Following the recent news
that major publisher THQ has completed the purchase of Texas-based Paradigm Entertainment (Pilot Wings 64, Beetle Adventure Racing
) from Atari, alongside the Stuntman
license, Gamasutra caught up with studio head Dave Gatchel to find out about the company's history, present, and future plans.
Q: What's your background in the game industry - when did you start Paradigm and under what circumstances?
A: My background in the game industry is entirely through Paradigm. Prior to Paradigm, I worked as an engineer and technical manager within the Simulation and Training industry specializing in 3D graphics applications.
Paradigm was originally founded as Paradigm Simulation in 1990, where we focused on providing commercial products to enable graphics developers creating simulation and training applications. We also produced and delivered turn-key applications: flight simulators, human factors analysis simulations, 3D visualization applications, etc.
In 1994 we were approached by Nintendo about becoming one of the first developers for the N64, one of the “Dream Team.” Initially we spent 9 months developing a technology base that would later be the core of the Pilot Wings product, and all other N64 products that we produced.
We were fortunate enough to be the studio that was selected by Nintendo to work directly with the R&D team at Silicon Graphics (SGI) during the initial hardware integration of the N64. This was both an incredible honor and an amazing experience, and still remains one of our studios most memorable highlights.
The Pilot Wings 64
production began in earnest in June 1995 and the product was released as a launch title for the Japanese launch in June 1996. We continued to operate as a division of Paradigm Simulation until 1997 at which time we decided to spin the entertainment division out as a separate company forming Paradigm Entertainment.
Q: How did the design process for Pilot Wings 64 work? Who was helping oversee it for Nintendo, and what kind of feedback did you get to reconcile simulation and arcade aspects?
A: Pilot Wings 64
was our first game, so at the time (1995) we had very little experience as game developers. Up to that point our strength was primarily on the technology side, specializing in high-end 3D graphics tools and applications for the simulation and training industry.
Consequently, we worked cooperatively with Nintendo, Nintendo focusing on the game design and Paradigm on the technical production. Of course, as in most productions, there was a lot of cross-over between disciplines as we reconciled system limitations with design requirements. There was never any real issue related to arcade versus simulation, as the goal was always to have a more arcade feel.
Our primary contact for design was Wada-san who was a member of Miyamoto-san’s game development group. On the technical side, our primary contact was Takada-san, who at the time managed Nintendo’s R&D 3 group.
Q: What's the most surprising or interesting thing about working so directly for Nintendo on a core franchise?
A: During that period, the whole industry and process was so new to us that everything seemed very interesting and we were constantly surprised. Probably the things that resonate most are the amount of positive support we received from Nintendo, the amount of freedom we were provided, and the intensity of the production. Nintendo was a great organization to work with, and the experience of developing a launch title was truly unique.
Q: What kind of issues did you run into developing movie license titles at Infogrames? Was there particular time pressure to complete some licenses?
A: We experienced the types of issues that are typical to developing licensed products: managing the licensor approval process, content restrictions, security of licensed assets, schedule issues, etc. None of our licensed titles were planned for simultaneous release with the movie, so we didn’t experience time pressure of that nature.
Q: Can you discuss what (if any) other projects you were working on for Infogrames before the THQ acquisition?
A: Our primary focus was and still is Stuntman
. THQ purchased both Paradigm and the Stuntman
franchise during the E3 timeframe and we plan to release Stuntman for next-gen in fiscal 2008. We are also working on another project we’ll have to follow-up with you on.
We’re incredibly excited to be working on the Stuntman
franchise, especially on next generation systems. True to the original Stuntman
, the game is a 3rd person driving experience where the player is immersed as a Hollywood stuntman performing intense stunts within a variety of movie sets. As the player successfully completes the game’s precision driving stunts, new movie and commercial jobs become available to him. The game features both a single player career mode and several multi-player modes of game play. This will be our first product developed under THQ and we’re also excited about getting back to our roots by producing a great driving game.
Q: How many developers are there currently at Paradigm?
A: We currently have a staff of 65 at Paradigm, with approximately 60 of those being developers.
Q: What attracted you the most to the prospect of working for THQ?
A: THQ has shown a huge commitment to building out its internal Studio System over the past several years. While that process has resulted in growth to 1200 artists, designers, programmers, technologists, etc. spread across14 different studios, they have maintained their philosophy that each studio should be able to establish and maintain its own culture. That was very attractive to our team. We also look forward to the many resources the THQ Studio System brings to us.
Q: What's the one unlikely fact that nobody might know about Paradigm?
A: That’s a tough one. One thing that comes to mind is how long many of our employees have been with us. Our core management team has been together for over 10 years, and approximately 50% of our staff has been at Paradigm for 5 years or more. For a studio our size, that’s pretty unusual in the game industry.