Oh, right. I heard just a little bit about that.
RH: Yeah. I got involved in a project that basically was all about designing a custom sports car. I did the design on it, and ultimately wound up getting involved in actively building it, manufacturing it, and selling it. That was totally different, and actually a lot of fun. It was a very exotic car, and it was pretty cool. It had a 550 horsepower engine and all-carbon construction. It was a very sophisticated sports car. It was pretty expensive.
Do you own one?
RH: Oddly enough, I don't! (laughs) I don't have one. We sold all of the cars. My plan was to get one that would be built on the assembly line after we built several of them, so that all the bugs would be worked out, and the factory that I contracted with that was actually building the cars went belly-up on us by surprise. So we had to cancel a bunch of production orders. This was just kind of a hobby-type thing, anyway, and it had gotten so serious that I decided to not try and reinstate the whole thing.
What was the car called?
RH: The name of the car was Anteros. Yeah, it got written up in magazines, and it was a pretty cool thing. I do regret that I didn't get one myself, but maybe I'll buy one from one of the guys we already sold it to, I guess. We'll see. (laughs)
But it was after that that Namco was contacted. They were looking for an experienced head of production, and I wasn't initially too fired-up over the idea of going back into a big corporate type of thing. I had been a very independent, entrepreneurial sort of business guy for years. But I went and talked with them, and I liked the people a lot. To me, that's a very big part of the equation. If the people are really good people and the projects look really good, all of a sudden, the planets aligned and I said, "Yeah, I'll do it!" I've been having a very good time at Namco.
Characters are really not very well utilized right now in games, one could argue. Namco does still do some of that, and Sega does some still. There's still isolated pockets, but it's not as pervasive as it used to be, like when you'd have a mascot for a platform. Why do you think that is?
RH: I would not completely agree with the premise. Mario has done extremely well for Nintendo all these years and still does. And Ratchet & Clank... there are some examples of existing, character-based games that still hit high sales and industry recognition.
But there are some trends that swing back and forth. You get a few seasons based on military games, or first-person shooters, or whatever particular genre is popular right now. There was a time when Sega and Nintendo and Sony were all vying for supremacy in their own mascot game. Sony had Crash Bandicoot, and one of the things that I felt that Namco has had a great history of having some very historically strong characters, but I can't honestly say why they haven't continued on in that kind of development, at least as of right now.
It seems like a lot of games, since they're first-person, don't have a lot of iconic stuff. People know what Master Chief looks like, but you play as him. It's different.
RH: Yeah. If you don't actually see the character on the screen, it gets to be a little hard to relate to him.