Something that is a perpetual discussion is how far this generation can go. I think about that because you talk about how games released in 2009 and onward have this higher level of cinematic polish. I agree, and I think that there's still a lot of untapped potential in this generation. At the same time, technology is still very complex in this generation. Do you have any insight as a third-party developer into how long this generation is going to last?
PG: I think there's so much life in these platforms still. I don't have any real data on this, but my gut tells me that we're going to be in this hardware generation for at least another couple of years -- probably another three years -- and I think you're going to see innovation in development. I think you're going to see new disciplines emerge as really important as the tools become more refined.
Look at Avatar and that caliber of motion capture and performance that's exhibited in that film. I think that very quickly, you're going to see game developers setting the same standards for themselves. Look at the caliber of dialog in some games -- the colloquialism, the voice performance, the way the writing is being handled.
The difference between weak writing and great writing is becoming more and more evident to developers and to audiences. I think you're going to see dedicated writers emerging on teams with much fuller force.
A lot of the innovation, I think, is going to come from non-obvious places, to people who are used to seeing advanced shading materials and new rendering techniques being the hallmark of advancement.
You're going to see it come in the form of much better use of tools, and better use of character development and richness, coupled with the kind of creativity and innovation that's being spawned in the casual game market and the iPhone market, where people have a chance to fully explore new mechanics in a more forgiving environment.
When you talk about that exploration, do you mean that developers working in the spaces like you are are going to be inspired by what they see coming out of the indie market, or are you talking about you guys experimenting, yourselves?
PG: I think both. I think you're going to see developers who are very inspired by what people are able to achieve with, in some cases, very simple mechanics, or a very simple approach to interactivity in gaming. They're going to take those mechanics and leverage them on the somewhat bigger canvas of an Xbox 360 game that has a more cinematic feel.
You're right. It almost feels like there's a cinematic moment going with interactive storytelling. Obviously, two big RPG games for the generation -- Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII -- are coming out in rapid succession, and we've got Heavy Rain as well. So this is like the moment, in a weird way, of storytelling, maybe just by happenstance.
PG: Yeah. I think the thing always to remember -- and Mass Effect certainly proves this -- is that it's not just about the ability to tell the story. It's having the skill to tell a really good story.
Front Mission Evolved
You're based in Irvine, California. Speaking to the LA area development scene, there have been a lot of layoffs out of EA. What do you think of the region, as a center of development? There are a lot of companies there, and there are a lot of startups becoming more and more relevant.
PG: There are a lot of incredible developers in Southern California, and there's definitely a huge talent base. We inherit talent from the film industry and the animation industry. There's a big commercial and advertising industry, so there's a phenomenal amount of talent here that, whether you've been in the games industry your entire career or not, you certainly can't help but being in the stream of all that.
One huge focus for us is to continue to leverage the highest-caliber talent here in California, but build partnerships with people who are in lower-cost markets, so we can continue to provide really aggressive economic opportunities to our partners. I don't think development here is going to go away. I think different types of disciplines are going to emerge to take advantage of other markets.
Do you think the refiguring of the landscape is going to push a changing of the way business is done?
PG: I do. It's hard for me to predict, but I would say that as the biggest companies like Activision Blizzard or Electronic Arts focus on a smaller number of major releases, they're really creating opportunities for other publishers to get involved and address a different part of the market that Activision or EA are no longer able to focus on.
I know that from having worked at EA, for a great big publisher like that, there's often a very high bar that is not nearly as high for a small publisher to greenlight a project or say "yes" to an investment.
Right. Because it has to go through so many channels.
PG: Well, not only that, but simply put, EA and Activision are enormous companies, and there's a lot of infrastructure there to support that maybe a smaller publisher doesn't necessarily have.