Carnegie Mellon University

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RI Seminar: Ian Davis
From Robograd to Rockstar™: Lessons in Transforming from a Naive Academic to a Stressed Out Entrepreneur (& Why You’d Have To Be Insane to Do It)

Ian Davis
Rockstar New England

February 24, 2012, 3:30PM - 4:30PM, NSH 1305

Armed with a PhD in Robotics, I set out in 1996 to explore AI in the virtual worlds of video games while waiting for physical robots to evolve into the daily companions promised by Star Wars. After an illuminating and occasionally disturbing time at a big video game company, I decided to start my own video game company with no cash, no contracts, and really no realistic hope of survival. Over 9 years, we navigated the rocky shores of capitalism, nearly running aground many, many times before finally, desperately, and gladly selling the company to Rockstar Games (my heroes!), where we work on the greatest video games of all time. In this talk (which could be considered in the Horror genre), I will tell the tale of the fateful decision to leave academia and naively chase the capitalist dream (go 1%!). Meanwhile, I’m still waiting on C3PO; hurry up, guys.

Additional Information

Host: Al Kelly

Appointments: Jean Harpley

Speaker Biography

In 1996, Dr. Davis earned his PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon and set out to work on AI and virtual characters in video games. After working at Activision from 1996 to 1999 as Technical Director, Dr. Davis founded Mad Doc Software, and independent game developer for PCs and gaming consoles. In addition to owning and running the studio, Dr. Davis directed a number of the studio's hit games, including Empire Earth 2, Star Trek Armada II, and Star Trek Legacy. In 2007, Dr. Davis was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. In 2008, after finishing Bully: Scholarship Edition for the Xbox 360, Mad Doc Software was acquired by Rockstar Games. Dr. Davis is currently Studio President for Rockstar New England, a Rockstar Games studio, where he has worked on a number of Rockstar hits, including Bully: Scholarship Edition, Red Dead Redemption, and the upcoming Max Payne 3.