Next-Gen Narrative: The David Braben Interview
January 9, 2008 Page 4 of 4
What was your experience with creating Dog's Life?
DB: It was a lovely game to have worked on, but it also turned into a very difficult game, because it's amazing the resistance we got. We made that game at a time when making kids' games was not what you did. To an extent it's still the case. With Thrillville -- look at the reviews. The review scores are always lower. You look at a review and they say, "Wow, it's a great game, but it's a kids' game: 70." It's like the score caps out at that level, unless it also appeals to a core gamer as a core game.
With the occasional reviewer they'll say, "My kids really love this!" and they give it a half-decent mark, but I think we need to move to that level of professionalism. Dog's Life suffered really badly from that. "It's a game about dogs. I want to play Halo." That's really the subtext.
I think the reviewer should be a reviewer who loves that kind of game. Dog's Life was really trying to bring a new approach, saying, "We can look at this differently." It was a game I loved doing, but we went with Sony in Europe and there were probably various issues there.
I don't know that I'd say that it was a prototype for open world stuff you're doing now, but it certainly had a lot of those same elements.
DB: Indeed, and the same year
we also did a similar Wallace and Gromit game. The openness thing
-- that's what genuinely revolutionized the PlayStation 2 generation.
And the criticisms we've already talked about over my BioShock
comments -- I still don't think this generation we've had that switch.
I think it could be story, but it could be something else.
It's not necessarily The
Outsider. I've got high hopes for a lot of the things that are coming
out soon. They've talked this talk, it's whether they walk the walk.
For me GTA was the one that did it last generation. It wasn't
necessarily the first with a completely open world, but it was the first
that properly embraced it and it was certainly the first one that captured
peoples' imaginations and got the sales to boot.
I think we need something for
this generation, because if I'm saying this game's genuinely better
than this PS2 game, why should I buy an Xbox 360 or a PS3, that sort
of question, and people say, "Yes, well it's prettier, but I don't
have an HDTV," so you get this snobbery thing.
It's a good point. Yeah, it looks better but why is the game better? Why should I spend $300 to buy this for my kids? It's a hard one to answer. Until GTA came along it was a hard one to answer for PS2. It gave us a new kind of gameplay we hadn't had before that, which justified the platform, and we haven't yet had that now.
There may be other breakout things, like the ease of PSN or of Xbox Live, because I think some of the games on there have been great. We all loved Geometry Wars. And that's a surprising one, because, to me, that felt like something new, but there's nothing in it you could put your finger on that felt like something new. It was just well executed and it looked great on the big screen.
So it may be things like that,
and like the connectivity, which is certainly way better on 360 than
it ever was on Xbox Live before that. But, we've not had that change.
That's the point. I hope we have more than one of them. It may not just
be story, it may be that there is something none of us have thought
of yet that will just suddenly revolutionize everything.
Are you interested in Xbox Live or PSN yourself?
DB: Yes, we are. There are
things I can't talk about, but it would be mad for us not to embrace
it, basically. I've heard some rumors that some people are going silly
and doing stupid numbers of games for them. Xbox Live is already crowded
and I'm sure PSN will become very crowded very quickly.
What I'm hoping is that they don't get crowded with rubbish. I have faith in the platform holders to stop that, but I've already found it's difficult on Xbox Live to find a game. You scroll through a lot of lists, but I think that can change. The nice thing is both machines can be updated remotely so that's a step forward.
I think Xbox Live and PSN will mature and they'll be really interesting platforms. The thing that I think is a tragedy is that you can't yet assume a hard drive on the 360. So, whether we will see whole games delivered that way, I think that will be a positive step forward.
Finally, because we have to ask, is there anything you can say about the sequel to Elite?
DB: [Laughs.] No, we're not talking about that yet, other than it's extremely exciting. One of the problems I've learned from in the past is that I mention something and then it gets emblazoned in mile-high letters, and I think, "Oh, I didn't make an announcement!"
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