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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 5 of 7 Next
 

 

Do you actually play many games now?

EJ: One thing that I play a lot is the Age of Empires series. That got me hooked. Recently, I got my 360 and have been playing Gears of War, and that's pretty crazy. There's some funny stuff on the Internet, too. My son is 14, and it's funny to see the stuff he gets into too. He was into Club Penguin for awhile. It's amazing that there's so many nutty, nutty games on the Internet now. Miniclip has some interesting stuff going on now, along with all the other casual gaming sites.

What is your actual role in the games that are made at Raw Thrills? Do you do any actual design work anymore, or do you oversee everyone?

EJ: I'm kind of the guy who tastes the food in the kitchen. I'll create a two or three page design spec, and the guys are so creative that I'll just let them run wild with what they want to do with the game. It's really stifling to creativity when a company comes down with a 300-page description of every screen of the game, and everything's going to happen before anyone's played a single level.

There's a feedback process where you want to see what works and what doesn't work, and the design may move toward a different direction than what you intended. We give our guys a lot of latitude. We start with a two or three page description of the game, and then they'll just run with it. We try to get the game up and playable within a couple of months, because you just want to be playing that game constantly, to refine the gameplay and make it a lot of fun.

So you do a lot of prototyping and iteration, then?

EJ: Yes. It's more of an iterative process. There's this new buzzword out: Scrum. It sounds a lot like what we do. The idea is to have short goals. Implement the goal, play the game, get feedback, then go to the next level. Say you're designing a driving game and you're designing 27 tracks.

Now, if you're a console company, you really are prisoner to your one-year deadline. They pretty much have to decide everything they have to do up front, and then just do it. If it turns out that it wasn't a good idea, then so be it. Hopefully, it was a good license. In our situation, we have a little more time. We'll run a two year project, and spend the first six months trying to get one level or one track to be where we want it to be. We hone that one, tweak it in, and get the car handling and the trick system. Then, once you've got that, you can design the other 15 or 20 levels and know that it's going to be a good game, because you've been playing it all along. The longer development cycle helps you do that. It helps you emphasize the gameplay, as opposed to having everything defined up front and hoping that you're right.

How many games do you have to release yearly in order to maintain success?

EJ: Just to keep the company going?

Yeah.

EJ: I guess we've done maybe one or two games a year. We're a very small company, so that can work for us. Obviously, if the company got bigger, we'd probably have to release two or three games a year. You've got to make sure they're good. The other thing you've got to do is realize that we're all human, and some games just stink. You've got to kill the stinkers, and you've got to stamp out those nasty, slow-death games. You've got to kill them before you use too much budget, otherwise it can sink your company. You've got to be vigilant, because some ideas are just not good. There's always that tendency to keep fixing them and fixing them, but some things are just not going to go. There's inherently flawed design concepts. The real challenge is to know when to just kill a project.

Have you had anything like that recently?

EJ: I would say probably about half the projects we do end up getting killed, because you realize that some point on the way, it's just not going to make it.

So are you generally the chief originator of those ideas?

EJ: On the Raw Thrills side, I've been doing a lot of the original designs. At Play Mechanix, it's George [Petro] and his designers. We have to bring on more guys and get some more ideas going.

It's interesting, because both seem to be designer-lead studios.

EJ: Yeah, but you have to stand back and let some of the new kids go with their ideas. Otherwise, you can get a little fossilized. That's a challenge. Me, I've been at it for 30 years. You don't want every game looking like Pong. You have to give some of the new guys the reign to kick out some new ideas.

Speaking of the fossilized type, you've worked with Jeff Minter on Defender 2000, right?

EJ: Yeah. You know, Jeff also did Llamatron, a version of Robotron. He's an amazing guy. I guess he's doing stuff with Xbox Live Arcade now?

Yeah, he's got a game coming out called Space Giraffe.

EJ: That's guy's great. He's got to be one of the most creative guys in the industry, and I hope that he hits it big.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

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