MIGS: All-Star Panel Talks Wii, Montreal's Future
The 2006 Montreal Games Summit closed this afternoon with a panel of video game executives, moderated by IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca, featuring Yannis Mallat of Ubisoft Montreal (Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time), Andrew Eades of Relentless Software (Buzz), Greg Costikyan of indie portal Manifesto Games, Raphael Colantonio of Arkane Studios (Dark Messiah Of Might & Magic), Remi Racine of Artificial Mind & Movement (The Ant Bully), and Alain Tascan of EA Montreal (Army Of Two).
Issues discussed during the panel included developing for the Wii, the importance of graphics, Montreal as a development hub, CEO nightmares, and CEO dreams.
Accentuate The Positive Wii!
Della Rocca opened the panel by mentioning the “negative” talks about problems in the industry he’s done for IGDA in recent years. This time around, he said he wanted to switch things up and talk about what’s good in the industry. After showing the popular “Oh my God, Nintendo 64!” video clip of a boy getting an N64 for Christmas, Della Rocca said he hoped to bring back some of the passion and excitement we’ve all felt for games in our childhood.
The discussion itself opened with a question about the amount of development support Ubisoft has shown for the Nintendo Wii. Mallat explained that developers are generally interested in learning to work for a new platform. However the Wii, with its fresh perspective and built-in innovation, is particularly attractive. While he recognized that such innovation can also be a risk, Mallat said, at Ubisoft, “We’re prepared.” Tascan added that by March, EA too will have six titles for the Wii.
How Important Are Graphics?
Next the discussion moved to the topic of graphical horsepower, and whether or not it’s still an important facet of games. Though Costikyan expressed hope otherwise, Tascan did point out that titles like Gears of War have gained praise simply because of their graphics, which, he says, “are still very important to people.”
Colantonio advised that a game has to look good for it to get played. For better or worse, graphics are important to publishers, marketers, and other people who may not be involved in the development or even playing process--but who are integral to getting a game out into the world.
Eades reminded that the importance of graphics can also range widely, depending on your audience. In the case of Brain Age, made for “people who have never played a video game before,” Eades said graphical horsepower really wasn’t an issue.
The Future Of Montreal?
Since half the panelists were based in Montreal and the other half from elsewhere in the world, it was a good opportunity to discuss Montreal as a hub for game development--from inside and outside perspectives. Colantonio said he felt a real sense of community in Montreal, through Costikyan pointed out that, with the establishment of big studios like EA and Ubisoft, there was less of an environment for small, independent development.
However, Racine explained that the public's awareness of the big studios often overshadows the remaining seventy development teams currently working in Montreal. In addition, the panelists were asked whether they thought the Canadian government was planning to end beneficial tax cuts for game developers.
Mallat seemed confidant that Montreal’s variety and strength in the field would keep the government’s attention. “We believe that competition is good, and we want to make Montreal Ubisoft the number one studio in the world.”
What Keeps You Up At Night?
Della Rocca then took the discussion to a more personal level, asking each game exec what kept him up at night. Costikyan pointed out that, as the head of a start-up that has yet to bring in a regular paycheck, he doesn’t get much sleep anyway.
Other CEOs, like Mallat, mentioned the balance between big studio politics and innovation. “We want to be this big creative powerhouse,” he said. “The industry is in the hands of the developers. We want to make sure that innovation is not ordered.” Tascan also referred to the challenge of making sure all employees are well-suited and well-used. “How do we make sure everyone who comes through the door will share something? How do we make sure they share the mission, the passion?”
From the topic of nightmares, the panelists then addressed their dreams, both personal and industry-wide. “My dream is to embrace interactivity,” said Marat, “and through this to make sure we are here at the disposal of the creators, so that the gaming experience is more than just about spending leisure time... We’re going for positive culture impact.” Added Tascan, “We’re working on the most creative media ever. I’m living my dream every day.”