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GS: If you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you need to, you’ll never really care about what you do next?
PM: I care more about what that next game is than anyone else in the world, and I’ve always done that and I’ve always cared. It never has been a job – it’s always felt like a dream to me.
GS: In terms of presenting a public persona, some game developers aren’t always great at communicating – the Stampers [at Rare] for example – sometimes I feel like it’s about how you can promote yourself.
PM: The Stampers, I think, were always very afraid of the limelight and shied away from the limelight – and that actually meant that people concentrated on their games, which is in fact the right thing to do.
Other people saw the limelight as a soapbox to sort of shout loudly about nothing in particular – and that isn’t a good thing to do.
GS: Obviously, Bullfrog was a prominent early example of an independent developer – but there’s a new wave of indies coming up now. What kind of independent studios have you seen that you’re excited about?
PM: There’s one called Media Molecule [formed by former Lionhead staffer Mark Healey] – they’re concentrating on something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. There’s some rumblings from other people [about making indie studios], but you have to have an unbelievably good idea, you have to be unbelievably dedicated – your life will be destroyed for a period of time.
And you have to face all the challenges of the natural unfairness of the developer/publisher system. It makes it incredibly difficult. You get all the money on pre-defined milestones, then when you finish the game, you don’t get any money at all until you’ve paid off all the royalties, but your costs are still there.
But it’s difficult. The game industry is so much more professional than it was - certainly from when I set up at Lionhead. If you don’t have a really strong businessperson on your team then it can be a serious problem.
GS: How about Xbox Live Arcade as an entry point into the industry for indies?
PM: If you were starting out as an independent developer and you said: ‘I want to make a great game,’ then one method is to say: “I’m going to get respected by doing a Live Game,” and then use that respect and that increased negotiation power to actually broker a deal for the unique game that you’re working on.
The mistake that people make – and that I’ve made myself – is trying to do the big things first, without thinking that this is the ultimate goal.