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Living On The Edge: DICE's Owen O'Brien Speaks
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Living On The Edge: DICE's Owen O'Brien Speaks

June 6, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

"The Biggest Outsourcing Project at EA"

Technology-wise, are you using your own engine technology on this game?

OO: No, we're actually using Unreal 3, but it doesn't look like Unreal 3.

It certainly doesn't. It's funny -- we talked to Mark Rein, and we sort of accused him of the saminess of Unreal 3 games. He said, "You're totally wrong!"

OO: Yeah, I think we wanted a very distinct art style, and we needed -- lighting is very important in our game, so we actually worked with a company in the south of Sweden, called Illuminate Labs.

They've developed a lighting solution with us, called Beast, which gives us a lot of very soft shadows, and color bouncing, and it's what makes the world feel solid and real. And, also, it gives the game its unique look.

So you're outsourcing some elements of the development.

OO: We're outsourcing it to the extent that... I think there's a figure bandied around that we're the biggest outsourcing project at EA, so far. We've outsourced a lot of the art.

I wouldn't say the lighting system is outsourced, so much as co-developed. We're [also] using an external agency for the 2D artwork/animation we showed here -- we'll actually be using that in the game, to tell the story.

It's interesting, because of the size of the EA organization, would suggest, at the face of it, "Do they really need to find people who don't work for EA to do things?"

OO: I think you do. I mean, EA and, particularly, DICE, we focus on what we're good at, which is making games. Then hire professionals to do the other stuff, that maybe we haven't done so much.

Certainly at DICE we haven't done [cinematics]. Particularly the 2D style of cutscenes. We have no experience on that, and I wanted a very distinct look, so I went to people who know what they're talking about, and they can give me what I need. And, in general, it works out cheaper than having to hack away at it internally, and not get as good a result.

Do you think -- are all the companies you're working with externally, are they in Europe? Are they only in Europe, or are you working with companies in Asia and North America and all?

OO: Some of the outsourcing is -- or was; we've finished it now -- was in Asia.

Oh yeah? For art assets?

OO: For art assets.

Got in-game art assets, like in-engine art assets?

OO: Yes.

Did you work with companies in China?

OO: Shanghai.

How did you feel about what you got back from them? Was that a difficult process, to get back what you wanted?

OO: No. I think it worked out pretty well in the end. We didn't make their job easier by... you know, we did this very unique art direction, kind of mid-flow. So that kind of screwed things up.

Like, "Oh, sorry! Can you make everything white?" And they're like, "What?" So, yeah, that worked out. We're very happy with the results. It worked out pretty good for us.

In discussions of outsourcing, what keeps coming up is that communication and relationship-building are the only ways to get good results out of outsourcing companies.

OO: Absolutely. I think that what really helped to make it work for us is that we sent a member of the team out there, and he actually lived there for, you know, six months.

A lead artist?

OO: Yeah.

And did he just work with the art team there, to get everyone on the same page, and get everyone working?

OO: Yeah. Absolutely. And he was kind of the gatekeeper, as well, we knew that when our stuff did come to us, that it would be through him. So that just saved us no end of hassle, I think.

That might be a difficult proposition, though, to say to someone, "Go live in Shanghai for six months." I mean, I guess if people who were -- you know, at the lead level, you're talking about people who have, wives, or husbands, and children, and other responsibilities.

OO: Yeah, it's a... I mean, the guy we sent is 22 and single, so he loved it.

That's pretty young for a lead, isn't it?

OO: Yeah. He's very talented. We've got a very young team. We've got a mixture of old people, like me, but DICE is a very young company. I think it benefits from that.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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