Evgeniy Tenev, producer at Creative Assembly Sofia, on the Mission to Pass on the Testament to the Next Generation

At ARC Academy, we have repeatedly said how proud we are of our lecturers – professionals in the game industry who enthusiastically pass on their knowledge and experience to students. Today we meet you with Evgeniy Tenev, with whom we talk about the role of the producer, the mission of the mentor, and the immense possibilities of the game industry.

Evgeniy Tenev has many years of experience as a producer at Gameloft, where he worked on mobile games such as March of Empires and Heroes of the Dark. He recently joined the Creative Assembly Sofia team as a lead game producer. He mentors the students at ARC Academy who develop their first game in the so-called Game Lab – the last semester of studies. His obsession with video games began in a garage with four computers, where he stopped to play 8-bit games. In the 1990s, it was incredible to imagine that video games could be made in Bulgaria. “We looked at the people who make games as if they were mini-gods,” says Еvgeniy with a smile.

His path from that garage to high positions in the biggest game studios goes through the University of Economics, where he studied Machine Information Processing. He also graduated in Bulgarian philology because he was fascinated by literature. It is because of this passion that he decided to participate in a competition of the magazine for computer and console games, Games Workshop, for a story about the first Bulgarian game, Tzar. It got published and he started working there.

Profession “Video Game Producer” 

For 20 years, “with small breaks,” the boy from the garage with the games has been a part of the game industry. He says one of the most important qualities a producer should possess is empathy. “When it is missing, it becomes difficult and people feel it,” explains Evgeniy. The producer’s role is not to stand by and watch, giving instructions and explaining what the deadlines are. He has to “roll up his sleeves”, get into the project and help with whatever is needed, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal, he shares his experience.

Being a producer doesn’t require technical skills, it requires working with people. The most important thing in this profession is to know the market, to have an eye on the project, to know where it is going, and to do what is necessary to move in that direction. It involves an awful lot of communication. There is a term a servant leader – you are there to serve, to do everything possible for the people around you to do their jobs. “If there’s a problem in the code, I can’t solve, here comes the lead. I can’t give feedback on an illustration. There is a lead and this is in his field of expertise”, explains Evgeniy Tenev.

“It is very important to listen to people and to trust each other. In all these years, no one has let me down. I delegate tasks to people on the team, which helps them grow.”

According to Еvgeniy, it’s romantic to talk about sleepless nights, but the producer’s goal is to have none. If there are, it means that he did not do his job well – either he did not estimate the scale of the project, or he did not have enough people. Because of his mistakes, people sacrifice their free time and sometimes even their health. “I have made many such mistakes, but one learns, one begins to see the problems before they appear,” he explains.

There are undoubtedly many challenges in the work of a producer, but what is the sweetest moment, we ask Evgeniy? Without thinking, he answers – The first update release. “This happened relatively soon after I started working in this position at Gameloft. When I joined the project, we were on update 2, now it’s 56.”

He adds that after so many years, the thrill has not been lost. It’s exciting to see an idea that was on a piece of paper or a PDF come to life and become a hero. “It’s like a living organism, like your friend that you teach to walk, talk, and raise,” says the producer.

The mission of a mentor

Evgeniy Tenev manages to find time and energy to help the students at ARC Academy, who have been developing the Chainer game in our Game Lab for the past few months. He gladly accepts the role of their mentor because he believes that the future lies with the children.

“The people who carry the spark and will continue this covenant are the generations after us. A person between 20 and 30 years old experiments and does what he wants. From 30 to 40, he should already be more confident in what he does. From there on, he passes on his knowledge to the people after him”, says the producer.

When he started his professional journey, there was no one to help him, there was no place like ARC Academy. He believes that with the knowledge we have today and can pass on, the next generation of developers will save a lot of time wandering around and be able to start a few steps ahead of us. “That’s the idea – to share your experience and skills with the children and for them to become better than you.”

Talks about the game creation process with ARC students. Everyone has a task: one makes the design, the other – the concept art, the third – the 3D character, and the fourth put it into the engine and starts animating it. When this process is done according to the so-called good practices, things work out without tension.

“The boys and girls had the desire, but they lacked a few tiny steps to take in a certain direction. It took very little for them to be able to see what they came up with implemented in the engine. To see how their man comes to life and begins to carry out commands, how he participates in a plot that they have invented”.

“The game turned out on a larger scale than they had planned at the beginning, but for them, the appetite comes with the food,” says Yevgeny with a smile. “They realized the goal and were able to focus on the important things. At each milestone, they performed enviably well. In my opinion, then they realized the sweet taste of what it is like to work in a team”, says Evgeniy.

It is the ability to work in a team that is among the most important things for anyone who wants to make a career in the game industry.

“When I hire a person, no matter what discipline, it’s more important for me to see not what they can do now, but what their desire is to develop in the industry. If he does not have the skills to work with people, it will be difficult to get things done”, says Evgeniy Tenev. It is because of this from the next academic year, he will lead a class at ARC Academy on soft skills – how to communicate with others and how to give and receive feedback.

The gaming industry – is welcoming and promising 

Youngsters undoubtedly have an interest in video games and are interested in the possibilities of turning their hobby into a profession. At the same time, parents’ attitudes are changing in a positive direction. According to a survey we conducted with the marketing agency BluePoint, 80% of parents have a positive attitude towards the game industry and think their children can professionally realize themselves in it.

Evgeniy Tenev is emphatic: “This is an industry that will not stop developing soon.” He is the father of a teenager who dreams of being a developer. The moment to enter the field is very suitable – the industry is yet to pass through new horizons – VR, artificial intelligence, etc.

“In the game industry in Bulgaria, there is a hunger for people who want to develop themself. In this environment, one easily finds one’s place, because people have a lot in common with each other”, explains the producer.

“Looking at the conversion rate of students graduating from ARC Academy*, this is something that has yet to take off. There’s something in this field that I haven’t seen in other places – you can easily grow, change discipline, and retrain. This dynamic greatly helps the development of the industry. We don’t need to limit ourselves only to Bulgaria. Some children would do very well on a global scale, and this should not surprise anyone,” Evgeniy Tenev is emphatic.

* 85% of ARC’s successful graduates start their careers in the game and creative industry.