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Fredrik Wester @TheWesterFront
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In a month time I'm switching roles at @PdxInteractive - we're bringing @ebbalj in as CEO after my 15 years at the company (9 years as CEO). Normally I'm only looking forward, but during July I will post one new thing every day that has been significant in shaping the company.
Starting a few days early - when we released Victoria - an Empire under the Sun in Germany (Dec 2003), it couldn't be installed without a patch. This led to me and @producerjohan spending the better part of Xmas vacation burning and sending CDs to our German fans.
The week after I created the first ever internal QA check box document for Gold Masters that were going to be sent to print. The first check box was "Can you install the game on a normal Windows PC?"
The knight on the original painting of the Crusader Kings cover was left-handed so we made a mirror image of the painting for the cover.
We had a very low budget for the manual for Crusader Kings, so Yours Truly decided to write parts of it during evenings and weekends. I was probably the only one who was happy with the result, one of the first forum posts was "Who wrote this manual, it's terrible".
In the Västerbotten region, at the location of my home city Umeå in Crusader Kings, you can find a @Bjorkloven logotype in one of the map modes. I made it happen by bribing of of our graphic artists. If it hasn't been patched out it should still be there.
4 months before the CK launch, our US Publisher went bankrupt. In order to get the game out in the US we put up an e-commerce site in two weeks and sold 5000+ games in the first week. We spend 2 hours per day picking, packing and shipping games after work hours (2004).
Our proudest moment was a big order (8 copies) to the @Blizzard_Ent HQ in Irvine.
The HoI 2 media event was something special; following this event we decided to serve alcohol AFTER showing the games instead of before. The show started with smoking journalists setting off a local fire alarm and it ended with an afterparty where we sang Russian folk songs.
HoI2 Doomsday was created to help us escape a cashflow dip in 2006. The new features for the game was decided by asking the community what they wanted to see in an expandalone and then these ideas where implemented. Ping @producerjohan
I presented HoI2 to the Atari North American sales team for the first time at a sales conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Last minite fix was to remove all numbers to hide the fact that we could only afford a $50.000 global marketing budget.
I was the account between 2004-2006 as well as 2008-2010. My work schedule was: day job first, then first line support for a couple of hours.
My standard reply was "Have you checked our user forum? That's a great way to find help". I have especially fond memories of the infamous "Pearl Harbour Bug" in the original Hearts of Iron...
The reason I took back support in 2008 was after complaints from people on how much time support work took from their regular job (no dedicated support back then); I could hear my own voice in one of these meetings: "How hard can it be?". Sometimes it's better to just keep quiet.
The answer to the question is "Quite Challenging", but it's also worth gold. In my opinion, everyone at a company, no matter the size, should dedicate at least an hour or so a week to speak directly to fans.
Selling our games hasn't always been easy; on the question "Is it TBS or RTS?" I would say "Well, it plays like a TBS in real time"; retail were not impressed. We needed a name for our genre. If you look closely on the EU3 cover it says, above the logo "The Grand Strategy Game".
I am not sure if this had been used by other games before and I am quite sure someone smarter than us came up with it, but this is the first time we used it to describe one of our games (Jan 2007). The first Wikipedia post on Grand Strategy is from April 2007.
The Europa Universalis 3 cover:
Speaking of covers, I've had a say in 2 of them. For Crusader Kings 2 I said "Just put Ivanhoe there, it should be enough to upset at least a couple of people". Boy, was I disappointed; sometimes no reaction is worse than a negative one 😁
Back to Grand Strategy, I am quite sure we were the only ones ro use it back in 2007, while now Civilization is also referred to as Grand Strategy. Feels a bit lile Cultural Victory.
The story of Paradox could have ended in 2009, when our US Distributor at the time decided to stop paying us money for games that had already been sold in retail. Thanks to a fast thinking lawyer we got our money back. The distributor went out of business a few months later.
Others were not as lucky; CDV, publishers of the Blitzkrieg series was one of the companies that went out of business due to non-payments from said distributor.
After this debacle, we decided to go all in digital distribution. Already in 2010 more than 50% of our revenue came from digital.
The release of @Magickagame in 2011 was a challenge. In the first 14 days there were 14 patches released. Tip: if you patch at that pace you risk adding more bugs than you actually remove.
Favorite moment from @Magickagame - The "Tips are shown during loading screens" loading screen tip. First time a game had me laughing out loud at my desk.
