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Did you even consider pitching a big game instead of little games? Or did you just jump headfirst in?
TS: No, because it was something we've been wanting to do for a while. Basically, game design kind of tells you how big it wants to be, I think. Some of them do kind of scream for a game with a big treatment. If we had one of those...
There's always like some embryonic version of one going around in my head or somebody else's head. And if one of those comes to the surface and kind of tells you, "I'm ready to be a game," then we would pitch that. I don't think we could make one up.
You don't go to war with the army you want. (laughs) That sounds so cheesy. Like Donald Rumsfeld, wasn't he the guy that made that quote? "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want". And you go to a pitch meeting with the ideas you have, not the ideas you want.
Anyway, we have these little ideas all the time, and we just wanted to make them happen.
You have to think that you'll get to do what you want more frequently. Well, you can do everything more frequently, first of all. Create more games, more frequently. You get to do what you want, probably more easily. And you get to find the right audience and not worry that you didn't find the big audience.
TS: Well, yeah. I mean, if the sales numbers that we have... Even the lowest sales numbers, if you think of the lowest, they still make money at these budgets that we're talking about. They still do well. That's exciting to think about! Actually getting a royalty check from one of these games. Maybe. (laughs)
Do you foresee a long-term need for publishers in these relationships?
TS: I mean... What can I say there that won't...
Completely alienate the people in the next room? (laughs)
TS: Completely alienate... (laughs) Publishers play an important part in the process.
(Shafer crosses his fingers) Does that mean I'm lying? Or does that mean I'm hoping that was the end?
It looked like hoping.
TS: Yeah. It looked like hoping because I held them up. No, no. They do.
There are a lot of things that publishers do that someday I would like to do. Like, I would like to have our own marketing department. I would love to have our own PR department someday, that can work with the PR department at a publisher, obviously. If you make unique games, I think you need a unique message and a unique way of getting to your unique fans. So, I would love to bring that stuff on our side somehow.
But for things like getting slots on XBLA, is that like one of the things that publishers can do relatively well right now?
TS: Yeah. Definitely... It's a lot easier to talk to those kind of people if you're a publisher.
This is the same engine for Brütal, right, and it's multiplatform? So, did you do this stuff with PSN or XBLA in mind, or just "whatever the publisher ends up being" in mind?
TS: In the initial phase of just making the prototype and making games, they were kind of seen as platform agnostic, I guess. We were pitching for everybody, and if they got signed with first party, it would obviously affect what platform it was coming out on. So we had to stay pretty nimble, and once it was settled who the publishers for each game was, different things were specialized, or focused, on what platform it was.
How like advantageous was it to have your engine that had been through the paces with Brütal?
TS: Completely essential. It was completely essential to have our engine. I mean, if you were another developer that wanted to do something like this, you could use other engines. You could find other free engines out there, or something like Unreal or something you can license for cheaper.
But for us, it was, we had the engine that millions of dollars had been invested in. We could make something that looked kind of triple A right away. We never wanted to make something that looked cheap. We wanted to make something that looks nice. It's a slice of a really high-powered thing, instead of a cheap one.
You haven't announced what the other three games are, just that they exist. Is that because of the natural way of the scheduling in terms of the way they're getting wrapping up, or is it actually part of the strategy -- having one engine burn out at a time?
TS: (laughs) There's an advantage of having multiple relationships. I mean, we plan not to burn out any relationship, but what happens is that publishers, they re-org and they change...
I mean, you've seen presidents at, you know, LucasArts and... Presidents change. When Ed Fries left Microsoft, look what happened to Psychonauts. So, you can't put all your eggs in one basket, that's for sure.
But we have a great relationship with THQ, and it's been one of the most fun [experiences] we've had working with a publisher, because they really have given the games creative freedom, and they've been really nice. And they brought cookies shaped like ladies' dead fingers to our party, which was a first time for us.