LittleBigGalaxy? Alex Evans On What's Next For Media Molecule
March 13, 2009 Page 4 of 5
On the tech side, it seems to me like UK-based companies are sometimes more willing to write their own technology. In the U.S., there was a very [engine building]-based culture for a little while.
AE: I think we're less good at engaging with universities. This is slightly tangential, but it's kind of related. The English game industry, I think, is kind of aging relatively rapidly. It's really interesting.
It's kind of evolved because new people are obviously coming in and new blood is coming in, but it's definitely a different model of evolution than in the States.
It feels like much more structured game programs exist over there. They exist in the UK in fledgling form, but the industry isn't helping universities.
I'm not actually critical of the universities at all. I don't think their courses are always relevant, and I don't necessarily think that it's their fault that they're not relevant yet.
I think the UK games industry needs to kind of embrace academia a bit more. And then, in terms of the tech-building thing, I think that one thing that European gaming studios are good at is there's a bit of breadth.
Like, you look at tech licensing studios, and a lot of them have come from the States, and a lot of them have come from the shooter genre. You can trace the lineage back through Quake. The Source engine is related to [the genre]. Even Epic and [Unreal Engine].
I haven't yet worked out why. Maybe it's the structure of it. You can build any game, you don't have to build a shooter with Unreal, but it has that lineage of a shooter. Whereas the UK industry has always been a bit more like, "Oh, let's do some racing games, let's do some of this." So we've been all over the shop. And with the possible exception of RenderWare, we haven't had the focus to make a really licensable technology. Maybe that's what it is.
Perhaps it came from such an active game modding community in the States, so people are already using these tools, so you can get feedback from that, and it doesn't take too much to build it into something that's more usable. Whereas, the UK is much more like a solo guy demo-scene [culture].
AE: Yeah. It's very refreshing, because it means you get two kinds of game that come out at the end of a pipe. We couldn't do a Metal Gear Solid where we're reinventing the wheel all the time. That would be insane. Nor a Gears. At the same time, if you want to do that solo guy, you can be like, "Well, there's some win here if I go with an engine that looks like a different take on bump mapping."
I had this real fixation, almost like a cheeky design, to tick off all the HD points, and almost apply it in the most childish way I possibly could. Like, "I'm gonna do normal mapping, bump mapping, specular mapping, depth of field, post processing, and all this stuff, and I'm going to do it really fucking as well as I can within my limits, and then I'm going to apply it in ways that are going to stand out not by the quality of what I'm doing, so much as the way I apply it." For me, that works really well.
Do you have an example there?
AE: Yeah, a lot of people said to us after the launch of the game, "Oh yeah, it has a real tactile feel. How did you achieve that?" I was like, "I've no idea, really. I can't point to a line of code, like that's the line of code that makes it tactile."
I have a feeling that if you applied a traditional engine to craft materials, you'd probably find that we've had an easier time with it than... But no one is applying those traditional techs to that scenario. So people see it as fresher than it really is. They're like, "Wow, you must have some secret sauce there." And I'm like, "Well, to be honest, no, I have talented artists... but it's no different than any other engine."
All of that stuff relates to something I was going to ask you. The development of the game sounded rather chaotic and not exactly very organized. I'm just wondering how can that keep going forward. Is that how the next product goes?
AE: We're learning from it. The difference is that we're not going from a blank slate now. I can't say how it will work out, but we'll do some things differently and we'll do some things the same.
The thing I want to do the same is that we had this regular clock ticking of actually producing stuff. It was very chaotic, but we had this notion -- very relatively like sprint or Agile, [but] we didn't know that's what we were doing -- but in a sense, it was like,"ship a lot."
You know, we were shipping a lot of stuff. We were showing to the press literally builds that were freshly baked the day before. We were showing new features as they went into the game. We want to keep that.
So, that chaos is like moderated by the idea that you're constantly showing, and therefore, you have to keep the quality at a certain level. You can't just go, "This will be fine in a couple months. I'm just going to fuck about and it'll be fine." You have to be like, "I have to show this to somebody next week, so I really need to put my money where my mouth is." We won't change that.
What's interesting right now is that we have all these different threads going on -- which is a new thing, different areas that are being developed. I'm really interested in taking the outputs of those threads and almost reshuffling them into products.
So, it's like rather than just doing one thing and building towards Blu-ray, you don't necessarily need to decide, "I'm building towards a Blu-ray." You instead decide, "I know what we've built, I know what I want to build, so let's just go ahead and do it."
And as we're building it, we then start seeing opportunities to go, "Right, let's pull this idea out and actually give it away to the community for free right now because that would really help." And we don't necessarily need to make a call on whether or not that happens that way, or whether or not it carries on and ends up in some future LBP2 or whatever. I really love the idea that we have these threads and we can make a late-breaking call on where they come out.
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