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Finding A New Way: Jenova Chen And Thatgamecompany
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Finding A New Way: Jenova Chen And Thatgamecompany

May 5, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

Do you have any plans to bring out Cloud?

JC: Oh, Cloud, well...

To a console or some other platform.

JC: We started our company by pitching Cloud as a console game. But if we do it, we have a very ambitious plan to do it well. But right now, based on the team we have, and the technology we have, I think it's not going to be our next game. We just can't handle it. We will only do it when the time is right.

And also, it's like the baby we have; sometimes I just want to keep him there. If we have a better idea, we'll do the better idea. It's more like a safe protection. If we really run out of ideas, we really have no creativity, we will still have Cloud to make. Kind of like that.

That makes sense. And I suppose you would never want to outsource the game to someone else, like with PSP port of flOw.

JC: Yeah. The port was very, very difficult. We didn't think the port would take that much effort. They basically had to remake it.

Just like remaking it from Flash to PS3.

JC: Right. And for the next game, it's just impossible to run on any other console except the PS3, because the code is all written based on SPU. PSP is not going to handle it.

We always just want to make new games, but I'm sure that someone is going to tell us that, "Hey, it would be a good idea to make an expansion pack." Actually, the expansion pack of flOw is also done by SuperVillain.

For the PS3?

JC: For the PS3. So they are working on PS3 and PSP at the same time.

Was thatgamecompany in charge of what went into the expansion pack?

JC: The expansion pack, well, definitely the design of the creatures, and the feel, has gone through our designer and artist, but it's a collaboration. It's not like we have said, "Do this, do this, do this." It's more like, "We have these ideas, what do you think?" And they will say, "We don't like it," or "We like it," or, "We've changed it."

It's been a pleasant collaboration. I think they did their best on this product; it's just, unfortunately, that it takes that much more, while it could only take us a little time to make. That's the lesson we learned. You know, everybody said, "flOw is such an easy game to make," It's right there, it's just like Snake, we should be able to make it. But... (laughs)

Have you considered growing the company more?

JC: I always wish that we can grow bigger, you know, grow faster, but based on our experience on the current project, we have eight people on Flower right now -- previously we had five on flOw -- and when we reached eight, I feel there are moments where people are waiting, because there's nothing to do, or there are situations where the morale is low.

So we feel like maybe we didn't master how to work as a team yet; we shouldn't just keep growing, because then, the efficiency will be even lower, and then the consistency of the game will be even lower.

So right now we are just talking about how we should not expand for the next project; keep the same size, but try to raise the efficiency as a team. Because the most important thing that differentiates us from big teams is that we have a unified vision. We only have one artist, and one composer. So there's no way you can make art that goes in different styles.

And then we have three programmers, a game designer, and me as the creative director. So it's a very [unified] team, and that way we can make sure the game is like one entity. But if we just keep expanding, I'm sure it's going to go wrong.

Earlier I was commenting on a lot of games from big publishers, how they feel like it's made on a pipeline. Where the head, in the beginning, is awesome, because the people who work on it are great, but then the middle part is really lame because they slacked off, or the tail is really bad because they cut it.

So we used to use a metaphor: a barrel which holds water, a wooden barrel has all these pieces, and you use a frame to put them together. Each piece is for a different aspect of the game -- one is for the graphics, one is for the sound, one is for design -- and if any one of those is short, the water that you can hold is only up to the shortest part. And the water is the satisfaction of the player.

If you have terrible graphics, and everything else is great, the player will probably just keep saying, "Oh, the graphics suck!" But, meanwhile, if you have really wonderful graphics -- like real graphics -- but the gameplay sucks, they will still think the game is mediocre, because the gameplay sets the cap.

So, as a small team, there is no way that we can create a cap, a taller piece than a commercial game, but our goal is to keep every piece at the same height; so it could be even higher than some of the commercial games.

Yeah, that makes sense. You're only as strong as your weakest component.

JC: Right. So as long as we don't have the weakest gameplay or the weakest graphics, we will be better than most of the big games.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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