Two Halves, Together: Patrick Gilmore On Double Helix
February 8, 2010 Page 2 of 5
I get the sense with Foundation 9 that there's an idea of the different studios under the umbrella all developing games to their own core competencies with high-powered current-gen games being Double Helix's? Is that fair to say? Or would you like to clarify that?
PG: I think that's absolutely our role within Foundation 9. If you look at Shiny, they started 17 years ago with Earthworm Jim and MDK and The Matrix. Then you look at The Collective, which was founded 12 years ago. They had Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Wars, and a couple of other games.
To me, the common thread is big IP handled with a lot of creativity and sensitivity, and a focus on third-person action and excitement. That's where our pedigree as a studio is now. That's where our expertise and our passion really lie.
Our focus is on continuing to nail that pedigree while expanding out into some other areas to continue to meet the demands of more modern audiences that want games that are more connected and driven by online feature sets and social media.
When it comes to bringing together these two studios, is that still an ongoing process, or had there been a full integration by the time you'd arrived on the scene?
PG: I would say that the studio had been integrated for a while, but there was a perceptible culture that you could say was the Shiny culture and then there's a distinct culture that you could say was The Collective's culture.
The Collective has been historically focused on straightline execution: understanding the project from the beginning and deploying experts -- smaller teams of people focused on issues. Shiny, their culture is, "Let's iterate. Let's identify what the spirit of the project is, but let's iterate and tease out what is cool about it and learn from the software." There's nothing wrong with either culture. They've both demonstrated to be super successful in the industry. My challenge is to leverage the best of both worlds.
You talked about utilizing creativity and moving out of growth mode for Foundation 9 and into creative mode. What does that really mean on a practical level? Is it about creating new IP, or is it about executing really solidly?
PG: Historically, at least since Foundation 9 has been the parent company, the focus for Double Helix has been cross-platform games, short time cycles, often day-and-date, strict budgets, and some of the things that, formulaically, you'd look at in a big licensed product.
Some people would look at a big licensed product with suspicion, because they deal with all of those constraints. But I think at our end, what you have are some phenomenal production processes that enable our teams to deliver against challenging schedules and large numbers of SKUs.
We're focused on building on those production practices to refine ideas better and earlier in the process, and to really take the time to prove the creative concept of a game before going into production.
The talent has been here to do that, but we've been extraordinarily schedule-driven. Now is the time to make it great. We have the support of Foundation 9 and our publishers with that. Square and our other publisher have been very supportive in focusing on that.
I think there is a shift occurring. I've sensed this for a long time, but there's a feeling that you can't really get top results with those constrained budgets and schedules. But it's been harder to get publishers to put trust back into the teams, rather than just put product on the shelves. Do you think so?
PG: It's a business at the end of the day, so I think there are realities that you deal with, whether you're a publisher or a developer. There's always the discipline of matching the scope to the opportunity and focusing on delivering quality , running every feature all the way to the ground and overdelivering on the quality of the features, rather than getting stuck in that trap of trying to check every box and do a whole bunch of things but none of them super-well. With the publishers I've been talking to, they're very big on executing on quality.
I've heard that about Square Enix.
PG: Exactly. I think they're very proud of Front Mission, and they've discovered some tools at their disposal to enable them to focus on quality. The other interesting thing about Double Helix is knowing that they've been in work-for-hire mode for a while, I kind of expected to walk in and see something that was structured like a factory and was just cranking out projects.
There's certainly an element of that in production efficiencies, but something that I didn't expect to find, but did, was this unbelievable wealth of intellectual property development and prototype development and creative development that were carried out by people not assigned to projects or who found themselves with spare time. There's an amazing engine of creativity already here, and we're tapping into that to push on original ideas and some of the talent that's here.
Do you find that it's hard to get original projects across to publishers, and to get them interested in them? Is that because of the way people look at the studio, or just in the general way that publishers look at third-party developers?
PG: I think if you're a publisher and you have a big intellectual property, your first goal is going to be, "How do I create consistency for this franchise to release year-on-year and continue to deliver reliable revenue?" But if you want to grow your business, I think they're absolutely looking for measured bets on new IP. I think Foundation 9 offers a degree of stability and predictability that makes it a less risky business than it might be with a different independent developer.
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