Llamas In Space: Catching Up with Llamasoft's Jeff Minter
April 4, 2007 Page 6 of 6
GS: The Neon engine is running on one of the 360's cores, right? Does Space Giraffe actually tap into that?
JM: No, Space Giraffe has its own version of the Neon engine that's being a lot more optimized since it was put into the Xbox.
GS: I was wondering if you'd managed to hide a game in the Neon engine somehow.
JM: No, we were so tight on space, we couldn't. It was like we had 128k to work with, so there wasn't much room to put Easter eggs in there. The only Easter egg in there is a picture of a yak.
GS: Are you still free to develop for anyone, or are you contracted to Microsoft?
JM: We're still free to develop for anyone, though the only contractual restriction we still have with Microsoft is that we can't do a light synth for the PlayStation 3 or the Wii. We are allowed to use the Neon engine in a game, though.
Given that the PS3 and the Wii are already out -- and the PS3 already has its own visualization solution and the Wii doesn't have anything alone -- they've made their decisions already with regard to what they want. Now it's out of the game, so we can just do what we want.
GS: Are you interested at all in the Wii so far?
JM: Yeah, I love the Wii, and I'd love to work on it some day. It's just a question of marshalling the time for it. After we've done this, I'd like to get cracking on another Xbox Live Arcade game, but one day I'd certainly like to work with the Wii. The controller gives me plenty of ideas as to how you could incorporate that into a game.
GS: Do you think shareware could still actually work? I know it didn't work as well with Gridrunner++ as it had worked in the past.
JM: It can work, but it needs effective distribution in order for it to work very well. Effectively, Xbox Live Arcade is shareware, but you've got this marvelous distribution channel that gets out to everybody. The trouble with Gridrunner is that you put it out and it gets out to a few places, but if people don't hear about it, they're not going to buy.
GS: Do you actually own sheep?
JM: Yeah, I have five sheep, two llamas, a goat, and a dog.
GS: Do you actually use their products?
JM: No, they're just pets.
Ginger, one of Minter's pet sheep
GS: Do you have a farm?
JM: It's a small holding. It's not as big as a farm, it's about seven acres.
GS: Are you basically the Welsh game development community?
JM: Pretty much! I don't want to say that and offend anyone else, though. I just don't know any other people in Wales doing it.
GS: I was always curious as to whether it was just you out in the field, or if there was something like the IGDA in Wales.
JM: I doubt it. I'm not that close to the rest of the development scene, really. I tend to shut myself off in my own little place and do my own thing. I don't look at a lot of what other people do.
GS: It's nice that people are still interested and pay attention, because a lot of the time, people can sometimes disappear when they don't.
JM: Yeah, it's quite nice that people still remember this stuff and still keep an eye out. The Llamasoft community helps keep people aware of what's going on.
GS: And that in turn spurs on press awareness as well.
JM: I think a lot of people in the business remember what we were doing in the old days, and they know we're still around and keep an eye out. Whenever we do something, we always seem to get a lot of favorable press about it.
GS: Did Microsoft contact you for the Neon?
JM: Basically, my business dev guy saw what we were doing with the light synth we'd been using with Unity, and he knew this one guy he thought would be an evangelist for the Xbox 360. So he brought this guy to a party at my place, and we showed off what we'd done on the GameCube, and so he went back and started bending J. Allard's ear.
And what was weird was that J. Allard had apparently been a fan for years. I went out and met with him at another party where I demonstrated an early version of Neon, and apparently he'd been keen for me to do the whole boot-up sequence for the original Xbox. He tried to contact me through e-mail, but the e-mail he sent ended up going to one of my old email addresses that I wasn't using anymore, and I never got the e-mail. We would've loved to do the visualization stuff for the original Xbox as well. I was really quite surprised to hear about that.
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