When we were about to set the retail price for Magicka in 2010 I had already decided on $9.99 but the rest of my team wanted $14.99. I called a meeting to get everyone on the same page, it ended with me saying "I'm the CEO so I will decide anyway".
Understanding this was poor leadership I started intense training to be a better leader. My first question to the coach was "How can I just get people to do their job, let me call the shots and them to still be happy?" A lot of things has changed since then. 😃
I call less shots than ever before and people around me seem to be more relaxed. Might also be wishful thinking.
Or in the words of President Roosevelt "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Two of the interviews I sometimes go back to and read again is this one from Gamescom 2010 by @Quinns108… and the other one from @eurogamer… by @paullicino - together they capture the essence of @PdxInteractive
Due to 7 years of immediate cashflow crisis, our theme song during these years was Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer. After the the release of Crusader Kings 2 in 2012, it has slowly changed into Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.
Me and @Sus_LMG have another theme song as well; Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing. This was after the song was played in the office and the line "Every moment spent with you is a moment I tresure" came up and Susana said (ironically); "It's just like working with you".
Since 2009, Karaoke is a tradition at @PdxInteractive - the songs above alwyas come up even if I personally prefer System of a Down's Chop Suey
Around mid-2004 I got an email from a young composer.When he came by Stockholm, we went for a sushi lunch to discuss music for HoI2. My advice was "make samples that sounds like the Band of Brothers soundtrack, @producerjohan loves that show. The rest is history @composerandreas
The only time I've been asked about a soundtrack since then was for Eueopa Universalis IV, when someone in the team asked "if you could wish, how would the OST sound" and my reply was "As if Vangelis and Bach had a bastard child".
A legitimized bastard of course, so inheritance laws work as they are intended to.
In 2008, we were looking to sell @PdxInteractive - one major European distributor was interested. The deal didn't happen since they offered only €1.5M and we wanted €2.5M.
Since the sale didn't go through we decided to split the company in between our download portal and Paradox and streamline ownership structures in both company. Six months later I officially became PDX CEO with the goal of "1 Billion SEK in revenue within ten years".
Now it looks like you're never getting rid of me 😉
I was shown @StellarisGame the first time when it still had programmer graphics.
Team: "Do you have any comments or questions?"
Me: "Yes, why are not the planets moving in elliptical orbits according to Kepler's first law?"
Next time I was invited to see the game was at Alpha.
The @StellarisGame project was a slow burner compared to previous 18 months project cycles, it grew over time.
The game was called Infinte Frontiers (correct @producerjohan ?) until 2 weeks before announcement.
Wr changed banks in 2004, the main reason was that our bank at the time, along with four other banks, didn't want to give us a credit line of 1 Million SEK (around $125k or €100k). We still use the bank we changed to in 2004.
I really dislike myths about entrepreneurs, like "you can only sleep 6 hours/night because your competitors are already awake at 6 am". This is just BS, you need to sleep, in my case 8 hours a day, to perform well.
Worst travel experience in my 15 years at Paradox; getting food poisoned at Amsterdam airport before boarding a flight to LA (11 hours). I will spare you the details, but don't do this at home kids.
Of course, waking up at a hotel in New York with a cockroach on the wall next to you is not the most pleasant experience either.
A big moment was when we got the opportunity to buy the @majestygame trademark in 2007. It had a rare RTS/Sim hybrid that we loved. Unfortunately the sequel never reached the populariry of the original game and we're still waiting for a new sequel. Just need a good studio 😉
It was some time in the end of 2005 (you know, back when I was the only person behind that we received an email from a guy in Argentina; complaining he couldn't buy our games legally. We started working on a download portal with a total budget of $10.000
$5.000 was for buying the domain (a brilliant name at the time, in hindsight not as good) and we hired a freelancer to do the framework in two weeks. The first weekend, as @Sus_LMG hinted before in this thread, you could pay but not download any games.
We figured that by going directly to fans we could bypass the distributors who were notorious for not paying on time. Our first experiment with what we called a "download only product" (later "DLC") was an expansion for Victoria called "Revolutions" late 2006.
The only book I've read more than twice (except for The Lord of the Rings series that I probably read 10 times) is Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. Fascinating studies on judgement and decision-making.
The first thing @Sus_LMG had to do when joining @PdxInteractive in August 2004 was to assemble her own desk. I think we kept this tradition for all new employees until 2011.
