Two Halves, Together: Patrick Gilmore On Double Helix
February 8, 2010 Page 3 of 5
Something that I find interesting with Front Mission is that you're working within an established IP, but as you discussed, it's a new way of looking at that IP. It's basically unlike anything else in the series. There's been one Front Mission action game, but that was in the early '90s and never came to America. Is that a satisfying area of creativity, working with IP but being able to shape it?
PG: It's funny you ask that, because I just came out of a meeting where I was talking to one of the development directors here, and he was saying, "This is one of the things that we're really good at -- looking at IP, understanding what drives its popularity, and then adapting that to more modern sensibilities in a more modern context."
You can look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which comes from film and television, or look at the team's work on The Matrix or Indiana Jones.
You've seen them exercise that formula, and I think they're at the point where they're perfecting it by going back to the roots of the IP and then rebuilding it with modern technology and with modern gaming trends -- rebuilding that IP in a different context.
Is that something you have a lot of freedom to do, specifically in terms of Front Mission? Has Square Enix let you guys go, or has it been more like a checks-and-balances situation?
PG: In the case of Square, I think there's absolutely been a checks-and-balances process. The game has very much been developed in collaboration with a team at Square. They're a very creative team. They have a very good understanding of what they want to get out of the product. But they've also given our team a lot of latitude.
They want to build a game that appeals to North American audiences. They know that Front Mission as an IP, and the concept of a mech-based game, is something that has its roots much more in Japan, but has the opportunity to achieve huge popularity in North America. They wanted the developers on the team to apply their own sensibilities and shape the game and bring that aspect of the development to the product.
When it comes to the studio, do you guys have your own engine technology, or are you licensing stuff?
PG: We have our own engine. It's probably got over 100 man-years of development in it. We keep a dedicated engine and tools team internally, so I think our pipelines are extremely progressive and efficient. We can iterate really rapidly, we can prototype rapidly, and can try out new ideas with a lot of efficiency. That's something that we consider to be a competitive advantage that we continue to invest in and nurture.
Silent Hill: Homecoming
I spoke to one of the execs from Foundation 9 some time ago, and I was under the impression that the studios at Foundation 9 were left to their own best practices and decision-making with what engine technology they wanted to run with. Is that still the case, or are you guys moving forward to a more centralized solution?
PG: One of the big advantages of being at Foundation 9 is that you're at the biggest independent developer in the West, and maybe in the world. We are a federation of studios, many of whom are developing similar technology and are in a position to leverage sharing like crazy.
You see that reflected in a big company-wide initiative that's taken hold over the past couple years toward sharing more technology and leveraging the network of engineers that we've got across multiple different studios. We've harvested a lot of different technology from other studios, and we've exported a lot of tech to the other studios.
The initiative is taking hold because they're really launching it in the way that something like this really should be launched, which is to bring people together, get the communication started, and have them organically figure out what they can do to help each other out. Rather than mandating something, I think the management of Foundation 9 just made it easy for people to get together and communicate.A lot of sharing just happened organically.
The other benefit of that is that people created more systems with more sharing in mind. So the quality of the code and architecture just increased organically because they stopped thinking that their audience was just their local game team. They thought that ultimately, this would be a technology that would go on to be used elsewhere.
That's really important when developing tools, especially when you've got a studio organization like that. But it does have to be made a priority.
PG: Right. When I was at Electronic Arts, there was a huge emphasis on sharing. I saw both sides of it. I saw the mandates get issued, but I also saw the teams bootstrapping themselves into a situation where there was more communication and more organic sharing.
So much great sharing happened below the feature level. Someone might have a great math library or they might have a great pathfinding routine or a great animation subsystem. They've got really killer technology that might be exportable but is not packaged into feature-level sharing, which is normally what would be visible at a higher level in an organization.
When people are talking, the quality of the sharing goes way up, because you find that you can share a lot more than just high-level features.
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