Looping back around, you guys merged with BioWare a few years ago, and I know I've talked to people from both studios, about tech sharing, and you talked also about taking a look at things at EA -- how is tech and idea sharing? How does that work for you, over the past couple years, and moving forward?
CB: Well, unfortunately, after the Elevation experience, obviously BioWare and Pandemic are now mortal enemies, and are sworn to destroy each other in an epic battle.
But, look, I spent some time up in BioWare, I went and visited those guys, and because of the games we were making at the time -- when it was just BioWare and us, as real sister studios -- there wasn't much explicit engine sharing or tech sharing that we could do. But something that we did do is, we went up -- I flew up to Edmondton, and got extremely cold, and had a special time looking at their projects, and pitching Mercs to them, and hearing their feedback on an early version of Mercs. Then they came down to us, and presented a couple of their concepts to us, and we definitely used each other -- not extensively, but usefully and, I must say, a pretty fun way -- used each other as sounding boards.
They were definitely interested in our experience in making action games, and they were particularly interested in how we approach vehicles in Mercs; they were like, "We think you guys do really good vehicles! We really want to apply that to..." it's a still unannounced project, so I won't talk about it...
And then, for us, obviously they make some of the best story games out there, so we're really interested to learn from them about, you know, how do you guys approach -- it was fascinating to go and talk to them about their incubation process that they have for writers up there. They take their writing incredibly seriously, and they have such a rich culture up there of video game writing, as opposed to any other form of writing. It's really interesting, and they are developing, and are at the forefront of a really interactive form of fiction. We mentioned, we touched on interactive fiction before, and I think BioWare are clearly innovators and pioneers in that field.
So it was more a really interesting and stimulating discussion that we were able to have, and comparing notes about -- it was the first time in my experience, like video game developers, because of various reasons, we tend to be -- when we meet, we often have to play our cards close to our chests, because we're technically under NDA, and we have unannounced projects, there are questions of competitive advantage in cool things we might be doing... So when we were like a sister studio with BioWare, that was the first time, as a developer, in a long time of doing this, that I was able to march into another developer, and just be very forthright, and be very, "Here's what we're doing! Here's what works, here's what doesn't work! Here's what we think is really cool! Here's our secret sauce!" And they were able to do the same for us.
So, you know, I can't really point to a specific thing -- it wasn't like we took some of the space ships from Mass Effect and put them in one of our games, or anything like that. Much as I would've liked to!
(laughter) That would be a cool, kind of like Smash Bros...
CB: It was nice just, you know, talking to those guys, hearing how they approach problems. And it was really... I'm still processing some of the conversations I had up there, and I still find interesting aspects of what they were doing, and how they were doing it. They're smart guys. I really, really have a lot of respect for those guys.
I think it's perspective, right? Perspective is, you can't judge things that you're working so closely on, the same way someone with an outside perspective can, and that's awfully valuable. I mean, that's basically why they hire focus groups. To add perspective.
CB: Right. Right. No, no, it's true, I mean I don't think that's unique to video games, I think that's common to human endeavors in general. I think the longer you do something, the harder it is to get some distance.
It's the cliché of the painter who needs to take a step back from the canvas, and take a look from viewing distance, and go, "What am I creating, here?" I'm a terrible painter myself, but I'm quite interested in the art -- and I've seen painters who'll turn their portraits upside-down, to get a fresh eye on it, and see -- just look at it in a new way, and force their brain to process it in a new way. And they'll see something in the painting that they were missing, even though it was right in front of their face.
Just because video games involve now hundreds of people, and millions of dollars, and years of time, it's equally true! Ultimately, they are a creative endeavor, and all of those human limitations of perception and thinking apply.