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Eugeneology: An Interview with Eugene Jarvis
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Eugeneology: An Interview with Eugene Jarvis

May 18, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 7 Next


Are licenses important to that at all?

EJ: I think so. I don't think it's as important in the arcade area. In the console space, it's almost do or die these days. It's either a license or a sequel. It seems like only five or ten percent of new releases are new IP, probably. The average marketing cost to get people aware of your game is so high that you have to end up going with a license or a sequel.

In the arcade space, it is important to get peoples' attention on a game. The Fast and the Furious has been an amazing license for us. You've got attention. The problem in the arcade space is that if a game's a buck or 50 cents or whatever, that's all you get. The guy sees your license and puts in his money, but if the game stinks, he's not going to be back, so all you're left with is 50 cents or a buck.

In the console space, if you're hyping up the latest Harry Potter game or whatever and it turns out to be a stinker, maybe two million guys bought it anyway. They put it in their computer and found out that it sucks, but maybe they're too lazy to return it or whatever. The company still makes 100 million dollars, even though the game stunk, because it had a great license. In the arcade, you're going to get the guy's fifty cents, and he's gone. Gameplay is more important. Look at Need for Speed, which I guess is the number one game forever. In the arcade, it was only marginally successful. The Fast and the Furious destroyed it. It was really about gameplay and entertainment. The license was important, but at the end of the day, you really have to provide a fun experience.

How long do you think it's going to be until the arcade is no longer viable?

EJ: I wouldn't be in this business if I believed that! I think it's like a jukebox. We can all play CDs at home and we all have iPods, but at a bar, there's still a jukebox. I think when you're waiting for your pizza, you're going to want a fun arcade game to play, and when you're sitting at a bar drinking beers and want to kick ass on your buddies, you'll play Big Buck Hunter. It's about being at other places, not being at home.

When you're at another place, it's something fun to do, and you have all the environmental aspects. You've got a gun, a steering wheel, force feedback, or a motion cabinet. These things are very hard to do in the home environment, and I think the arcade still has that working for it. I think it will always be a part of the entertainment spectrum. You've got radio, TV, the Internet, and books, and they always continue to exist in their area even as technology goes on to create other platforms.

How big is the company? Do you have to have a separate R&D department?

EJ: We have about 50 employees, and two studios. We have the Raw Thrills studio, and last year we merged with the Play Mechanix studio. Play Mechanix has their own studio and facility. Their focus is the Big Buck Hunter series, and they've been doing other stuff lately. They've done a game based on Deal or No Deal. It's a fun arcade piece. We have those two different studios, and we're having a lot of fun.

Do you have to have separate people working on the hardware stuff?

EJ: Yeah. We've got a dedicated hardware department. The PC is a wonderfully flexible platform, but you have to have a full-time hardware department to keep up. The lifetime of a graphics board is like three days. You can design your whole game around this great new graphics board, and two weeks later, you can't even buy it. There's a whole new one, and of course your game doesn't work with that one.

You constantly have to re-engineer your drivers and your graphics to adapt to the latest PC technology because it keeps evolving and evolving. You really have to be on top of that, with the latest versions of Windows embedded, and if you're using Linux, you have to be up on all the latest Linux drivers and releases. It's amazingly challenging to make a production line run with things constantly changing underneath you.

I heard that you and your Play Mechanix cohorts are working on some kind of new online platform. Can you talk about that?

EJ: Yes! We're trying to bring the online tournament experience to the Big Buck Hunter franchise. It's a very competitive game, and players around the country are itching to prove that they can bring down more bucks than the next guy. It's a big push to get us into that online tournament space. The Play Mechanix guys have been in existence longer than Raw Thrills, and Big Buck Hunter was one of their first games back in the late '90s. They've been constantly improving that game, and it keeps getting better and better.

Didn't Sega release that for a while?

EJ: Sega did a competitive game called Extreme Hunting on the Atomiswave. They've got Extreme Hunting 2 out now. They're the big competitor with Buck Hunter. Buck Hunter was originally released by Incredible Technologies. Buck Hunter Pro is steps ahead of what came before. The designers did an amazing job.

How do you feel about so many indie games like Xbox Live Arcade games basically being Robotron clones at this point?

EJ: As they say, imitation is the height of flattery! The Robotron play mechanic -- with independent firing and motion -- is such a natural mechanic, and it has become a standard in the industry in the last 25 years. It's ideal for an arcade-type scenario on Xbox Live. The gameplay on games like Geometry Wars is just wonderful. Guys are just taking it miles ahead where we were at with Robotron, and I think it's fabulous.

Arcade classic Robotron pioneered the two-joystick control system

Have you considered entering that space at all?

EJ: We have, and it's something we've been tossing around and would like to get involved in. We've just been so booked up on doing real arcade games that we haven't had the chance yet, but we hope that maybe some day we'll have some of our arcade releases show up on Xbox Live.

The budget would be even smaller in Live Arcade than in real arcades, so it would be interesting to see the parallel there.

EJ: Yeah! If you look at a lot of the guys doing casual games today, there's some great stuff going on out there. It's a golden age to be a player, because the variety of games is just tremendous. There's a countless amount of titles. Anybody can throw up a website and have a downloadable game. It's amazing, man! I wish I didn't have a job! I'd get to spend more time playing games.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 7 Next

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