and ZeroXcape got the chance to ask Kenn Hoekstra some questions
regarding Raven Softare. Kenn is the Project Administrator
at Raven Software and has been part of the Raven team since
1997. These questions range from past, to present, and even
a little future. Here you go:
ChrisC3PO: How many of the original people are around after
Hoekstra: Ah, a tricky one right off the bat! Brian
and Steve Raffel, the founding brothers, are still here and
have worked here continuously since the company's inception.
Rick Johnson and Kevin Schilder also worked on Black Crypt
from the beginning. Each left the company for a time, but
both work here today. So I guess you could say four out of
the five are still at Raven. But only two of the five have
been here the whole time.
ZeroXcape: How exactly did Raven get its name?
Hoekstra: Raven was the name of a Dungeons and Dragons
character in one of Brian and Steve Raffel's 1980's D&D campaigns.
Obviously, it was one of their favorites. =)
ChrisC3PO: What are your favorite Raven games?
Hoekstra: My personal favorites are Heretic: Shadow
of the Serpent Riders, Heretic II, Soldier of Fortune and
Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force. I have a soft spot for Take
No Prisoners since it was the first game I worked on as a
part of the Raven team. I really should re-install that on
my machine one of these days...
ChrisC3PO: With gaming companies locating themselves in
southern California, how did Raven pick Madison, Wisconsin?
I'm still wondering why I'm living in the frozen tundra!
Hoekstra: Brian and Steve grew up here in Wisconsin
and most of their family lives here. They started the company
in their hometown and I guess they liked it too much to leave.
(There have been offers to relocate us, by the way.) A goodly
percentage of Raven's staff is from Wisconsin or has lived
here a good portion of their lives. I'd say about 65 - 70%
of the staff, total.
When that many employees have lived and worked in the same
town for a number of years, it's hard to get them all to pick
up and move to Texas or California.
As a side note, Id Software was also located in Wisconsin
for a time. They were not fans of the weather, or so I'm told,
so they (wisely?) opted to relocate in greener and warmer
pastures. Raven stayed put.
ChrisC3PO: Who did you vote for on the latest LucasArts
poll: "Which fansite do you visit most often?" ;)
Hoekstra: Who do you think? =)
ZeroXcape: In past interviews, we know the LucasArts building
has monkies hanging from the ceiling, random chickens with
pulleys in the middle, and multiple light sabers in every
room. What is a typical day at the Raven offices like?
Hoekstra: Well, the staff generally filters in here
from 7:30am - 10:30am a few at a time. Some of us are early
risers and some of us...well...aren't. We're all required
to be here by 10:30am. We have a good number of meetings for
the various projects and people freely move about the office
to talk about various subjects, both work-related and not.
There are several groups (cliques?) who choose to go to lunch
together sometime between 11:30am and 1:30pm, while others
of us choose to stay in and play a game over our lunch hour.
Then it's back to work, meetings, work, fun and more work.
It's kind of hard to describe, now that I'm actually trying
to do it. Things are very laid-back here. It's all casual
dress and casual conversation. We joke and laugh a lot and
we like to pick on one another. It's all good, clean fun...in
a grade school kinda way.
ChrisC3PO: Do you prefer working in your own universes
or others (Star Wars and Star Trek?)
Hoekstra: I don't think we really have a preference.
The Fantasy stuff we've done was nice because the only restrictions
we had on the game universe were self-imposed. Having that
much creative freedom can be a very cool thing when it comes
to game design. Then again, who wouldn't jump at the chance
to work on a big-name licensed property like the ones you
Either/Or, makes little difference to us. We're just happy
to be making games.
ZeroXcape: Where do you see Raven Software eleven years
Hoekstra: Still making games. By then the PlayStation
XII(tm) should be out along with the Nintendo GameSphere(tm)
and who knows what else? Opportunities will abound for us.
In all seriousness, I would be extremely happy to still be
working for Raven and Activision ten or eleven years from
now. It's a great company to work for and you couldn't ask
for a nicer bunch of people to work with. I think we'll still
be here...and still making great games.
Mad thanks go out to Kenn for helping us get these answers,
especially on such short notice!