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The Art Of International Technical Collaboration At Square Enix
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The Art Of International Technical Collaboration At Square Enix

February 17, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Obviously, by the time the acquisition happened, development of Crystal Tools had progressed very far, and development Final Fantasy XIII -- and XIV, for that matter -- was well underway. But at the same time, there's been a struggle this generation for Japanese studios to get their technology online and up to the same level as Western studios. Have you been a part of helping that process? What do you think about the technology that's been coming out of the Tokyo studio?

JM: I think that the way that developers tend to work in Japan is very different from what they call "the Western style," but it to me comes down to a question of focus. I think developers in the East and in the West are basically focusing on different aspects.

I'm very interested in one aspect of the thing that they are focusing on; this is basically that they are trying to really move toward the goal almost as fast as they can.

So they are really, really focused on the goal. They are very, very focused on the very goal they are trying to achieve. When they are thinking about a special effect; when they are thinking about a specific character doing something, they basically move toward that.

It's more granular.

JM: Yes, and it's almost from a certain perspective, they are really thinking features. In the West, you can find sometimes teams that are thinking too much architecture as opposed to feature.

So I think, if you look at it... The Square Enix Europe studios can learn a lot from Tokyo, and I think that Tokyo can also learn a lot from the Square Enix Europe studios. It's going to be mutually beneficial, basically, for all of these talented people to meet and share.

So that's also why there's this will to work as a group; there are complementary strengths and amazing talents of their own, and we really would like to have a structure that really takes advantage of that. I think benefits will be huge.

Also, I think that there is a huge respect between Square Enix Tokyo and our other Square Enix European studios. I don't know if you know this, but it's pretty funny -- less than a month after the acquisition happened, there were already Final Fantasy posters on the walls in Eidos Montreal, so this really shows something.

Personally, the first time I went to Tokyo, I went with my Square Enix game box covers to get signatures from all the staff that work in the Shinjuku office, and I'm pretty happy with that. I've already been to Tokyo many times, and obviously many initiatives have been already highlighted of all the things that they would like to use from the other studios; and I truly believe it won't be East versus West -- that it's really going to be about East plus West.

Final Fantasy XIII

When it comes to sharing technology between the studios -- obviously, you have studios in Europe and in North America. Like you mentioned, Montreal, there's also Crystal Dynamics, who's near San Francisco; and of course in Tokyo -- you have language barriers too in terms of sharing that technology and tools. Is that something that you have to tackle now that you've all come together?

JM: Yes, obviously it is something that is very important to tackle. Obviously, we'll have a progressive approach. We'll need to start with things that that can be done with the way we are structured today, and the more we achieve, the more complex things we'll be able to do.

I'm learning Japanese; I've already started since November. I know that there are people in Tokyo that are starting to put more effort into English, as well. So on both sides, I see that people are really willing to make it work, and I find this extremely amazing.

There's a lot of tech being developed in your different studios which we've talked about. How do you feel about licensing versus developing your own technology?

JM: Well, that's a very good question. To start with, I think I wouldn't believe in a middleware-only approach. I believe middleware should always be evaluated from a game perspective; very few middleware technologies are actually versatile or multiplatform enough. To my knowledge, there are still some areas that are very badly covered by middleware. So I wouldn't believe in a middleware-only approach, and I'm ready to discuss this point in a panel anytime.

Regarding internal technology, I believe that it is possible still to have an internal technology-only approach. That said, in some projects today, it would not be serious not to take advantage of middleware technologies that allow you to avoid reinventing the wheel, or allow you to have a faster path to shipping your game.

I think also it is important to highlight that there will be a time I think it won't be possible anymore to work without middleware because of time, talent, and cost reasons. So, as a conclusion, I think a balanced approach is needed.

And, to extend your question a bit, I think it's very important to consider technology and tools as enablers. Technology is there to allow creative people to express themselves and realize their vision; when I think about technology, I think like that. Building internal technology shouldn't be a goal in itself; neither should be using external technology. I would have thousands of stories about what happens when you get lost in weird technology-related considerations.

Many people know I've been using a lot of middleware in the past at Ubisoft and Eidos, and I am still today, obviously; but only where it makes sense and where it really helps. I'm always trying to make sure game teams avoid the trap of this false sense of security that middleware provides sometimes. I know that some producers feel choosing a middleware as opposed to developing the technology for the game within their teams will make things smoother. But in case the middleware selected is not really adapted, their great project could rapidly become their worst nightmare.

So obviously I don't think that I am the only one that is prudent before choosing a middleware, but I think everybody should be.

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