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High Moon Shining: Inside Sierra's San Diego Outpost
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High Moon Shining: Inside Sierra's San Diego Outpost

September 21, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 11 Next

We then turned our attention to High Moon co-founder and chief development officer Chris Ulm and company vice president and design director Paul O'Connor, both of whom are recognized as co-creators of the studio's original property Darkwatch. Ulm is also the co-founder of Malibu Comics Entertainment, where he served as the comic studio's editor-in-chief, while O'Connor has published hundreds of comic strips for Malibu Comics.

Both he and O'Connor also worked closely with Oddworld Inhabitants co-founder Lorne Lanning on the studio's adventure titles Abe's Exoddus and Munch's Oddysee. O'Connor, a 21 year industry veteran, has worked on numerous titles, from the pen and paper RPG Grimtooth's Traps, to games for the Genesis, SNES and 3DO such as Demolition Man, Sylvester & Tweety Cagey Capers and Izzy's Quest For The Olympic Rings.

How long have the both of you been here?

Chris Ulm: I started the company. I was employee number three or something.

Paul O'Connor: I joined in October of 2002.

What happened to the old Sammy projects, like The Shield and stuff?

CU: The way Sammy was organized was that we had internal development and external development, and the external development was a separate division of the company. The guys that worked on Darkwatch were internal, so the internal guys are still here. The external projects went to different publishers.

PO: Sega picked up Iron Phoenix, and The Shield went back to [Point of View].

CU: We never saw those projects. I maybe played The Shield once or twice. They were all externally driven, and we were focusing most of our time and attention on Darkwatch.

The Sammy-published (but not High Moon-developed) action title Iron Phoenix

Where did the High Moon name come from?

CU: We had a survey within the office to come up with the final title for Darkwatch, and the first video for Darkwatch was subtitled High Moon. We had a whole series of suggested names from around the studio, and we ultimately picked High Moon as the name of the studio.

PO: Brian Robertson suggested the name.

What do you consider to be next-gen design?

CU: I think that these machines are affording unparalleled power, and the first instinct is to use it toward more elaborate graphics and animations, and to make everything look more photo-realistic. I think there are more opportunities than that. One of the things we're going for at the studio is cinematic action: being able to bring in more elaborate cameras, and the language that people are bringing to games from film.

We can do that with the level of animation and code support that we can fit into these new boxes. Mostly it's focusing on what the experience of the game is going to be, which is a heightened 3D experience. That doesn't mean you get away from the fundamentals of good level design, challenge, or balance, but it means that the audience is bringing a lot more expectation of what kind of experience they're going to have.

Is the "full 3D experience" more open-world type stuff?

CU: There's room for all different sorts of games. There's open-world games with an epic feel and a palette of things you can do, but there's also more focused games that might have a much richer and deeper experience. No matter how wide or narrow you go, there's room for doing great games.

PO: I can tell you what I think next-gen is turning out to be, and I can tell you what I think it should be. They're not the same thing. I think next-gen -- strictly about game design -- is turning out to be a buzzword [that gets gamers] to pay $60 for something they can get now for $20. I haven't played a game on these new platforms that's truly next-gen. I've played games that look next-gen, but they're all very familiar because I've seen them on previous platforms. The next-gen games right now are being played on a DS, or Guitar Hero on the PS2. Game design hasn't leaped with the technology onto these new platforms.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 11 Next

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