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Language Is A Virus: A Talk With Pandemic's Tom Abernathy
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Language Is A Virus: A Talk With Pandemic's Tom Abernathy


October 25, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next
 

That's weird, yeah.

TA: Exactly. It's not the sort of thing you would ever come up with, but it's true! Andrew, I think, said, "Wow, this is great. I want to make a game out of this." So that was where the idea started, which is really cool that you could do that. It wasn't market tested, particularly. He just thought it was a great idea, and everybody else did too. Whenever anybody would be told the idea, everybody was high on it. So Tom had done a page and a half of brainstorming on who the character might be, what his backstory might be, and how the game might begin. Stuff like that.

That was where it was when I came on, and from that point forward, I was part of the core creative team building the game from the ground up, conceptually, brand-wise, and everything else that has to do with anything a writer would involve himself with. I think that's been a tremendously fruitful process, and I think everybody involved realizes and agrees with that. I think to some degree, the fact that it has been fruitful was born out by the fact that as we move forward and people from our [then] parent company VG Holdings and Elevation Partners would come in and we would present to them where we were and the things we were thinking and all this kind of stuff.

Bono and John Riccitiello and Greg Richardson -- people like that would really without exception, and our marketing people too, they would come in and listen to what we had to say and they would get really excited about the character and about the story and the world. And not for no reason -- they were thinking, "This seems to us like it has franchise possibilities that are significant."

You think about characters like Lara Croft and Sam Fisher and characters that franchises can be built around... nowadays of course everybody's thinking not just in games, but in TV or movies or comic books and all sorts of things. Everybody wants to become a total entertainment company, and there's no reason why you shouldn't be with an original IP. If you're going through the trouble of developing it and doing it right, exploit it in every way you can.

But everybody in every stage responded so well to the work that we were doing in that way that before too long, it became clear that this is what we feel was the strength of the game, and the thing we wanted to hang the marketing on. To us, this is what makes Saboteur somewhat unique and cool and interesting, and is the hook that we think people are going to be into. That's writing.

There are a number of hooks that the game has -- for example, the “will to fight” stuff that the article in Game Developer talked about, which is incredible, and Tom French and Chris Hunt were the brainiacs behind that. I think it's so brilliant, and did from the first moment I heard it. They had that, actually. They knew that already by the time I came on, and had been thinking about it for a while.

There are a number of hooks in the game that we hope will really intrigue people -- and some of them are game mechanic-oriented -- but more of them than usual, by far, are oriented around who this guy is and what his story is and what's going on. The fact that the corporate powers that be above Pandemic have enough confidence in what they're seeing come out of this process that they want to make that the foot they lead with in trying to make people interested in , Saboteur -- I think that says volumes. That says all you need to know about how fruitful the process has been.

Saboteur screenshot
The bleak world of Saboteur

So I assume you're looking at possibilities of expanding the universe, and if so, would you be able to be involved in that?

TA: I think it is safe to say that we would be very happy if that becomes a viable possibility, business-wise, and I certainly would hope to be involved in it any way I could, and presumably would be particularly in terms of game sequels. Stuff in other media is less certain, but there's some precedent for that.

In Destroy All Humans! there was a time for awhile while we still had that IP with THQ where we were talking about doing a half-hour 3D animated television series of it. I was involved in a lot of the meetings with that and in helping the potential show runner who was brought on to develop that concept. Which is great, because he is a writer. He's a guy named Jim Dauterive, who's a consulting producer on King of the Hill. He's a writer, and he loved that I was a writer, and we understood each other, and he could talk to me about things that I had done in the game and in the IP. So I would love to play a role in stuff like that. But that probably isn't a decision that's up to me.

So you were planning to work with Jim Dauterive?

TA: Well, I was involved with some of the meetings.

I mean you as a company.

TA: Yeah, we were. That process, as far as I know, is dead. I don't think that ever went anywhere.

I know. It's just cool because I think he's cool.

TA: He's very cool. And from Austin, I believe, as are most of those King of the Hill guys. I adored him, and I thought he was a really wonderful guy, and I adore that show. I just think that show is brilliant. It does not get the recognition it deserves. But it was great just to be in the room with him. A lot of times, I was the only one sitting in a room full of suits from THQ and agents from Hollywood who wanted to get their piece of the pie out of all of this, and I'm the guy he wants to talk to, because I'm the guy who knows the things about the Destroy All Humans! universe that he needs to know. So that was exciting.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

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