We have released quite a few good games, but also a couple of not so great ones. But you have to agree that the Stalin vs Martians trailer is a piece of art:
Speaking about other games where the trailer did better than the game, we have Leviathan Warships Created and narrated by @stevenkwells
Long before there was a Game of Thrones TV Series, one of our standard interview questions was "Are you a Stark or a Lannister?". As a new employee at the time, if you hadn't read the books you were strongly adviced to do so.
I would say 99% of our fans are very nice, but occasionally you end up in shitstorms, receiving death threats, accusations of being a nazi/communist. My absolute favorite insult ever is when someone wrote to @Sus_LMG "I'm going to f**k your f**king mother on her f**king funeral"
I still remember how we discussed what we should do with the death threats that was sent in some years back; I always had the feeling that if someone really wants to kill you, they won't send you a hint first.
Of course we take threats towards our employees seriously, especially when people are named online. In a recent totally outrageous shitstorm towards employees at White Wolf where we were accused of adhering to a nazi agenda and actively promoting pedophiles and harassers.
I can understand that people dislike our games, our opinions or even the way we do things in general, but writing accusations like the one in the tweet above is just ridiculous. They are made for one reason: to discredit the company and the employees.
I'm not a big fan of going legal over trivial matters, but when it comes to groundless allegations on this level of seriousness I am very tempted to do so.
Memory from a 2015 Gamescom meeting - "Wow, you guys are like an overnight success". Yes, it just took us 12 years of hard work to become that "overnight success".
The biggest achievement of my entire career was holding a press conference in Moscow for over an hour, where 3 screen shots was the only in-game assets I could show.
For a while, we named all our external prjoects after Kevin Costner movies; after a while we ran out of movies so now projects are named after 80s TV series. PDS name their projects after Roman Emperors.
When we released Warlock - Master of the Arcane we got our asses kicked by Age of Wonders III. Not even a sequel would do the trick. So at GDC two years ago I asked @Lennart_Sas and Arno, the two founders, if they would be interested in working with @PdxInteractive in the future
At first it was half jokingly, but I guess the idea grew on us all and soon we're releasing our first game together, @APlanetfall
We were actually in discussions about publishing AoW3, but we were a bit short on cash and the only financing solution we found would make Scrooge McDuck seem like a generous guy. On the other hand, the game did really well when self-published by @TriumphStudios as well 😀
We made our first live streams from the office in 2011, and hired our first streaming producer @A_Spec in 2012. Memorable live streams includes the Leviathan Warships release stream that, due to a broken Internet connection at the office, was broadcasted from my kitchen.
We also decided early, when listing the company, that Earnings Calls was an outdated way to communicate quarterly reports, so we decided to live stream the reports to be more transparent. It's not like we're going to let any secrets slip or do any secret hints while streaming ;)
When I started at Paradox, August 1 2003, all information was stored on a single file server. The first time I opened it I saw a folder named "Stuff for the Dude". What it contained? German print files for Hearts of Iron.
When the team decided to make Victoria II, I was originally against the idea. It started as a joke, "I'll shave my head if this game makes a profit"; but this event was later to take place at E3 in June 2010. @JessicaChobot held the shaver.
Time has come to mention a few of the proudest moments of 15 years at @PdxInteractive (thanks @maralkalajian for the idea).
One big moment was the release of Europa Universalis IV. A game with around $1M total budget ended up with an 87 Metacritic score. A huge effort from the team.
Another highlight was the distribution contract with Atari in 2004. We never thought an American distributor would sign a direct deal with a 10 ppl company from Sweden but all of a sudden we had access to the US retail market.
The first sales presentation we held at Atari was at a resort in Phoenix, Arizona and the parnership with Atari also took us to exotic places like Bentonville, Arkansas.
Continuing on our proud moments:

A couple of years ago @Arumba07 posted "12 ways to make EU4 better"

24 hours later, the team replied with this video: "A reply to Arumba”

Absolute top class.
One of the biggest reasons to be proud of what we have achieved is that 95% of people at Paradox scores a 4 or 5 (out of 5) on the question "My colleagues come forward if I need help" in our yearly anonymous employee survey.
But I think the most important reason to be proud is that, although we have grown a lot lately, we have been able to keep our culture and our independence in regards to what we do and where we are going. I still recognize that 7 ppl studio I joined 15 years ago.
That was my last Tweet in the series where I ramble about the past of @PdxInteractive - now it's all about focusing on the future. Our most exciting times are ahead of us, not behind us.
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