Part of a recent interview I did with Kieron Gillen just went up on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I’ll post links when the rest of the interview emerges. Here are some quotes:
RPS: Ballooning team size is a trend which has been well discussed over the last decade, but do you think that’s reversing slightly on the PC now? As long as you set your sights intelligently…
Soren: I’m in an odd position, going from Civ 4 which was a big project, to Spore which is a mammoth project… but it’s just that I think most of the stuff which is going to benefit from smaller teams is going to be stuff comes across the web. We see that all the time now. It’s finally a viable market. Think of Defcon. That game didn’t have art. Which is brilliant.
RPS: Very artfully chosen unart, if you know what I mean.
Soren: It’s a weird feeling – I play the game, and it looks great, because they chose a brilliant style. It doesn’t need art. It just fits their game perfectly. But the interesting thing to me about Defcon is that the size of the game is right. It’s a pretty good game – it’s not quite a brilliant game, but it’s a fun game to play. But you can’t say that it’s too simple or too complex. It reminded me of a lot of RTS’s when I first discovered them a decade ago. Now it’s really difficult with an RTS to…
RPS: Not submit to the endless feature bloat. You have to have all the bullet-points.
Soren: Yeah, you can’t make it without a campaign and scenarios and an editor and cutscenes and all that extra junk. Really, that junk is preventing us from making more interesting games. It’s kind of a paradox. Obviously, people want that junk, and it’s a good thing for those people. And the editors with which people make their own scenarios is great… but that stuff all comes at a cost. I think maybe we’re starting to realise that now. The answer is that the economics get turned entirely around when you don’t have to deal with Best Buy and Wal-Mart and what not.
RPS: People endlessly talk about the declining PC, but the figures never include those specific areas where the PC is expanding – the online sales, MMOs. When we started RPS, for me it was about trying to redefine what a PC Game is to include all that. I’m sure Peggle will be in everyone’s top 10 games this year… but can you imagine a game like Peggle being included in mainstream PC talk a few years ago?
Soren: Or Desktop: Tower Defense. That’s an awesome game too. I play that more than most strategy games I’ve played this year. Which is weird but… what does that mean? So yeah, absolutely. The PC Market is no one thing any more. There’s no sales figures you can look at. The question is simply is “What is the variety coming through? What are the different options available we didn’t have three or four years ago”. For me, PC Gaming should be like Punk Rock – being able to do whatever you want. And people are forgetting that the Punk period isn’t just the Ramones and the Sex Pistols… it’s Talking Heads, Televisions, Patti Smith, Pere Ubu, Gang of Four… this huge variety of stuff because people were making it up as they were going along. It was easy enough to make music that people did what they wanted to. And that’ll always be the advantage of PCs.
RPS: I interviewed Doug Church about what it was like developing when the PC had started being a real gaming platform, circa 92 or whatever. And, basically, when doing Shock they just didn’t know what they were doing. They were original by default. In the following 15 years, like the feature bloat, by learning what works, it also limits you a bit. The people in the mainstream need to work out what ELSE works. But the European teams try stuff which no-one else does, because they don’t know any better. Like the Bohemia Armed-Assault guys, trying forever working on their butterflies…
Soren: That’s games. And it’s funny how much pleasure people can get from little things in games which you’ve never seen before. I know what you mean – think about RTS. What does that term mean? Now it means a very specific thing… but what else is Real time strategy? The first Sim City was real time strategy. Populous was an RTS. Rollercoaster Tycoon is RTS. You could say M.U.L.E. was RTS. Obviously Defcon and Darwinia are. RTS should be the biggest category there is, but right now it’s very, very specific. There are a few triple A titles which are trying to push it – World in Conflict was an interesting take on that. But you need people to come along who aren’t intimidated by all the stuff that exists already in the genre.