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Interview with Benjamin Gifford, Vice Dev Director of Evony

We took the opportunity to have a short interview with Benjamin Gifford, Vice Development Director of Evony, and also the Vice President of its publisher Top Games Inc.

Benjamin Gifford interview
Benjamin Gifford interview

Q1. Please provide us with a brief introduction of yourself and your company.

Benjamin Gifford: I’m the Vice President at Top Games Inc. The company was founded in 2015 by game enthusiast and industry expert David Guo, and since then has grown globally to over 500 staff across Hong Kong, the United States, and Australia. I was brought on by David at the beginning, and we’ve been working hard ever since. While I spend most of my waking time focused on Top Games seven days a week, I also enjoy breeding Quarter Horses and volunteering as a firefighter.

Q2. Evony: The King’s Return has achieved great success, can you share more details about the development and operations of the game with us? 

Gifford: Evony has grown from that initial flash browser game so many years ago, and it has left a tell-tale mark on 4X Strategy games you can find across the app stores now. We believe that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, and encourage the team at Top Games to explore all aspects of the company to seek improvements.

Often development teams focus on this idea of perfection, that we won’t let something out in the marketplace if it isn’t 100%. But while you’re doing that you’re being passed by competition who leapfrog beyond whatever iteration of perfection you’re trying to achieve. Perfection isn’t the goal, excellence should be what you’re striving for. Looking at the leaders in your field, they would probably never have a perfect product or service but what they do have is excellence.

To achieve excellence you need to be methodically, relentlessly, and persistently striving for constant innovation with incremental and sequential roof shots. This is how to make products and services better and updates more impactful. By passionately pursuing these roof shots, Top Games Inc. identifies and achieves moonshots. Both roof shots and moonshots are valued, desired, and rewarded.

The only way to keep your goal striving for excellence is to empower the team and make decisions with data so we can fail early, fail often but fail forward. The team shouldn’t feel that they are in job protection mode, they should instead be stretching their capabilities, growing constantly, and not satisfied with how things are right now.

So don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid of not dreaming, taking calculated risks, and leaving the ego behind while we pivot, adjust and move ahead together. Let the data guide and don’t be afraid to dream big!

Q3. How does Top Games Inc. make profits when most of the games are free to play?

Gifford: We operate in a lean, open, and flat structure. For our engineering department, every engineer has less than three management levels to the CEO while managers and team leaders have more than seven direct reports. We work hard to ensure all information is shared throughout Top Games freely wherever possible except for legal or privacy reasons, because each member of Top Games is a thinker and builder, and these types of people need the information to create the best value for our players. We focus also on context, not control. Top Games employees should be excellent independent decision-makers who only approach their management when they are doubtful of the best course of action. It is the duty of the leaders at all levels of Top Games to establish a clear context so that people have the information they need to make wise judgments.

We’ve created a place where everyone always has a sense of ownership and acts in the best interest of Top Games and our culture. Everyone has a responsibility. To do the right things always to ensure our goals and values are maintained. And by giving the team as much information as freely available, supporting their decisions, and empowering them, Top Games expects the team to discover and fix problems proactively. The team at Top Games is our greatest resource and it’s this resource we heavily invest in first that creates record-setting profits.

Q4. Aside from Evony, would you recommend other games developed by Top Games Inc?

Gifford: Games are like ice cream, everyone has their favorite flavor. And when it comes to interactive art, what one person enjoys might be different than what someone else likes. Therefore Top Games is looking to achieve game category champion titles so that there’s a terrific Top Games game experience no matter if you’re wanting 4X Strategy, RPGs, Match 3, or more.

Like, merge games? Try Infinity Clan as you build up your island and grow it into a unique stronghold. Merge units to build stronger ones, and expand your island by exploring and merging lands you’ve conquered.

Like Zombie Survivors, RPGs, and First Person Shooters? Try Plague of Z. We’ve created a terrific hybrid genre where you lead your team to survive as you rescue and recruit fellow survivors. I really like the first-person shooter elements where you fight against hordes of zombie waves to gain territory and items as it makes you feel you’re right there in the apocalypse.

Q5. Any new announcements for Top Games Inc.?

Gifford: There are two new games currently slated for release by the end of 2022 and more in 2023. We’ve also launched Evony: The King’s Return on PC and Mac which really allows you to fully enjoy the rich graphical atmosphere of the game on a large screen. Extremely smooth, players who have tested it have said they really enjoy this user experience.

After Evony won the NYX Silver Award In the 2022 NYX Game Awards Season 1 cycle, CEO and co-founder David Guo was interviewed by TechBullion, stating the values and execution drivers of the game development team, as well as thoughts and views on the future of the game industry, etc. Interested players can further read: Focus on the interview with David Guo after Evony won.


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