Tim Schumann, Founder of Hidden Legend Games

Here at PixelTome, we recently caught up with games industry professional Tim Schumann to ask him about his history in the games industry, his career so far, and also his recent decision to leave Sony’s Santa Monica Studio (where he has worked on the upcoming God of War) to found his own brand-new games company, Hidden Legend Games. Schumann describes Hidden Legend Games not only as a company which will create innovative, meaningful games which communicate social messages, but as one that will also help existing companies to develop their own projects by drawing on their experience, skills, and passion for all aspects of game design and development.

Hi Tim, thank you very much for agreeing to chat with us here at PixelTome! We’re very honoured to speak with you about your work history and career and in the gaming industry, and also your next big adventure with Hidden Legend Games!

Thank you very much! I’m excited to have the opportunity to share a little about our company!

So, can you tell us a little bit about yourself first of all?

Outside of being a video games addict, I enjoy electronic music festivals, doing all sorts of sound design and music production work, and am a huge football (known as soccer here in America) fan. I support both Chelsea and LA Galaxy, and I think that sport is a great outlet to get involved with in order to take a step back and not think about work for a bit. I like to be outside enjoying nature although I’ll admit I rarely take the time to do so anymore.

What is your history with the games industry? What exciting games or projects of note have you worked on?

I started out in the games industry as a Q.A. (Quality Assurance) Tester for Sony, and all of my AAA industry experience since has also been with that company. I spent a few years as a Q.A. Tester, DJing and working on a music career on the side, and was always hoping for the right opportunity to open up in Sony’s audio department – but sadly the right opportunity never came, mostly due to my lack of experience and the absence of a formal degree (I was never one who excelled at school and after a couple of community college classes I was pretty much done). I tested mostly during the PlayStation 3 era on titles like Resistance, Ratchet and Clank Collection, and Sly Cooper 4. My final project as a tester was on Killzone Shadowfall at the launch of the PlayStation 4.

After a break from the AAA industry and a few failed attempts at working with other indie teams, I decided to start Hidden Legend Games. Unfortunately, starting a business is far from a cheap or quick endeavour, and I had to take on more work to help pay rent and keep the company going. This is how I came to take my most recent role at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio as an Audio Tester, which quickly turned into a Technical Sound Designer job on the upcoming God of War – which, by the way, is an incredible game that I hope a lot of people will play and enjoy. Even now, it looks like I’ll have one final contract to take with Sony before I’ll have enough funding available to get Hidden Legend Games to where we need to be, so very soon I will be doing some work on Insomniac’s upcoming title Spiderman as a dialogue co-ordinator while getting all the ducks in line for our first vertical slice.

Why did you choose to leave Sony, a mainstream AAA company, in favour of establishing your own company? What was the appeal of doing so?

My decision to start Hidden Legend Games spawned from not only my desire to create a studio which makes games that matter beyond just their gameplay, but also the distinct lack of opportunities in the AAA space to do what I really want to do. I know that a lot of people leave AAA because of the crunch and the lack of personal creativity that can sometimes be felt; for me, it was definitely not the crunching and working hard that inspired me to leave – as that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I can’t think of a time since I was 18 that I haven’t been working multiple jobs or else pursuing multiple goals at once – but rather the absence of creative freedom.

In terms of personal creativity, creating games can be hard, grueling, and repetitive work, but as that is true of both personal projects and AAA ones, I would much rather be investing my time in making the kind of games that I am passionate about. Even as a Q.A. tester, I got to experience the enjoyment of creating something that people will love, and that feeling will always shine through those long hard work days.

So what exactly is Hidden Legend Games? For instance, who do you have working with you, what are your aims for the company, and what would you like to achieve?

Hidden Legend Games was founded with the purpose of empowering our players to think about the social issues affecting the world around them by teaching them lessons in virtual fantasy environments. We want our players to feel great about playing our games, and to walk away feeling like they’ve connected with, and learned about, the world around them in a meaningful way. In essence, we want Hidden Legend Games to be a company that not only creates video games for the public, but also provides other forms of content for both public and publisher use – though we can’t really say much about that at this early stage! Our intention is to help and support as many other studios as possible and create real connections with fans, by sharing our own stories and hopefully facilitating extended conversations about games as a medium for expression.

In terms of who is currently on the team, we have myself, a couple of programmers who worked on a steam game called Midair, and a concept artist out of FZD design school. We are currently in the growth process and have a tech demo almost ready to go. We are looking to hire Senior Level Designers, Artists, and Animators so we can get to work on our fully realized vertical slice, which we would like to show to both publishers and the public alike.

How do you intend to make Hidden Legend Games stand out from the rest of the indie crowd? What will your company do that other’s can’t, or won’t?

In terms of standing out from other indies, I think that making the right connections, focusing on our marketing efforts, and engaging with the public in genuine ways will be key. Our goal is not to create a game that we hope is successful – our goal is to become a company that people know they can depend on to deliver emotional, meaningful, and thought driven pieces of art. That is how we will differentiate ourselves from the other indie companies in the industry.

You obviously have a history in game production yourself, particularly in sound design/audio manipulation – will you be working on the games that Hidden Legend Games will produce yourself, as well as being the company’s director? Or will you simply employ others going forward and orchestrate the key events and processes from behind the scenes?

For our first title, I plan to be in charge of business operations, act as the game’s Director, and essentially be a one-man audio team. I am in the process of bringing on more senior Level Designers and Advisers who will mitigate the risks of acting as Game Director, however. We have had problems with some of these roles in the past, and as such my goal is to ensure that these same problems do not arise again in the future.

Realistically, I know that the amount of work that I am planning to take on will be unsustainable for my long-term health and happiness, so I want to delegate responsibilities as soon as possible to be able to guarantee a satisfying work-life balance for all involved. For the company to be as successful as I’d like it to be, my role in future projects will no doubt become limited to business operations more than anything else, but I’ll always find a way to contribute towards the audio work of any and all of our titles. The truth is that without the business, the art doesn’t exist, so I will be happy to take on whatever work that I have to. Overall, I am very excited for the future, and I look forward to whatever new challenges come our way.

Well, Tim, thank you so much for chatting with us here at PixelTome about your work! We’re very excited to see what you accomplish next with Hidden Legend Games, and will be very interested in hearing more about the work you intend to do with the company and the games that you intend to create very soon!

Thank you so much for having me! I look forward to talking again soon.

If you’d like to read more about the upcoming work of Hidden Legend Games, you can check out both the company’s official website and also their Twitter account, @HiddenLegendGms. Additionally, you can subscribe to their newsletter by heading to the bottom of their site’s homepage and filling in your name and email address in the provided form. We would recommend doing this if you want to hear all of the latest news about their games as soon as it is released!

Many thanks to Tim and the rest of the Hidden Legend Games team for allowing us to conduct this interview. Here at PixelTome, we wish you all the best of luck with your upcoming projects! To keep up with all of our latest interviews and news, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us over on Twitter and Instagram.