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Dan Houser On How Rockstar Does It
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Dan Houser On How Rockstar Does It

November 18, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

Your games often have a cinematic quality and that lets you, as developers, be in charge of the story. But it seems like this industry is moving more and more toward multiplayer. where you have less control of that.

DH: Absolutely.

So how do you handle that?

DH: Well, Max has both. It has a single player component and multiplayer component. So I believe that we wanted to put some elements of single play into the multiplayer, so the multiplayer will have a lot more detail and have elements of story in it and have a sort of an immersive quality. We think that's something that is under-explored in multiplayer.

In multiplayer, I think we are feeling like it's a really fun learning experience for us, really. We are trying to figure out how to get better at it. I think we've demonstrated the power of the third person perspective in single player games and our challenge is now to take that over [to multiplayer].

You obviously have certain advantages in the first person, with the targeting. To solve that first in a single person game that was a straight shooter like Max, and then to take that over to multiplayer, it's definitely a challenge we're excited by and aware of.

Are we going to see DLC for Max Payne?

DH: We'll see something, but I don't know what it will be yet. We are often not as organized or cynical -- you can see it either way -- as people think we are going to be with plans laid out this far out with everything. We will get those plans in order in the next few month, but they are just not sorted out yet.

What did you learn from the DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption?

DH: The two key lessons we learned were that if you want a vibrant multiplayer community, you have got to provide content frequently and fairly quickly after release, which we tried to do with Red Dead.

And I think the two GTA episodes, from a creative standpoint, were absolutely fantastic. We are very, very, very proud of them. And we are kind of compelled due to various other business factors to make them that size -- but something at $20 for DLC, maybe $10 is a more exciting price point.

We have to talk a little bit about the timing. You had the big coming out party for the game in 2009, with the Game Informer cover. And then you obviously had a couple of series of delays. What sort of impact does that have on the team and for you?

DH: I think it's part of the industry, if you want high quality games. Maybe, if you are making a sequel without much design innovation and without any real technical innovation -- you know, just a bunch of new content on board with a broadly existing engine with a broadly existing design -- you can have some degree of confidence in guessing your release date.

Anyone that's doing what we were trying to do and guesses at the start of the project exactly when things are going to be done, well they are better at this job than I am. We can't do that while guaranteeing quality.

What impact did it have on the team? None negative. I think the team was happy that we were pursuing quality. They weren't done, and they could see they weren't finished and it wasn't right, so we were going to keep working on it until it was finished and it was right.

It won't be our longest development cycle. It won't be our shortest.

One of the other things that this studio is well known for is very carefully controlling the information that comes out before and during a game. In the movie industry, they are offering fans more of a peek behind the curtain of late.

DH: Yeah.

It doesn't seem like you are very eager to embrace that. Does it take away the magic?

DH: That's really it. It was really important to us that the games felt kind of magical. And seeing too many videos and or even seeing interviews of us sitting there pointing stuff out and showing how it's all done [detracts from that].

I think with the movies, the less you know about the stars the better. The best movies are where you go and don't know anyone that's in it. And we want to keep that feeling -- we always did and continue to want it now -- where it might annoy people that we don't give out more information. But I think the end point is people enjoy the experience.

Obviously, it's a balancing act to sell the game... We used to have an exact formula for how much information you give out and how much you wouldn't. Literally, it was sort of a pie chart. It's hard to be that controlling, but you certainly want features that people are discovering. Some amount they learn about in advance, and some amount in reviews, but hopefully you can keep [other aspects] quiet until [people] are actually playing the game, because you want it to have the surprises and you want it to be magic.

The less they know about how things are pieced together and how things are exactly broken down, and exactly what our processes are, the more it will feel like this thing is alive, that you are being dragged into the experience. That's what we want.


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