It was big news earlier this week when Raphael Colantonio announced that he is leaving Arkane, the studio he founded in 1999. He'd shepherded it through a small but enviable range of games, from its cult-favorite debut Arx Fatalis to the big-budget hits Dishonored and Prey, and generally speaking that's not the kind of guy you want to see bail out. But as he said in an interview during the Gamelab conference (via GamesIndsustry), after nearly two solid decades he needed a break.
"Leaving this is actually a hard, hard choice, but at the same time I've been doing this for 18 years. I feel like I've never ever sat down, for even a minute," Colantonio said. "It's been a non-stop run, and I do feel like I need to take a break and rest for a while, and spend time on more personal projects—play music, spend time with my son, anything that isn't work related and not pressure related."
As he explained to GamesIndustry, that includes both the "negative pressure" of trying to keep a small indie studio afloat—I loved Arkane's early games, but they weren't exactly big hits—and the "positive pressure" of running a large studio and making games that live up to very high expectations. "I will always favor the pressure of making things than the pressure of not having oxygen," he said. "But that's been my life for the past 18 years; alternating between the pressure of lacking oxygen and the pressure of making impossible things."
He also touched on how the game industry has changed over the past couple of decades, which he implied left him feeling disconnected from the work. On Arx, which was developed by a relatively tiny team, Colantonio is credited as the lead designer, game director, and one of the level designers and programmers, but working on Dishonored, "we became so big—and I'm not talking about 600 people team big, but it was big enough for us—there's a moment where, as an artist, you're not sure what you control and what you don't control any more."
Colantonio emphasized that his departure from Arkane was entirely amicable—"I love Arkane, and I love Bethesda"—and he also left the door open to a return to the industry, saying, "Maybe that's a possibility." But not anytime soon, or to anything big: "Something small, where I don't have to worry about feeding 100 people."