Winter 2010 Q & A with Brad Wardell

Published on Saturday, February 6, 2010 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

First off, let me apologize to everyone who PMs me, emails me, facebooks me, etc.  I don’t mean to blow anyone off. I am generally so swamped that I just don’t get to my email.  So what I’m going to start doing is answering some of the more common messages I get here and simply refer people here instead.

Second, obviously, I’m dangerously lazy.

Third, for those who are wondering who the heck I am, I’m the President & CEO of Stardock.  To get a fuller story you can read this wall of text I wrote 6 years ago.

So here are answers:

Q: I want to be a game designer, what classes should I take?

A: Software development. You need to be a programmer first. There is no lack of ideas for games. It’s always a question of execution. Knowing what’s involved in making something a reality is absolutely crucial and in game design, that means programming. It also helps if you’re an artist – which I’m not.

Q: I want to be a game artist, any suggestions?

A: I’m not an artist but I do know the guys really look at how well one can draw without computers. If your ability to sketch, paint, or draw something is poor, you may want to consider a different career path. There are a lot of guys who come in knowing how to do great things with 3D Studio, Maya or After Effects but those skills alone, while important, won’t make someone competitive imo.

Q: What’s more important? Intelligence or Charisma.

A: Neither. Self Discipline would be my answer. The ability to make yourself work on something even when you really don’t want to is very important.

Q: Do people have to work long hours to be successful?

A: Depends on how you define “success”. Accomplishment = Productivity X Time. 

Q: Can you name any unique traits that you think might give you an advantage? High intelligence? Ability to learn new things quickly? Creativity? Wisdom?

A: I don’t think I necessarily have any of those traits in any great degree or certainly not enough to given me a unique advantage. I would say I am unusually healthy. I don’t get sick. Ever. And while I like sleep, I don’t normally get tired.  Though ironically, this past Friday I was so tired I had to go home early. Thinking about your email jinxed it.

Q: What personal trait do you think is most harmful to success?

A: Pride. Worrying about your pride will ruin you if you let it. Focus on achieving something excellent.

Q: What motivates you? Money? Power? Glory?

A: None of the above. I really enjoy working on excellent things. If you create something exceptional, the rest will take care of itself.

Q: What got you into skinning [referring to things like WindowBlinds]

A: I really like having my computer look, feel, and function exactly how I want it. I guess I’m an extreme individualist.

Q: I’ve read that you’re a Valve “fanboy”. If so, why make Impulse? Do you really think Impulse can beat Steam?

A: Well first, I’m a fanboy of Valve because they are everything I admire – excellent. I don’t really see Impulse or Steam as an either/or thing. I use Steam. I don’t want Steam to be “beaten”. But I think as excellent as Steam is, there is a lot more to go and I do not like concentrations of power. I think a lot of people feel the same way we do otherwise Impulse’s sales wouldn’t be increasing at such a ridiculous rate. People want Impulse to succeed for the same reasons I do – we want multiple options and we want to keep all these guys on their toes. 

I also like Intel a lot but I’m glad there’s an AMD. 

Q: Don’t you think Stardock is getting a little too big for its CEO to hang out on Internet forums mixing it up with its fans and detractors?

A: The job of a CEO is to satisfy the shareholders. As the principle shareholder, I’m satisfied. Seriously though, I got into this sort of thing as a forum user in the first place. I ran BBSes back in the 80s before I could drive a car. The architect of our community IT here at Stardock was actually the owner of the competing BBS from back then (we’ve worked together now 20+ years).   So participating on forums is the ends, not the means of doing what I do.

Q: What do you think is one of the most important ingredients in a successful software company?

A: Low turn over.  When people visit or join Stardock they’re amazed at how low our turn over is.  The last person to voluntarily leave Stardock left last June. It was a big deal. We had a going away party and we were sad but happy for his new endeavor.  Low turn over is important because the longer good and talented people are around, the more company-specific knowledge they accumulate.  As a result, we can do a lot more with a lot fewer people. 

Q: Do you really believe software piracy isn’t a problem?

A: This view is often ascribed to me. Piracy absolutely is a problem. The question is how do you deal with it? Every time I see someone warezing one of our programs it upsets me. I saw some guy posting links to CursorFX and IconPackager the other day. It’s like “Really? Really? Those programs are less than 10 bucks and took a lot of time and effort.” I can totally relate to the urge to put draconian copy protection on things. But I don’t want to do things that punishes legitimate customers. I don’t want legitimate users to feel like chumps for playing by the rules.  That’s my position.  That’s why CDs in the drive bugged me. That’s why entering codes bugged me. Or why things that installed extra stuff just for copy protection bugged me.  I’ll buy your stuff happily, just don’t treat me feel like a fool for doing so.