CANADA SPECIAL: Bedlam Games

CANADA SPECIAL: Bedlam Games
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 23rd 2009 at 9:56AM

As we turn our attention to Ontario, we visit the studio founded by former Rockstar staff...

Number of staff: 55 full-time plus approximately 10 contractors
Year founded: 2006
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Current projects: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ
Key Staff: Donald Henderson (studio GM); Trevor Fencott (CEO); Jon Paul Schelter (technical director); Zandro Chan (creative director)
www.bedlamgames.com

Established by a group of former Rockstar Toronto employees and boutique studio Groove Media in 2005, Bedlam Games is staffed by a team of veterans that have worked at a variety of Canadian studios, including those owned by Ubisoft and EA.

Although the team waited until 2007 to become a separate legal entity from Groove in 2007, the team has seen first hand Ontario’s expansion as a major player in the Canadian games industry.

“Until Ubisoft’s recent announcement that they were coming to Toronto, Bedlam was one of the only triple-A console studios to arrive in Toronto over the past several years,” explains general manager Donald Henderson.

“We’ve always seen Toronto as a huge opportunity for growth in the game development industry – it is a fantastic city to live in, it has well developed entertainment industry infrastructure, its universities and colleges are a major source of programming and art talent, and there are many expatriate Torontonians who are interested in returning to the right opportunity.”

Positioned as it is in Ontario, Bedlam has, like many Canadian Studios, been able to take advantage of tax credits and government support to help it remain competitive and create jobs to offset the losses in the region’s manufacturing sector.

“When Ubisoft announced that they were coming to Toronto, they announced that the government had committed $263 million to them over 10 years, so that’s a significant investment and it shows that the government is in this for the long haul, which is great for all developers in Ontario,” explains Bedlam chief executive officer Trevor Fencott.

And it’s not only traditional tax benefits that have helped Bedlam.

“In general, the different programs are well run and effective at meeting their objectives,” adds Fencott. “For example, the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), which runs one of the most important tax credits has been fantastic to work with.”

Bedlam currently has its workforce split across several projects, with most staff dedicated to a single project. However, it aims to evolve into a ‘2.5 team’ studio with 100 personnel within the next two years. Focused intently on project management realised through a production methodology, Bedlam is also keen to emphasise its dedication to a fulfilled workforce.

“We pride ourselves on open communication,” insists technical director Jon Paul Schelter. “People treat each other with respect. The goal is to make great games together. Right now, we have our team divided between projects with most people dedicated to one project, although there are some individuals such as tools developers who support the entire studio. One thing that we take very seriously – and something we think distinguishes us from some studios – is our focus on project management. Our production department uses PMI methodology and the team is trained in this approach.”

“I am really proud that we have stayed true to our vision of the type of company that we wanted to build, even when we went through difficult times and uncertainty – for example, when we were still a part of Groove.  We’ve had very low turnover in the company, which shows me that people are really committed to the studio,” concludes creative director Zandro Chan.