The Mouse That Gamed: Graham Hopper Talks Disney's Video Game Strategy
July 27, 2009 Page 5 of 6
So, Warren Spector. What's up?
GH: Well, uh, one of these days you'll find out.
Have to ask!
GH: Warren is hard at work. He's got a team working on a great project, and we're going to show it when it's right and ready. We're very encouraged by what we've seen. I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised.
How big is Junction Point now?
GH: Gosh, I'm not sure of the exact number right now, but I mean...
Is it one team? Two teams?
GH: It's one team. It's one team, still in the process of building out. I think when we acquired it, it was roughly 20 people, and it's more than doubled since then, but I don't know the exact number right now.
One reason games can suffer from a lack of polish or creativity is that development cycles don't allow for enough pre-production. The film industry, of course, is known for its long, long, long pre-production times. When it comes to a talent like Warren Spector and Junction Point that you're involved with, how much creative leeway do you allow for pre-production, iteration, evolution, stuff like that?
GH: A lot. In fact we try to do it as much as possible. Frankly, the bigger the game, the more preproduction time it needs. I don't think you can be in business and try to deliver high quality product-- and stay in business -- and rush into production too soon. Because the odds of you doing something great at the end are minimized, and you'll eventually be out of business. The only way to do it is -- you have to give it the right amount of time.
The project that Warren's working on is something that we've had creative ideas about for a long time before we found the right guy to make it -- which was Warren.
Warren has taken that and changed it a lot along the way and made it better, and we've given him the time to do that. We're into a very, very extensive prototyping and technology phase on the game. Right now he's building levels. To get to that point took a long time. That's why we've been quiet. But that's what the game needs to be successful.
There are other games that we haven't announced we're working on that are on equally long gestation periods, and they just need them. The cost of developing new IP these days is so high, to try and save some money here and there by shortchanging that process doesn't make sense.
And frankly, I don't think it's fair to the people who work on the teams. I think about this: if I'm working on a team and I'm going to bust my gut for two and a half to three years or longer on a project, I want to know that what I have to show for myself at the end of this is worthy of the sacrifice that I'm going to make.
I think we owe it to our teams to give them the time that they to need to be successful. There's always attention to cost and everything else, but at the end of the day wherever possible we defer to giving our people the time that they need. Great people create great things, but they don't do it on impossible deadlines.
GH: It's true for you too, I'd imagine, right? (laughs)
Disney/Black Rock Studio's Pure
Yeah, well, I'm an online journalist, so impossible deadlines are par for the course. Speaking to what you were saying earlier about allowing the prototyping for Split/Second: how are things at Black Rock? And how do you feel about that part of your organization right now?
GH: I love it. I think we've got a great team down there. I think they're doing great work. I think they know it. It's so gratifying to see a team of people that had delivered really good, if not great, stuff in the past but did it under the constraints of being a third party developer -- always struggling to find the money to move on to the next project, and never really able to do something that could feel was their own.
And to see that team get the opportunity from us to be able to go off and do that, and actually rise to the occasion, and flourish... We have a great creative culture there, we have a leadership team over there, and they're just doing great work. And it shows up onscreen. So, I'm absolutely thrilled.
And that's something I'd like to see replicated, over time, over all of our studios with that level of creative success and that virtuous cycle of getting better and better and wanting to beat themselves. It's not about beating someone else in the industry anymore, it's about topping themselves.
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