I was talking to Harvey, and he was saying that the last few months of the game development process are where the game just starts looking better and better every day, and that is the time when you really need to be able to focus on it. It's a time when you can actually add flair and tweak things and make the experience more...
SS: I think the last few months is
when you determine what your review score is going to be, I think, because
it's the make-or-break, where you have this mess of loose ends. That's
what it's felt like, to me, in the last month. The game has turned a
corner from being like a panic attack to being like something that makes
me smile and giggle while watching the QA guys playing the boss fights
and thinking to myself, "Shit, I didn't think we'd be able to do
this good!" So, definitely the last week has been crucial.
To make a film analogy, not that those are necessary...
SS: Not like we don't make them enough in this industry!
It's stupid, because we've got a silly complex about film being better than us. But anyway, it's like taking the rough cuts and putting them into the final edit. It's a real big...
SS: Yeah. Absolutely. There are good analogies there, in terms of just editing down things, cutting out levels that don't work, cutting cutscenes or chopping them in half when they're brutally long, and things like that.
You guys seem to have a one-project-at-a-time
sort of focus. What is the advantage of that, versus more small projects?
Or at least, what is the reason you want to do it that way?
SS: I think that we are always trying to get to that two projects, staggered development thing. The thing that always seems to happen is, creatively you overreach, and you end up having to pull people from the mystical second project and get an all hands on deck sort of thing.
I suppose that's... you know, better
planning, better scope control -- these are things that can help fight
that, but in my experience, anytime we've done that stretch, we've contracted
just to get it done and get it out at that sort of reasonable quality
level. We're always trying for that, but it's hard.
It seems like it might be better to do a smaller, XBLA-type title as a "stepping stone" into two projects.
SS: Sure, like a smaller scope kind of thing. I agree. I think with this game, we were kind of idiotic, and we bit off three major factors and we should have only taken one, which is to change the genre a bit. Like, the third-person genre I horrendously underestimated in terms of how that impacts game design and level design. Sometimes it was like grasping in the dark and being astounded at, you know, weapon-switch times, and these things that you can't mess with for third-person, that you can just laugh and say, "Okay, like in Call of Duty 4. Switching between weapons is faster than reloading them." Try that in a third-person game and it looks like a Marx Brothers film, you know?
And then also starting the engine from scratch, all these things were major, major hurdles. We should've just done one. We should've picked one thing to try to do. I think that's also really limited our ability to grow. Although we've grown in staff, we're still working on this project, and this project only.
I'm hoping the next one is going to be easier, because we're going to have this base to build from, and hopefully it'll be a success for Dark Sector and the ability to make the next one really polished and refined and "the one we always dreamed of," and so on, with more established technology, and a more established genre.