St. Catharines, Ontario based developer Silicon Knights first revealed its ambitious Too Human at E3 back in 1994, as a 5-disc PlayStation epic. After the company signed on as a second party developer with Nintendo in 1998, the project was prototyped for a time on the GameCube, though never progressed past that stage, and after two games with Nintendo, the developer and the publisher went separate ways in 2004. Company president Denis Dyack told Gamasutra shortly after that time that he felt Silicon Knights had become “extremely well-rounded” at crafting story and game experiences “after working with Nintendo.”
Just prior to E3 in 2005, the company revealed the Too Human project had shifted platforms once again and would be appearing as a trilogy on the Xbox 360 as part of a partnership with Microsoft. At the same time, Silicon Knights also announced a collaboration with Sega, though further details – including platform – have not yet been revealed.
E3 2006 saw events take a turn for the worse for the company, though, with a preview build of Too Human shown sharply criticized by some outlets for its camera and frame rate issues. Since that time, Dyack has been relatively quiet in regards to the game, but increasingly vocal about the development, publishing and marketing model that exists in the industry at this present time, suggesting that the marketing process – including reviews and advertising – should not begin until the game has been completed. Additionally, he believes, the preview process should be set back until the game is around two-thirds of the way into the development process.
We spoke to Dyack at length recently, and asked about his views on video game narrative, his development and marketing proposal and his views on video game criticism.
Gamasutra: The last time Gamasutra spoke to you, at E3 in 2005, you mentioned that your decision to work with Microsoft and Sega was based on a need to have the flexibility to make the games you wanted to. I wanted to begin by just asking whether you felt like you do have the kind of flexibility you wanted, at the moment.
Denis Dyack: I think it’s gone very well, from the perspective that the company since that time saying that we wanted to do bigger and larger projects, we’ve now got two large projects underway. We’ve gone from, I think, 60 people under Nintendo to close to if not past 150, and growing, and we’re going to start a third project, so we’re going to grow by probably another 75 as well.
I think from that perspective, it’s gone very, very well. We’ve been able to do what we want to do. We’ve been able to create high production value games with the highest fidelity, so we’re very happy in that regard.
GS: Why do you think something like Too Human wouldn’t have been possible with Nintendo?
DD: Oh, I don’t think that. I think Too Human would have been possible with Nintendo – I think good ideas work on any hardware platform. However, I think in terms of the kind of game that we want to do, I think Nintendo’s direction was really skewing towards accessibility, new gamers and light hearted easy immersion party type games. That’s our impression of it, and I shouldn’t speak for them and I think Zelda shows that they can do other things as well, but their market demographic clearly shows that they’re moving towards that. At least…I don’t know about ‘clearly’, but it seems to be heading towards that.
I wasn’t sure that the type of games we wanted to make would resonate well with that platform. So, I don’t think it’s impossible I just think it wasn’t the right fit and I think they agreed as well.
GS: Why do you think the 360 is the best fit?
DD: Well, I think PS3 and 360 are the best fit, to be honest. We’re not exclusive to the 360. I just think those consoles have a lot more memory, a higher fidelity. They’re a lot bigger, they’re a lot faster, and we can create games with higher production values. What I mean by that is, things that are closer to film; lots of technical post processing, significantly increased levels of polygons, characters that look more lifelike. All those things.
GS: Do you think, given that you’re envisioning Too Human as the first in a trilogy, we’ll see the company getting a better hold of the platform as time goes on? Are you finding yourself becoming more familiar with the 360 even now?
DD: Oh, yeah - of course. I think that’s always the case with the new hardware platforms: once you get used to working with systems you get better and better at it, and you learn more constantly as you go. Ironically, as soon as you generally start to get really used to the system, the platform moves on and you need to start looking at a new hardware system.
GS: That was actually something I wanted to ask about. Are the games in the trilogy all definitely planned for the 360?