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Engaging Audiences: Denis Dyack Deconstructs The Industry
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Engaging Audiences: Denis Dyack Deconstructs The Industry

September 27, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

Do you think that it's a problem or a symptom of marketing, or of the wellspring of inspiration that people bring to the table, that we seem to go to very limited sources? You were talking about how we could go to literature or whatever, but it seems like most games seem to be inspired by, let's say, Aliens, The Matrix...

DD: Oh, it's terrible, yeah.

Do you think that that's because of the creators, or because of the marketing? I have this feeling that it comes from both directions.

DD: Sure. I think everyone's guilty to some extent. In the end I think it comes down to the fact that there's not enough time. People are looking at this medium and -- how long does it take to make a movie? A year? Maybe a year and a half?

Well, sometimes six months. Shooting, or pre-production to post-production?

DD: On average. I don't know. Anyway, it's shorter than video games. Movies cost more, and they make more, and the old days -- we're all victims of our history. Video games used to be really cheap, be really short to make, and make a ton more money than movies, so everyone got in the industry. Everyone wants to go back to that. But now what's happening, when we're talking about non-linear directions and stuff, is it's becoming more expensive. There's going to be a point in time where video games cost a lot more than movies, but if they're saturated enough, it won't matter, because they'll make more money.

But there's always this pressure to conserve and try to be as profitable as possible. I think that's good. There's nothing wrong with that, and we should always strive for that. But I think that's really what lends itself to the lack of people talking and the lack of communication. As an example -- and I'm guilty as well -- I fly out tomorrow morning. I landed last night. I'm really busy at work, and I would really love to stay and talk. There's a lot of interesting people. It seems like a great conference. But I've got to go home to make sure Too Human is good.

It's a serious problem. I was talking to Harvey Smith last night, and we was like, "Yeah, I had to take two days off of work to move, because I had to move into a new house. Moving furniture for two days was the biggest break I've had in so long, and I feel so relaxed now, because I had those two days." It's like, how can this be?

DD: It's a problem in our industry.

It's a huge problem, and it needs to be fixed. As long as people are willing to do it to themselves, it's not going to be fixed.

DD: It's changing.

He was saying that he feels like there is an inherent masochism in creative people, which is kind of true. You have to sacrifice yourself for the art. You really want to get your vision across and make this really awesome thing you've been trying to make. Anything else comes second to that.

DD: We have to be responsible. One of the things that I try to do at Silicon Knights is make sure that peoples' personal lives and their health is more important than the project. I've seen it across the board. If people are working really hard and their personal life falls apart, the professional life is soon to fall off. There's not enough money in the world -- at least I don't think so. I guess maybe Silicon Knights is lucky enough that everybody is not driving Lamborghinis.

We're from a standpoint of, "We work really hard, and we try to do the best thing that we can." At the same time, we realize that you can make it big, but assume you're not, and just try to do the best that you can. Silicon Knights is grown up now so that all the people who have been with the company for fifteen years or so have kids, and you have to be able to have a life. You can't say, "I'm taking two days off to move." That's insane. When we're in crunch times, you really need to push back and look at the battlefield and say, "Our troops are tired. We need a break."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my perception of Silicon Knights is that you have been able to take the time to finish stuff, rather than rushing things.

DD: I think that's true, actually, when I compare it to other studios.

Too Human

How do you keep people from rushing it?

DD: It's hard call. You just have to believe in it so much that you never give in. You never give in to getting out the quarter versus -- I've equated it to this before, too -- my partner says, "Would you prefer a quick death, or a slow death?" A quick death is pushing as hard as you can, and it all fails and falls apart and everything closes down because there's just no more money or whatever.

A slow death is getting it out in time, making that quarter, and your game sucks. Then it comes to getting another game. You do the same thing, and that game sucks. So you're really looking at, "If you're going to die, do you want to die quick, or do you want to die over a prolonged period of five years?" It's kind of a samurai mentality on some level, but when it comes to getting the game out... that's the one thing with Blizzard.

I don't know how they've done it, but they're one of the few groups... and I'd like to think that we're in the same category, maybe on a smaller scale. Those guys have never sacrificed. I remember when they first showed Starcraft at E3, and it was not looking good. They just put it away, came back later, and said, "Here is a new Starcraft." We were like, "Wow, this is great!" Those guys, they have it down too. I think that's what it comes down to, just never rushing that game. Valve is another company who does the same thing.

They definitely do that, but they're really small, so they can afford to, and they have other stuff they're doing.

DD: They have a lot of money. I think it comes down to pain tolerance in many ways. It's an exercise in pain tolerance -- how much pain you can endure.

One thing about the slow death is you can spend a lot of time and release your game, and the game still sucks. And everyone's like, "Oh!" That could be an even worse way to have a slow death.

DD: Then what you should've done is you should've killed your project. If the game's looking like it's not going to be any good, you should kill it.

It's kind of interesting, because Resident Evil 4 kind of bridges the gap in its development. They threw it away like, what, twice? And started over? And then they ended up coming out with something that's up to this incredible level of polish and precision.

DD: Yeah, that's very typical in the industry, though. The only thing that happened there was they made the mistake of letting people know it was in development too soon. So yeah, I agree totally. They did throw things out. There's a lot of companies that do that. Nintendo does the same thing, but they just never tell people when games are killed.

And Blizzard, for the most part, doesn't -- Starcraft: Ghost being the obvious example. But you know that they have to have done it multiple times.

DD: Oh, they've done it lots.

Everyone kills stuff, for sure.

DD: It's the ability to say, "This isn't good enough." It's a hard call sometimes, because you can love your baby. No one's perfect all the time, and hopefully you have a disciplined group that can do the best that you can. It's a really tough game though.

Well yeah, you love your baby even if it's got the epilepsy.

DD: That's right. It's always your baby.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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