Another interesting thing is... I'm trying to think what the last serious competitor to Tony Hawk was before they all got shut down, and it was probably like...
SB: Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, maybe.
Yeah. We're talking like back in 2000 or 2002, maybe, at the latest, I would say. Probably not even that late. But I guess you've reached the point where your game is successful, but now you have to iterate on it. Going back for the second one is very different than coming out with the first one. What was that process like for you guys?
SB: It is. It can only be new for your first time out with a franchise, and there's a certain appeal to being new. New is sexy, especially if you're taking a lot of risks and they pay off. Of course, if you take risks that don't pay off, that's kind of horrible. But to be quite honest, we'd already designed 2 at the same time as we designed 1. In fact, we designed 1, 2, and 3 all at the beginning.
We looked at it as a three-game plan. We knew where we wanted to get to in the first, and we knew that even with the first one, we couldn't get off-board, and some people would be kind of bummed. "Oh, I want to get off the board." But to make getting off-board really pay off, it would've taken away from our skating. Do you want ollie inward heels, or do you want off-board?
So we decided, "Okay, we're going to focus. Let's just get skating right the first time," and we knew the second time we'd come in with off-board. Same with movable objects, and a lot of other things. We already kind of knew where we wanted to go, which made it easier, but it's also a challenge, because you've got to keep it fresh.
The second time around, you're not the new shiny thing. It's a sequel. But to us, that was an opportunity to fix anything we didn't like with the first one. And there were some parts of the game -- maybe create a character, the video editor, online stuff -- that we knew that if we rated that ourselves, we'd say, "Okay, good first outing, but not amazing." On the second one, we get to make it amazing. We get to get across all the features and push them further, and then pick a few that we really want to just knock out of the park.
To return to what you were talking about with designing the three games up-front, I don't think I've ever actually heard anyone say that before. Is this a franchise-driven philosophy? A lot of people say now, "We're trying to do a franchise." I guess because this is an action-sports game, you're expected to ship one every holiday, I'm assuming.
SB: No, that's not the expectation. I hear a lot about it. I read the boards and the forums, and a lot of people are like, "Oh, EA is going to make these guys crank one out every year." Honestly, it's a different EA.
I've been around here for 14 years and seen a lot of changes, but it is a different environment under John Riccitiello and a lot of the new heads at the company really embrace quality. I don't need to say it, because I think people are seeing it in some of the products that are coming out, whether it's Dead Space or Mirror's Edge or whatever, but at Black Box, we're treated more like an independent developer.
I wasn't trying to imply that it was a meat packing factory situation. It was more just...
SB: I guess we can go down to another layer. Skateboarding doesn't have a season, so yeah. NBA needs to hit at the beginning of a season. It'd be crazy not to. Sports games do need to iterate yearly.
Madden's got to hit the beginning of the football season, sure, but what we do is that we're building a massive city, and to do that, trying to build a massive new city every year would be crazy. You can't do that, so you need more time. And we were never pressured to ship and crank one out every year.