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Alex Seropian Interview, April 26, 2004

Wideload On April 26, 2004, two old-time Bungie fans, Miguel Chavez and Claude Errera, had a chance to chat with Alex Seropian, founder of Bungie Software and currently starting up Wideload, a gaming company that plans to build its first game using the Halo engine (for release sometime in 2005).

MC: First off Alex, thanks for considering your 'old' fans. It goes without saying that we're both surprised and eager to see whatever Wideload puts out.

AS: First thing I thought of.

MC: Claude didn't even realize that you were still around and I didn't either until some folks started to drop anonymous hints over at bs.bungie.org... Now I wonder if it was you dropping those clues.

AS: I'm not that smart.

MC: The most immediate question is, are you going to make a visit to E3?

AS: I'll be at E3 - but not showing anything.

MC: So no booth or anything, you'll just be meeting with distributors, etc?

AS: Yes - pressing the flesh, as they say...

MC: The PR says your first game will be based on the Halo engine.

AS: Yes - we have a license from Bungie.

MC: So my question is that means it's definitively not the Halo 2 engine, right?

AS: Right - the halo 2 engine wasn't available but - we're going in our own direction with it.

MC: so how much tweaking are you allowed to do with the engine? And is the PC engine the gearbox engine?

AS: We can write whatever code we want and - I'll need to warn you that our deal with Bungie is under NDA - so anything really specific - like the PC code and stuff - I'm not supposed to talk about... but consider that the Xbox and PC versions of Halo were done by different companies at different times. That's bound to make things less than straightforward. If we are doing both at the same time - it makes the job easier.

CE: So Wideload's first game will be simultaneously released on Xbox and PC? (And Mac?)

MC: Yeah - I saw no mention of Mac.

AS: We haven't ruled out anything! You know I still use a Mac, right?

CE: So the latest article (CNN's Money) said there were 6 ex-Bungie employees with you... any chance of names?

AS: I will give you clues to names - you need to do the math - here goes:
At wideload, are bungie employees #1, #3, #5, #6 (the accuracy of this depends a little on how you count). All six would be considered grizzled ancients. Let's see if you can figure that out. (Our mascot is a big clue too.)

MC: So where's the new office? Same as the old office?

AS: Right now we are in downtown Oak Park, but next month we'll be moving downtown (pretty close to our old bungie joint - the good one, not the one in the DMZ).

MC: Moving for bigger space?

AS: Bigger space and more convenient. Oak Park is hard to get to for some people.

MC: are you going to be tapping Total Audio for some assistance?

AS: No comment.

MC: Was there any kind of non-compete clause when you left MS that has only now expired, or was this timing really just a natural progression of where you were going?

AS: The timing worked out really well. I came back to Chicago, took some time off to spend with my family, and started thinking about the next career. Once I figured it out - I was ready to go. I have a much different outlook on life now than I did when I started Bungie.

MC: My take on what you said is that maybe you're not that worried about things in this business? At least as much as you were back then. Or maybe it's vice versa.

AS: Well - when I started Bungie I was young and, frankly, stupid. All I wanted was to have a successful company - the fear of failure was tremendously motivating. I had a lot to prove... Now - I'm older, more experienced (still a little stupid!). I have less to prove. So I feel I can try to do things at a more realistic pace, with a lot of forethought... You know; measure twice - cut once, as the carpenter says. Plus - I have a family to enjoy!

I've learned two things about business. First - it's all about persistence - kinda like the million monkey theory - you need to SURVIVE long enough to succeed... Depending on what you are doing that can be a short or long time. Second - is you have to learn how to choose between the bad options. i.e. it's very rare that you get to make the perfect decisions. Learning how to make the least "bad" one is an important skill.

MC: So did being a co-founder of Bungie, after Halo's success, help open doors for you? People eager to listen to your ideas? Throw money at you?

AS: I've yet to break out the money-catching baseball glove. But - yes - the bungie track record is a great ice-breaker.

MC: it must certainly feel different than marathon/myth days when I've heard folks didn't return your calls, etc.

AS: It's a little better, yes. They still laugh at me, but at least they pick up the phone.

CE: so how did the current crew come together (again)? Did you say 'hey, I wanna start this company, you guys up for it?', or were you all still in touch, and looking for a way to make that pay?

AS: Good question... I'm not sure - I think you could call it karma. We all seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

MC: your PR and interviews so far have you almost taking a 'principled' stand on this game company... but how flexible are you in that position, if things start to not go quite how you hoped? Would you be willing to look at a merger or buyout from another large outfit to get the game finished?

AS: See lesson #1 of business (outlined above). More to the point though: there are parts of making games that are hard and parts that are straightforward (requiring time and money). The hard parts are what we're focusing on first - so if things are going to hit the fan - we should know soon.

MC: Is Jason involved in some way?

AS: I think if I'd ask Jason for money he'd laugh. Jason - if you're listening - you can send me money! Yeah - that's right - can you hear it? I do - laughing! He was cool with us using the engine - which is great. I miss him - we had a great partnership.

CE: So are there still ties with other ex-Bungie guys (I'm thinking of Tamte and Destineer now)?

AS: Peter and I are good friends. We talk shop all the time.

MC: Here's one the fans are clamoring for... I hear you can buy the Myth rights for a dollar and change, you ever think about revisiting that?

AS: uh... can I borrow a dollar (and change)? Actually - we have enough on our plate right now!

MC: How close are we to getting the next nugget of info from your group?

AS: We may have another announcement after E3.

Thanks for the time, Alex! We wish you the best of luck on this new venture, and rest asssured, we'll be watching carefully!