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Interview: EA's Riccitiello On Having Faith In  Mirror's Edge , Grasshopper Manufacture
Interview: EA's Riccitiello On Having Faith In Mirror's Edge, Grasshopper Manufacture Exclusive
October 16, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander

October 16, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Electronic Arts’ anticipated Mirror’s Edge has earned plenty of pre-release enthusiasm among press and fans alike thanks to a few key ways it bucks first-person genre trends -– but the game almost wasn’t first-person at all, explains Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello.

Speaking to Gamasutra, and continuing a recent series of interview extracts, Riccitiello says that at first, the idea of a first-person game with no shooting seemed risky and made him "a little freaked out" as a concept. In a particular meeting on the title, he was "pushing the bejesus" out of the idea that the game should be a third-person title.

"I was totally convinced that game needed to be third-person and not first-person, because I wanted to see Faith," Riccitiello says. Hence the DICE-developed game’s titular mirrors – "It didn’t have mirrors in it before the meeting -- I got mirrors so you can see her."

And now that he’s seen the end result, Riccitiello admits, “I was really wrong about the third-person thing.”

The conversation came as Riccitiello reflected on how two of EA’s most eagerly-awaited titles "bookend a degree of risk for a large publisher," in that they aim to invent outside of traditional genre boundaries. There’s Mirror’s Edge, the first-person game with no shooting, and the just-launched Dead Space, which seeks new innovations on the traditionally niche survival horror genre.

"I think it can be fairly stated that one might not have imagined a major Western publisher putting out either Mirror’s Edge or Dead Space a year ago," says Riccitiello. "I’m really proud we’re putting them out."

The Grasshopper Effect

Another surprise for a Western publisher of EA’s size was the company’s recent partnership with offbeat, cult favorite Japanese talent Grasshopper Manufacture – and it wasn’t an easy decision. "I agonized about that one a little bit," Riccitiello says.

"GHM is a merger of a couple creative forces that, if I were to use a sports analogy, these are the guys that go into the stands and beat up the fans, instead of just trying to upset the apple cart and try things differently."

But just as he eventually decided to trust the judgment of the DICE team with the decision to keep Mirror’s Edge a first-person title -- "as a general thesis, I talk a lot about trusting creative people and supporting them" -– Riccitiello decided the partnership would be a good move.

Getting a look at GHM’s tech helped, too. "Our team had a chance to get inside their tech and understand what they were building, and we felt this made sense for us for a couple of reasons,” says Riccitiello. “We thought their creative vision was right; we thought we could help make a difference for them. We’re feeling good about it."

"The question was whether they were committed to something great – they are. Sometimes, talent can be hidden in a persona, and that persona can suggest that there isn’t talent. I think we concluded there is talent in the delivery."

Whither Brutal Legend?

EA’s apparent development of a progressive attitude toward unexpected titles has fueled rumors that the publisher might pick up Double Fine’s odd – but fan-favorite – heavy metal action anthem Brutal Legend, dropped in the shuffle of Activision’s merger with Vivendi.

"I have seen it," says Riccitiello. "I am well aware of what the game is. It’s a very significant creative risk."

And though EA's CEO won’t offer specific comments on whether or not the company has plans for the title, he adds, "Sometimes significant creative risks end up being some of the world’s best products. Spore was also a significant creative risk. So was The Sims. Portal, BioShock. But so was [the relatively poor-selling, if critically acclaimed] Grim Fandango"

The latter, like Brutal Legend, was designed by Tim Schafer -- a connection surely not lost on Riccitiello.

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Simon Carless
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Apologies, but we've had to remove the anonymous comments here, and at least for now, we've turned off the option to comment anonymously.

It was created to allow people to comment constructively on subjects which they otherwise could not do, but as of recent, it's become more of a tool for non-constructive trolling. If you're going to criticize someone out of hand, going forward, you'll need to do it with your real name.



[Publisher, Gamasutra.]

Maurício Gomes
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John seemly is losing his power inside EA, whoooray, no more killed companies!

We will live a better time when DICE and DSI (EA Canada since... 15 or 16 years ago?) buy themslves out, like Bungie did with MS, when this day happen I will consider (in fact as some people say, I would kill, figuratively of course) working there (DICE and DSI, not EA!)

Patrick Dugan
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I think we need to lower the leverage (dev-cost and cycle-time) and up the risk. I suppose Ricitello has never traded currencies.

Sean Parton
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It's nice to see that EA has at least some sort of positive connection to crazy, different ideas. I'm especially interested to see what comes of the partnership with Grasshopper Manufacture. No More Heroes was an awesome game, but it had some definite technical and design problems, and I'm curious to see how that changes with the partnered sequel.

