Interview: D2C's Scott Orr Talks PSP, Digital Comics, And Ease Of Play
Representatives have officially announced the formation of D2C Games, a new video game publisher founded by former Electronic Arts executive and John Madden Football originator Scott Orr and technology expert Bart Besseling focused on delivering social games delivered through digital distribution.
D2C aims to partner with other companies to publish games on multiple platforms, including next-gen consoles, handhelds, 3G mobile devices, and PCs. As part of this announcement, D2C has also revealed that it has partnered with comic book and screen writers, game development studios as well as its own internal studio, Bigdog Games, to create and publish casual social sports games and episodic content.
Gamasutra recently spoke with Scott Orr to get his insight into D2C, a company that he notes as being “ideally positioned to take advantage of the casual market.”
“Our games will appeal to casual gamers as well as hard core gamers who simply don't have the time to devote hours to a game," Orr explained, "but who still want to be able to team up and play with friends. Social networking is a key driver that is going to set us apart, allowing users to create game content and personalize the game.”
“It goes back to basics, and being able to easily pick up and play a game without having to figure out or have to read a 50 page manual. We wont have one,” he added.
Orr, whose career highlights include managing the development group a Electronic Arts responsible for the first NHL Hockey and John Madden Football games, as well as founding leading mobile game publisher Sorrent (now Glu Mobile), also outlined D2C's very specific focus, stating, “there are a number of things that give us an advantage...we intend to focus on two very specific areas with casual social sports on one end, and episodic sci fi on the other.”
However, the executive did note that despite this, his company does plan to support next-gen consoles as well, “including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Particularly, the PS3 and Xbox 360 make a lot of sense. We are a licensed Wii developer, but we continue to wait and evaluate the console in hopes that Nintendo opens up a kind of direct download service similar to what the other consoles offer.”
“To begin with, however," he continued, "we plan to initially support the PSP. So far the PSP has had nice ports of PS2 games, but our sense is that publishers are shifting gears and putting limited resources toward next-gen development at the expense of the PSP. We will fill that gap. There is a real opportunity here to bring gamers content to that platform which is different.”
Further commenting on D2C's decision to throw support behind Sony's handheld, he explained, “For us, the PSP offers a platform that users look at as more than just a game machine. At GDC we will officially announce D² Comics, which will offer interactive comics for PSP users. These comics give writers and artists the opportunity to play at being movie directors, panning a scene to create a sense of motion, and letting the user dictate the pacing or let it run on its own.”
D2C has entered into a multi-format collaboration with comic book writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre) called Strange Cases. Strange Cases will be available in print from Image Comics and a digital video download format from D² Comics this fall and be released as an episodic game in 2008, something which Orr sees as a natural fit for his company.
“On the episodic side...there are a lot of consumers who love sci fi and horror, but who are intimidated by the top games in the genre or simply don't have the time. We are all fans of these genres as well, so to us it's an ideal fit,” he stated.
Commenting on episodic content in general, Orr offered his thoughts on the future of the medium, noting, “The challenge is how to develop the underlying engine and not charge 50-70 dollars for the end result. We have a solution to that in our proprietary Hydrant Technology. But the challenge is to keep scope in a manageable format, as well as cost in a manageable form. The temptation is to create the next great thing.”
“I think in our target segment," he added, "greatness is not determined by scope, but by delivered quality - high quality in spoonfuls. Like anything else, there is risk, and the challenges exist at all levels. The high end game is like the movies, and episodic is like television episodes. The cost differential is huge, and there is quality TV that is every bit as good as or better than the movies.”
Shifting gears to talk about D2C's efforts in creating social sports games, Orr explained, “In the case of sports, we have a reputation for success in this area. That said, we see a gap in the market, which focuses on low end free PC games and the high end games from EA, Sega, and others. Because of this, we see an opportunity in the middle, to bridge this gap.”
Upcoming releases from D2C include a series of real-time strategy sports games called Chalkboard Sports, which will also take advantage of the company's emphasis on user generated content, though specifically what this content will consist of remains uncertain.
“Well, I have to be careful with what I say here so as to not give anything away that we're not ready to talk about yet. For example, with Chalkboard Sports, players will be able to create content that allows them to personalize the experience, up to and even including putting themselves in the game,” Orr offered.
“Other than that," he continued, "I cant really talk to that part of what we're doing just yet, but it's obvious that we see the power of the medium. If you give the consumers the right tools, and frame them in the way that they can get excited about the experience, then they can tailor the experience. I believe that we have the foundation for something that can be very successful.”
Finally, Orr capped off the conversation by summarizing D2C's mission within the video game industry, commenting, “Go back to the early roots of video gaming, when games were easy to pick up and play, and emphasized the fun, as opposed to the highly complex games we see now,” he added. “These are sorts of games we are looking at. We want to create games that will be easy for anyone to pick up, and be more real-time strategy oriented rather than action or simulation.”