There's also a stipulation that the game could not have been made public, which disqualifies a decent amount of games -- ones that have been in competitions like IGF, or in GameStop's Indie Game Challenge. Why is that? Why can't the game be made public first?
LM: Because we were only requiring a game concept and design of about 10 pages, and videos and stuff like that were optional. We didn't want to make the competition full of people who had already basically finished a game.
We really wanted to inspire people to do new stuff, so it made more of a level footing for people who had wanted to submit new ideas; ideas they hadn't taken to festivals yet. That was the idea behind it. We really were trying to inspire people to make games, as compared to judging what has already been made -- which are some of those other competitions.
You'll be accepting submissions that are just videos and documentation, so it's very, very early on in the development of the game. How does the submission process progress from there? Can a game win just from being a video?
LM: Yeah, a game can win from, technically, being just a 10 page concept document. The reason for that is we see the prize as the genesis of going forward to make that game, so it really gave us a "leveling the playing field" piece.
A lot of people have access to tools because they're in school, or have been doing iPhone development, or something like that. And then there are a lot of budding people in different professions, or game players, who have different ideas but don't have access to those tools. We really want to look at the game design ideas -- the game concepts on their own merits -- and not make this be "Who can do the best presentation?"
That said, presentation is important. But I mean this from the point of view of, this doesn't have to be professionally produced. We're looking for people to just produce the best they can.
There is one clause that has made some people nervous that says, "In order to be a finalist, entrant must sign certain submission documentation [including
] "acknowledgement of Sponsor's development of game concepts that may be similar to entrant's submission."
Your imagination can go crazy with a line like that -- people may think, "What? Is Activision going to take my game idea?" Some people are worried about that.
LM: Yeah, absolutely, and I understand people's concerns, but the reality is that we may have a lot of those ideas, especially if they are for console games, maybe cooking around in our R&D departments.
So really, what signing that says, is that you acknowledge that, through coincidence, people come up with similar ideas. I think this is where people who don't have to work on this stuff all day long realize that similarities in ideas happen all the time, but an idea has a lot of specifics that are very, very clearly from a source.
That acknowledgement is only an acknowledgement. If they felt that something was improperly done by us, they would have recourses to pursue remedy.
All I can say from being here 15-and-a-half years, which I hope says something about the quality of the company -- that I've been given a good career and had the opportunity to do a lot of cool stuff -- we don't tend to do a lot of improper things. We tend to be very, very cautious about our ethics and how we behave, and that's the most I can provide to someone to reassure them.
And the total prize amount is large, how did you guys come to that? You guys have $500,000 that you're going to give, right?
LM: $500,000 over the different rounds, yes. That is what Bobby Kotick decided and announced. That's how much he decided he wanted to put back into the independent games area with this prize. We didn't take a survey!
That's the reaction from a lot of people as well! They're like, "What are you doing!?" But hopefully it raises awareness, too, that these games do cost money. Even for an independent person making a game by themselves, if they spend a year on that, they are still feeding themselves, or their families, or working other jobs. If this can help them concentrate, or get some other resources, or "Gosh, I don't really understand art, I'm going to hire an artist" -- that's what it's there for.
...I served on a panel for the Cooney Center, which is part of Sesame Street. We judged educational games, that we announced at E3, and the winning prize was $50,000, and I have rarely seen a more happy individual.
We didn't get to meet him until he came to do his final presentation -- he didn't win because of him. He won because of his project. There, the rules allowed people to submit something that was already out, and the winning project was Project: Noah, and it really does change people.
We hope that, because commercial games have so much of a higher barrier for quality level and for content, that our prize will allow people to compete on equal footing with those making games today.
What's the next step in this year's competition? I know the end of the month is the end of the first round.
LM: We're really getting back out there and encouraging people to submit their ideas. Judging will happen after September, and we'll announce the winners in the fall. Based on reviewing the rules and all those sorts of things, we will announce the next wave.