Rockstar Games vice president of product development Jeronimo Barrera, a man who helped make nearly every title in the storied developer’s 20-year history, is no longer with the studio.
Barrera left Rockstar Games in mid-December, drawing to a close an enviable two-decade run that included work on every Rockstar developed Grand Theft Auto, “Bully,” “L.A. Noire,” “The Warriors,” both Manhunters and both Red Dead Redemptions, to name a few.
Barrera told Variety that with the five-year development of “Red Dead Redemption 2” drawing to a close he decided it was time to open a new chapter in his career.
“I pretty much left when it was done, it was a natural progression,” he said. “I looked at what I would be doing for the next few years if I stayed on and where I was in life with my family, my kids, my desire to make cool s**t. I felt like it was hitting all of the right points.”
Over his time at the studio, it grew from a small group of just five to the mammoth production house that includes more than two thousand employees spread out across five studios in London and North America.
“My job entailed basically steering the ship in the right direction,” he said. “With a studio team that maxed out at two thousand plus, just trying to keep the direction of all of this stuff heading in the right direction was pretty much my job.”
He also helped oversee the shift in development philosophy that turned five disparate studios into a single operating studio with five locations that worked together on single games.
“I thought it was the best decision ever to get everybody on board to centralize the technology and the pipelines,” he said. “It was a natural move and we were making sure that we had all of our best efforts making the best game possible. Not needing to reinvent the wheel every time.”
Despite spending more than two decades in the industry working on massive, award-winning titles, Barrera said he felt in some ways isolated from the rest of the game industry while at Rockstar.
His visit to the DICE Summit in Las Vegas this week was a first in his career. He said it felt like coming out of a monastery and that it is scary and fun, like being on a roller coaster.
“I’m not braggadocious,” he said. “I’, not going to try and hold a pulpit with anybody besides the people that are like-minded and want to do cool s**t. I feel that there are those guys here and there are people who want to make this artistry progressive and I want to be one of those guys again.”
He said he’s not entirely sure yet what he wants to do, but taking time to immerse himself in the discussion and talks of DICE is a good start.
“I think we are in a new dawn of the industry where there is a lot of cool shit happening in terms of the technology, not just in the console world, but with how games are published, the technology out there,” he said. “I think virtual reality and augmented reality are amazing things.
We’re just in the baby steps of that stuff.
“If I had stayed at Rockstar it would have been more GTAs, more RDRs and less of this other stuff going on out there right now.”
He added that while Rockstar could do anything they want to, it’s invigorating to know that in the current state of game development and technology that anyone could put together a small team nowadays and make something very impressive in less time.
“I didn’t know that existed in a weird way,” he said. “I’m up on the trends and know what’s going on out there. But it’s fascinating to know that whether I’m going to put together a team or consult, now there are those tools out there that help me achieve that without having the burden of thousands of people.”
Barrera also spent some time chatting about his time at Rockstar.
He said that he believes “Grand Theft Auto 5,” and specifically “GTA Online” is an underrated game.
“‘GTA Online’ was incredibly impactful,” he said. “I know it had a bit of a weird start, but it galvanized what online gaming for consoles can be.”
And he spoke with reverence about “Red Dead Redemption 2,” particularly about how a game with so many different people, from so many internal studios, came together to feel like a powerful, single work of art.
“I think it’s an amazing bit of technology that is so articulate, so granular,” he said. “You can not break that game down to any level. It like a single piece of work. It’s like the best thing ever. It took everyone in the company to make it. It’s impenetrable. You look at all of the pieces and it came together in a way that only thousands of people could put something together and it still feels like it was made by one hand.
“It’s an amazing piece of art.”
When asked about some of the issues raised in the final days leading up to the release of the game, specifically about complaints of long work days and overstressed employees, Barrera said he could only speak from his own perspective and the sacrifices he made personally.
“You make the best things in the world by being your best self,” he said. “I think Rockstar made the best stuff ever by getting the best out of people. We all work hard. The majority of the people who work at Rockstar think its all f–king great, they take care of you and it’s all fun.”
Barrera sounds like he’s still unsure what he wants to do moving forward.
“I think I want to find something that at the end of the day makes me proud to be part of it and helps to evolve the industry,” he said. “I’m very proud of everything I did with Rockstar.”