Looking forward, how do you see digital compared to boxed releases? It seems like a lot of stuff is starting to go download-only.
JM: My personal opinion should be obvious, because all three teams at my studio are doing PSN titles. I personally am very excited about that, because the direct corollary between what we're able to do with a title of this size is different. The ability for us to integrate into a consumer community and really listen to their voice and have our own voice heard at the same time is a lot higher than a boxed product. Turnaround time is also quicker. It provides way different opportunities for me. I see digital distribution as a way to close the feedback loop quicker than I ever could before, and make a stronger, better product overall.
Do you envision full titles going digital at any time in the future?
JM: If it's right for the title. It depends on what you're trying to do and what the consumer wants. It may happen with some titles and not with others.
Do you think that having a boxed hard drive with the PS3 makes that more possible?
JM: Yes. Emphatically yes.
From an awareness standpoint, how are you having to change tactics in terms of getting people interested in these titles?
JM: It's a shift for us on the PlayStation side of things. We're getting out there with some awareness where we can, but it's a shift in terms of how we're distributing code to folks. It's certainly going to scale in terms of the kind of promotions that we want to do from a PR standpoint. We'll be applying different tactics for promoting as we go.
Will the digital age mark an end to preview code? There are downloadable demos and levels and such, which could arguably be a good basis for a preview.
JM: Again, it's based on a per-product basis, in my opinion. Some things may have episodic or expanded lifecycles, and that particular situation may not be as large of a concern to the developer or PR. If it's something which is a one-shot product, you may not necessarily want to do that. I think that the titles that have a more unusual development style or goal may see more of that type of offering than something which is more traditional and easier to understand by looking at screenshots or reviews.
Do you envision episodic content ever becoming a part of consoles? It's largely been a PC realm.
JM: That's definitely an opportunity on PSN. Sam & Max is a great example of that. You've got great characters that can go through a bunch of crazy scenarios. If you don't have an IP or an idea that doesn't support that and you try to shoehorn it in there, it won't be right for the consumer. That just depends on what you want to do with the game and how you want to expose your user to it.
What is your background?
JM: I started in 1991 doing a Galaga-like PC shareware game called Galactics, working with three friends of mine from high school. It was a garage band thing. My role on that was to script in AI for the flights of enemies. We put it up on the Internet and got noticed by John Carmack of id Software, who told us they were working with this new technology on something called Wolfenstein 3D, and wondered if we'd be interested in working with it. We immediately said yes!
I wound up working with Apogee and doing a game called Raptor: Call of the Shadows. It was initially in Texas, after we moved from Chicago. I then started working with John and his group on an action-RPG called Strife, and that was the formation of our company, called Rogue Entertainment. Then we did two mission packs -- one for Quake and one for Quake II. We also helped out with the N64 port of Quake and then did American McGee's Alice for EA. After that, we closed the studio, and that's when I came here.
Is there anything else you want to get across about your department here?
JM: I think the strongest thing that I have to deal with from a managerial standpoint is this general feeling about Sony. You get all these lovers and haters, and from an employee standpoint, you get a lot of people saying, "I don't want to get involved in the megacorp! I don't want to work for EA, Sony, or Nintendo!" The only thing I have to say is that opportunity is what you make it. If you want to come in here and do a great job, you have the opportunity to do that. If you want to come in here and just be a worker bee, that's part of it, but we don't expect that. As a matter of fact, we discourage that openly. We'd rather have you try and help everyone do better. We all want to do great, and I see that as a consistent theme [at Sony].
On a personal note, I think you're going to see some really great things coming from Sony very soon on the PSN side. Innovation, differentiation -- it's going to be across the board. There's a lot of great things, and Phil's GDC keynote was just the tip of the iceberg on some of this stuff. I'd love to be able to go, "Check this out!" but we're not there yet.