didn’t hold a candle to it, it’s easy to get misty eyed at the thought of being in familiar surroundings with all my mates, but the reality is that nothing lasts forever. I spoke to at least three or four people independantly who planned to move on in the near future, hot on the heels of those who’d already left.
Word was that the atmosphere and the fun had gone from the place since the merger with Evo, which I can quite believe – that had happened the summer before I left and the effects were tangible soon after. It’s the spirit that makes a work place, and it certainly helps to motivate during tough times when you believe in what you’re doing and you enjoy the company of your workmates. When the positive energy has ebbed to the point where people don’t know why they’re coming to work, it’s best all round if they find something else.
Late in the evening I said to Karl (who left in the summer) that the mental picture of us all working together had been shattered with people leaving. It’s a different place now, and perhaps the rooms and corridors would feel a bit alien if I got the chance to set foot inside the building again. Studio Liverpool – My Studio Liverpool remains in the memories I have, but I’ve made my peace with the fact it’s gone.
All of the above was the reason I took the time to approach Clemens at the end of the night and thank him for bringing me onboard back in 2002. It really was a fantastic journey I had there, and I had many more good times than bad regardless of some of the adversity I faced during the first few years.
Sure, many of us bitched and moaned over decisions (or the lack thereof) that we probably knew far too little about to be having any kind of opinion on, but when I look back and think how Clemens ran the place during my time there I can’t complain at all. He created a superb environment to work in that fostered friendships that will last a good while longer than the comparitively fleeting time I spent there.
Personally I owe a debt for the experiences I had. Aside from giving me the job there, it was Clemens’ decision later to place me on the WipEout team, to send me to a PSP development conference, and the 2007 Develop in Brighton UK games industry pow-wow. I don’t think either of us could justify sending a web developer to those two events, but the experience of each definitely made me feel a bigger part of what we did in the studio.
Whiling away Saturday being fed by (mostly) Penny and Colin, and enjoying the company of a man who I was wary of when I first met when I started back in 2002 (but who’s since become a very good friend!), I had plenty of time to reflect and smile at the good memories.
Perhaps I was just lucky, but if my first experience in the games industry is anything to go by then I’d love to work there again some day. Clemens, of course, is staying within his area of expertise and said he’d let us all know what he’s doing in the new year. I really do wish him all the best and I hope he’s able to build and enjoy the same kind of spirit from his Studio Liverpool in his new venture.