Have you found costs rising much? I know you're using your own engines, so I imagine that saves a bit, but they probably had to be ported and beefed up a bit.
For a room in a game we were working on for a previous system, we'd just have less stuff. Now what we do is we have every piece [of that room] articulated. It's not that the space got bigger; it got denser. It became more interactive, and it became more real. We're able to deliver the expectation of what the consumer wants to do.
We recently ran a postmortem for Elebits from Konami in Game Developer. The producer Shingo Mukaitoge said that in order to make the gameplay more engaging, rather than taking a framework and making a whole bunch more levels for it to artificially elongate the experience, [developers should] make the experience deeper and varied within a certain spectrum. Is that similar to the approach you take?
AW: Absolutely. Like I was saying with the room example, for the right game and the right situation, we should take stuff out of the room, if it doesn't make sense and it makes the experience better. It's not more, but it's about making what is there work more and more as what's expected. If fewer characters and fewer levels make the experience [better] and you walk away saying, "Wow, this felt amazing," that's the right way to go. That's what all developers need to look at, and stop looking at X number of hours [of gameplay].
How do you feel about the explosion of the sandbox genre and everyone trying to move toward that type of gameplay? It seems like Rockstar pioneered the best implementation of that.
AW: That question supposes that GTA is just a sandbox. It's more. I wouldn't be talking about GTA if I was just talking about a sandbox game.
How did the established style of Rockstar come about? Angel must have evolved a little bit once it came under the Rockstar label. How is that maintained?
AW: Sam, Dan, Seth, and the core group back in New York. There's a creative beacon there. That's not to say that we can't be creative on our own, because we are. We've got 170 of some of the most creative and most talented people in this world here, but I look at Sam and Dan as a force multiplier. Take what you've got, and it's going to make you X times better.
How does that come across? Do they come here often?
AW: When we have a big milestone, Sam or Dan or both come here with others, or we pack up and go to New York, and go and sit down and we don't have a meeting. We just sit down and play the game, and we talk about it. Picture sitting down on your couch at home with five or six of your best buddies, and cracking the wrapper on the game you've been dying to play.
It's like a little kid at Christmas. We show the stuff we want to show and Sam's like, "Give me the controller! Let's go play!" We get good stuff out of it, and we get some bad stuff out of it, but the goal is that if something is not where we want it, we'll take it back and bring it up a notch.