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When you moved from a large organization like EA, which is a publisher-based one, to Foundation 9, what differences struck you as important or relevant?
PG: I think that we have to put a lot more emphasis on the relationship between us and the publisher, because we're not embedded with a marketing team or a publishing team. We have clients, and we're managing relationships and making sure the communication is really effective. It's a huge aspect of the way we do business.
On the other hand, I also find that the vision is allowed to germinate and take root in a much stronger way on the game team here at the studio level, because people know the creativity, the passion, and the drive they have for their game is the whole business.
There's a more entrepreneurial scrappiness that I'm encountering here that's energizing and exciting.
I've heard it's kind of tough to sign games because of the economic situation right now. Have you found that to be a problem?
PG: 2009 was a really challenging year. I think if you look around the industry, there's a lot of people focused on keeping their powder dry and getting through the recession and targeting key innovations in the future.
We've been lucky. We've got a really strong and supportive parent company, and we've got great publishing partners and we have a couple of awesome games that we've been working on.
We certainly haven't been hit in the same way as a lot of people, but I also believe there's some consolidation in the industry, and the focus is on fewer games executed to a higher level of quality. I also think that the industry overall is changing.
You've got the advent of social networking applications as a platform. You've got the iPod and the iPad and handheld and mobile taking off. There's lots of competition for peoples' leisure time now, and that's changed the industry as well, but not contracted it, so much.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
I think there's starting to become a sense from analysts that the bankable audience is the Xbox 360 audience, and that that's the one to go for. It's capable of generating a lot of revenue, but there's a certain narrowness to it. It seems to be Double Helix's audience, with your competency of doing current-gen games, right?
PG: Yeah. We love the Xbox 360, and we love the PS3. We'd love to develop for the PC as well. For us, it's about where you can get the big-screen, cinematic experience. I've been looking at trends in the industry, and I haven't seen many people writing about this, but there has been an absolute explosion in cinematic quality in games released through last year and this year.
The level of cinematic execution, the level of storytelling, the level of experience... it's not just the core mechanics of the game, it's the core mechanics of the game woven into a setting that is rich and emotional and has a very, very high set of stakes. If you look at how close the teams are here to understanding film-level IP and large-scale, story-driven entertainment, they're tapped in to that, and they have a good understanding of that stuff. That is a direction that I think you're going to see PS3 and Xbox 360 games continue to go.
As a developer, I can remember a time not too long ago -- five years ago -- when people were quick to dismiss storytelling or character development. Like, "Get on with the game. If I'm not interacting..." It was a badge of honor to say that you skipped through all of the cinematics.
I don't think the culture has that attitude anymore. I think we've gotten a lot better at telling story, and people are as entertained by the story and the setting and the richness of a game as they are by the mechanics themselves. Look at Uncharted, or Assassin's Creed, or any of the games that have come out this year, and I think you'll see ample proof of that.
Do you think that's being driven by the talent or the audience?
PG: Interesting. I think it's both. I think a lot of it is being driven by development of tools. Our pipelines for shooting and jumping were developed far in advance of our pipelines for cinematics, editing, voice acting, facial performance, and camera movement. Those tools are now catching up to the basic game mechanic tools that we had before.
I think that when you get a lot of developers that are incredibly creative, and they understand cinematography, and you get a set of tools in their hands, then there's no longer anything stopping them from fully describing a character or creating a great, cinematic moment that is seamlessly woven with gameplay. That's going to continue to develop.