When are you shipping?
SB: I'll smirk and say, "When it's done." I'll say this: Skate came out in mid-September last year. Skate 2 is not in alpha yet. [Ed. note: as of the time of the interview, conducted in September.] So it's already not a yearly franchise. It's not going to be as late as, say, late next spring, and it's not going to be in the fall.
I'm just curious from the perspective of this thoughtful approach to a franchise. It's like, "We have a realistic target for the first game, second game, and third game." And I understand that things have changed. One specific example that I think maps well beyond Mirror's Edge being quite cool is the fact that Need for Speed is on a two-year cycle now. They've announced that. They're going to flip it around.
SB: Yeah, Need for Speed is kind of cool. We share the same studio with them. They've always got two different teams. It's similar to Call of Duty. I know some guys who work on that, and it's a cool system. You can ship every year, but you have two teams going one on and one off.
We're all getting it. Certain franchises don't need to ship every year, and we consider ourselves one of those. So let's take the time, and when we do come out with another one, let's make sure that we don't drive it into the ground.
We want to build the category and build the genre. The team puts a lot of work into this. We all take pride in what we do, and we don't want to shovel stuff out too soon. That benefits nobody. What's awesome is that all the heads at EA are totally down with that program.
I think having to ship every fall is what led to Tony Hawk stumbling a little bit, right? You don't have to agree with me, and it's not an insult to Neversoft at all. They just ran into a wall eventually.
SB: I don't ever hate on those guys and what they did, and I never took a weird business competitive aggro approach to it. Yeah, we're doing something different, but I can certainly see why it would be tough to be... whether you're forced or if you've just decided, trying to do a game like that every single year is tough. Doing any game every single year is tough.
One of my best friends is the executive producer on NBA, and every single year, he's got to bring it. When you factor in the ops time and holiday time, really you're making that game in seven or eight months. It's a big challenge. So to do a skateboarding game and keep it fresh for eight, nine, or ten seasons every year? That's hard. I wouldn't want to have to do that.
In this generation, there's been a lot of success and a lot of great games, and I think that some people are finding out that it was more than they bargained for in other ways. You know what I mean? In terms of budgets, team size, technology, and all kinds of things.
SB: It's funny. When I joined the EAC [Electronic Arts Canada] studio in '94, I think I was the 107th person. My team now is bigger than that -- than an entire studio was. So when you look at the budget... I was working on SNES and Sega Genesis, and we did a game with like seven, eight, or nine people maybe. Now it's ten times that, and ten times the cost, at least.
So yeah, it's a challenge, especially if you want to make a triple-A, blockbuster game. You've got to be prepared for what that's going to take. I think now we're all getting like, yeah, you can't say that I'm going to make a triple-A blockbuster in a year. You know it's not possible. As much as we'd all like to, you've got to give it the right amount of time.
We're all catching up to that now. We're always trying to find ways to do more, faster, but the bottom line is that these new consoles can hold a lot of shit. It takes a while to pack it all in, and when you're up against competitors that are taking three years or even sometimes more to build their games, you have to adjust that, or else they'll bury you. So do you take that amount of time? There's so many different approaches. It's definitely an interesting new world, and I think we're all adapting and learning as we go.
Do you do everything internally at your studio, like all the art? Or do you outsource or collaborate?
SB: We definitely outsource. We have some great outsourcers helping us out with characters and parts of our environments. So wherever we can, we outsource.
Just art, or is it other stuff, too?
SB: It's just art. It's pretty much full-on art focused. It's easier stuff. Outsourcing code would probably be next to impossible, but certainly outsourcing art... and in our studio, we have a physical limitation on how many people we have seats for. So when you can outsource, it makes it a little bit easier so that you don't have to pack two guys into one cube or that type of thing.