@Simon Carless, off topic: Anonymous comments, while they have been thoroughly abused here, are very important when dealing with controversial topics (something that definitely occurs here). Would it be possible for Gamasutra to instead implement a feature that hides/shows Anonymous posts? I know Anonymous Cowards (as they're called on Slashdot) will often come in and unprofessionally troll anything they don't like, but sometimes, the most important pieces of information can only be properly shared in a veil of concealment.

John Paris
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you could just create an Alias account? (no not a maya one lol. ;))

John Paris
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*ponders* I guess that pun isn't actually relevant now that they're all owned by Autodesk heh.

Simon Carless
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I do agree that there are some good examples of anonymous comments being used for good on the site, Sean - particularly with some of the quality of life and crediting discussions.

We've agonized over this, obviously, since we liked that a lot, but if you look at the percentage of unhelpful vs. helpful, it's pretty obviously weighted a lot in favor of unhelpful. (And it's not that we have a problem with negative comments, just insulting ones that aren't well thought-out because a commenter has flipped on the anonymous comment and disengaged his brain.)

We'll see how things go - we're open to re-enabling if people can behave.

Mickey Mullasan
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Developing a tough skin to criticism is vital to an expression of your own opinion. I personally think negative unhelpful comments are like a breath of fresh air the can reveal what is truly going on through people's minds. Otherwise you're just asking people to put up a veil of propriety so that feelings are not hurt. That's pretty dull if you ask me.

David Tarris
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Patrick, I think he's concerned, not that it will be a bad game, but that it won't sell well.

David Tarris
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And Mickey, there's a difference between being critical and being inflammatory. Anonymity breeds the latter, and encourages people to speak more passionately and less logically. I don't seen any benefits that come from being a jerk to someone.

Mickey Mullasan
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Inflamatory comments are easier to dismiss then logical ones unless the person expressing the opinion has not developed the proper ability to shake it off. If you can not ignore a personal attack then why would you ever want to express your opinion? Why make yourself open to criticism that you yourself are not equipped to handle? That makes no sense.

Robert Farr
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I can understand the decision and I don't envy the folks who eventually decided to take it (And the potential consequences of doing so). Still, at least it helps drive some of the angry internet men (Term coined by Rock Paper Shotgun I do believe) back to forums and what not.

Back on topic, its nice to see Riccitiello is able to distance himself on making decisions about games such as Mirrors Edge, sometimes you've just got to trust the developers vision and hope it pays off. If the implementation is right and the developers heart is in the right place, it usually does.

jaime kuroiwa
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Leigh was (or now is) fully aware of the flame she was fanning when bringing up Brutal Legend, just as Mr. Riccitiello would never commit to anything without some kind of official announcement prior.

Personally, I think that any developer with the pedigree of Double Fine/Tim Schafer should be given serious consideration, despite it being a "very significant creative risk." Sure, the numbers may not add up in unknown-land, but the thought of supporting what should be a creative industry is enough, right?

Steven An
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Dear Mr. Riccitiello,

If you sign Brutal Legend within the next month, I promise I will buy 2 copies. At least.

Just doing my part :)

I hate to say it, but I can see why Grim Fandango failed in sales. The actual gameplay was fairly mediocre, and only a very niche audience is willing to drudge through the illogical, inane puzzles of old-school adventures. Of course, everything else was amazing. But people (should) buy games for gameplay - not everything else. I think the same issue plagued Psychonauts to a lesser extent - it had some awesome gameplay, but it had some horrible parts too. I hope Double Fine has learned from that, and will deliver awesome game play with awesome everything else in Brutal Legend. They're a company that needs to stick around. The creativity in that game cannot be left to fizzle.

Eric Adams
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I love that the Protagonist is Asian and Female. Need more race representation in every facet of gaming. I worked on game in the 90s (Urban Chaos) with a Black Female Cop. Looking for to a Hispanic hero/heroine.

John Daily
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Dead Space is an excellent game - maybe not very innovative - but incredibly polished and well put together. I would never have expected it to come from EA.

The same can be said of Mirrors Edge. It looks almost "too unique" to be a standard "EA Game".

If Electronic Arts can keep surprising us with quality ideas, than maybe they can reverse some of the very harsh negative attributes they've been handed.

David Tarris
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The only thing that's not making sense to me, Mickey, is your reasoning. I doubt very seriously that Mr Riccitiello has been personally affected by people wishing that he be hit by a bus, and that's why this isn't about him. More importantly, this is about professional nature of this site, and comments like that are just frankly embarrassing and juvenile for the whole of the industry. I can understand that people want to express their thoughts without putting their careers in harms way, but at some point there needs to be some accountability for this nonsense.

Marc Pestka
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I just wonder what a creative risk is. I can understand what a commercial risk is, but a creative one?

Christopher Shell
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Yeah, same here Pestka. Maybe someone can explain what he could possibly mean by that, but I don't see a logical difference in "creative risk" and "commercial risk" in this context. Maybe he indeed meant the same thing.

cheap treadmill store
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