There have been some examples this generation of some studios stepping out with their own IP after having a history of working with a specific IP, and kind of hitting the wall. Have you been really observant of some of those games? What do you think about that issue? You said there aren't that many second chances.
AR: I can't actually think of an example of what you're talking about, but --
Okay, Mirror's Edge, Dark Sector are two really good examples of, "Whoops!"
AR: [incredulously] Mirror's Edge?
Yeah. It's good, but --
AR: Oh my goodness, I love that game!
I'm not saying it's not a good game --
AR: But I understand it was not a sales success.
AR: The game that we're working on right now, it's not our first original property idea, but I think it will be the first one that consumers will be able to buy. We've been trying and failing at this for a very long time now, and it's hard.
It's hard in a way that was totally unexpected to me. In all respects, when working with someone else's license, the hard work is done for us. We don't have to ask ourselves when working with Mass Effect, "What color should the spaceships be?" because BioWare gives us the art style guide and says, "These are the colors of our spaceships."
Trying to figure that stuff out is immensely time consuming, and it is really tough work. The creative people around here are writing off that blank sheet of paper over and over and over again until the project finds its voice.
By "failing," do you mean that these projects were ones where the stars didn't come together?
AR: Well, I think you make mistakes and you learn from them, is my point. We would, either in the path of creating intellectual property, get too far down the road when it had some fatal flaw that we had to go all the way back and undo, or you learn from heading down the wrong path, a particular design, a particular art style, so...
Things that hit the market tend to resemble other things that hit the market. Some of that probably has to do with the safety of that, but it also has to do with that blank sheet of paper you just alluded to, right? Filling it up is not the easiest task, to say the least.
AR: Well, also, great minds think alike. You see it in the film industry too, obviously. It's very difficult, it's heart wrenching, it's time consuming, and it's expensive, but we had a taste of it. Our first year, we put out an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod called Clone Bandits.
It was like a little mod we made with vehicles, and it had a cool soundtrack, and it was free, and it was nights' and weekends' work. But that project had tone, and soul, and voice. It took a long time, but then all at once it fell together and we're like, "Ah, this is great!" So that's what we've been trying to duplicate ever since.
We've succeeded a couple times, but we haven't been able to marry that with a studio that was ready for it, or a financial situation that was ready for it, or a marketplace that was ready for it. I think now all those pieces have fallen together for us for this project.
The weakness of some game concepts that you see make it to market -- I'm not speaking specifically about anything here -- is that you can tell there's a sort of vagueness, where you can tell they let the dots connect themselves without doing the hard thinking about what goes in there.
AR: But -- Mirror's Edge was a great example -- that had heart. Maybe not everybody agrees with me, but I thought it was beautiful, and it had rich style, and this really cool personality, and it knew what it wanted to be and it was that. That is actually harder, I think, than making a marketable game. That was DICE, right? So they know what they're doing and then some. If you can take that and marry it with something that's marketable, that's gold.
Working on Borderlands was really neat. We watched that project, pretty far into development -- you can compare the old trailers and the new trailers, the very first trailers and the very first magazine covers with what the game became and what its tone was; you can see a progression there. Gearbox found its way. It was an incredible learning experience for us to watch that happen. It's tough. It was hard for them, and they worked their asses off, but it totally came together in the end.
That game is well-known for being a good example of something that's left-of-center, but you're not so far out to the left... You're far enough away that it's got its own spirit, but you're close enough to the goal that it's comprehensible, right?
AR: Gearbox is a studio that knows their audience, and they work so hard at thinking about what their customers want. They think about their customer; you'll hear that when you meet with them.