Vancouver game developer Jamie Cheng has paved his own path to success through Klei Entertainment

Wired, a tech-trend monthly which I’m sure you’ve all heard of, recently featured Jamie Cheng, a Vancouver-based game developer who abandoned a cushy seat in a major gaming company to start a basement studio.

Jamie programmed artificial intelligence for the military-science-fiction, real-time strategy video game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. The game was a big project, and it was a big success. But as Jamie moved on to do programming for another forthcoming title, The Outfit, his dream job lost the rose-coloured gloss.

Leaving The Outfit project, Jamie sought game development of a more fulfilling nature: he wanted greater control of the creative elements. he wanted to found his own gaming studio. He did, in 2005. He called it Klei Entertainment, and its headquarters were in a basement he was renting from a friend.

shank

Forward five years, and Klei is a 16-person team in a real downtown Vancouver office. Klei’s latest project, Shank, has been picked up by video game titan Electronic Arts.

Jamie talked to Wired about the benefits of a tiny team—and he’s an expert, given his detailed experiences on both sides of the fence.

It’s not just about the final product, Cheng says, it’s about the process. Working in a smaller group brings out the best in creative people, he says, because “you wear more hats, you get to do more things.”

“Everyone’s more involved,” he says. “When the company gets larger, there’s pressure to put people into boxes. That’s not fulfilling for people. That’s not how they’re going to eventually do their best.”