For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Lesley Mathieson, Design Director for High Impact Games on their PSP title Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters.
The game was released in the US in mid February, and will be hitting European shelves at the end of this month. “The launch of Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters has been extremely exciting for us,” says Mathieson. “This is High Impact Games’ first full product, and we are extremely proud to see it out and in players’ hands.”
Mathieson notes that the team’s goal was to “bring a PS2 Ratchet experience to a handheld system” and adds that the generally positive reception from gamers and so far “from forums and letters” has been “really rewarding”. Next up, she says, the team will be “taking a break and considering the future”. While Mathieson doesn’t specify exactly where the future will take High Impact Games, she does comment cagily that there are “a lot of great opportunities” that stand as possibilities for the company.
“Our technical team is certainly capable of handling not only portable systems, but home console systems as well. It is an exciting time for us, to see where our work will lead us.”
We spoke to Mathieson recently, and took the time to ask about the Lombax in her media stew of late.
Sounds: "I listen to a wide variety of music. I’ve always been into some 70’s rock: Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, early Aerosmith, and so on. I’m also a big fan of Tom Petty, Don McLean, and Simon & Garfunkel. There are some more modern bands I am more into - The Strokes, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Matchbox 20 come to mind.
Lately I’ve really gotten into Jonathan Coulton. If you haven’t listened to his stuff, it’s worth checking out his web site – Re: Your Brains is a fun ballad between a zombie and the guy he’s got trapped inside a mall. I like any music that has striking lyrics and a fairly melodic tone.
Another thing that’s exciting to me is how music affects games. I feel we have only scratched the surface of music’s relationship to design. Music automatically enhances a game experience a huge amount. I do all my prototype and gameplay tuning with sound turned off – if it’s a fun experience then, I know with the addition of music, it will be an incredible experience.
I’ve also used scores when designing challenges using timing – one famous classical piece was the basis of a grindrail challenge I did in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. I think that there’s a huge amount of room for using music as a hint to players as to when they should interact with objects, or to guide them towards different kinds of gameplay. Music has the potential to be as crucial a part of design as visuals are now."
Moving Pictures: "I was a film student in college, and had the opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of films. My gamer side also encourages my love for science fiction films in particular. I have a weakness for old monster movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s. So it’s hard to name a single favorite, but some of the top movies I love are Gremlins 2, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Matinee, Strangers on a Train, Iron Giant, When Worlds Collide, Performance, and Metropolis. I like them all for very different reasons.
The Creature From The Black Lagoon is a particular favorite of mine as I find the film just beautiful to watch. The giant machinery and art deco look to Metropolis has inspired so much in media. I admire films with solid story construction, unexpected twists, and monsters!
Last weekend I went and watched all five best picture nominees in a single - very long! - sitting. Helen Mirren had a great performance in The Queen. I think I enjoyed Letters From Iwo Jima and Little Miss Sunshine the most. Little Miss Sunshine is easily one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a while. I also saw Pan’s Labyrinth recently – this is just an astounding, beautiful film, and I would recommend it to anyone."
Words: "I read a lot. Novels, graphic novels, comic books, anything I can get my hands on. I really like science fiction, but I read a wide variety of stuff overall. I also have gotten very interested in young adult books lately – since the introduction of Harry Potter, I feel like young adult books have gone into more interesting areas of fantasy than adult books have covered lately. I’m also a big Arthurian buff and will read almost anything related to the Arthurian mythology.
My favorite authors are T.H. White, Iain M. Banks, Gerald Durrell, and Jack Vance. Iain M. Banks in particular has done some really incredible books, and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve picked up by him. He includes his middle initial in only his science fiction titles.
Right now I’m reading several books: Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, Three Days to Never by Tim Powers, Sir Thursday by Garth Nix, and Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. That isn’t including the ton of comics I regularly follow - I walk out each week from the comic store with a giant stack under my arm.
I look for books that have well constructed stories, interesting writing styles, and above all look into the fantastic and unexpected beneath the surface of reality. Reading has always been my first love, and I think it provides a steady stream of new and novel ideas to be exposed to."
Games: "Beyond Good and Evil is one of the top games in my collection, and undoubtedly the one I enjoyed most. It had the perfect balance of variety, gameplay, and story and came together really well. Not enough people have played this game and seen how amazing it is.
In addition to that, I loved Kingdom Hearts for its incredibly variety, Pikmin for its charming design and characters, The Sims’ open ended, player created stories, Pokemon’s incredibly focused design, and all the genetic details that went on below the surface in Creatures. I’ve always had a love for PC RPGs as well; the Ultima series, Morrowind, and the original D&D Gold Box games are among my favorites.
These days I spread out my time among a variety of games. I like playing MMORPGs and have accounts on World of Warcraft and Everquest II. On console, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XII, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves and Rayman: Raving Rabbids. I also love handheld games, and lately have been occupied by Pokemon Ranger, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Neopets: Petpet Adventures.
I don’t make a distinction between games targeted for adults and games targeted for kids. I like to see how the games are constructed and whether they draw you in. A great game should be able to pull in any kind of audience. I’m just as comfortable playing Half-Life 2 as I am picking up Pokemon."