Games like Fable III are quite large productions. You look at the way the console space is moving -- again, companies like Activision or EA are doubling down on big games that target the core audience. A lot of the breadth is coming in through the indies, but it seems like big package games are heading the other way.
PM: That's right. The bets get bigger and bigger, and the quality... I think that we have got a long way to go on the quality of Fable, and you just have to take a deep breath, knuckle down, and do it. If you look to the quality of a computer game just ten years ago, it is astounding, the difference. That's not going to stop anytime soon. What we thought of as being breath-taking, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping graphics of something like Half-Life now seems incredibly retro. It's just... Take a deep breath and move forward.
It is getting a lot more process-orientated -- and it has to get a lot more process-orientated -- because you're dealing with so many balls you have to juggle in the air. Mocap is really here now, and it's here to stay.
That leads you to make a game in a completely different way because you can't experiment so much with mocap. You've got to have a short list, and if you've got voice talent in your games you can't mess them around and say "Try this line."
We're already mid-process in change, and we've kind of looked at that; we've taken some pretty big steps along that route with what we are working on now. We are taking some fairly big steps on the quality.
But what's so fascinating about it is there's so many things that are increasing in quality. One of the things that really, in my opinion, dramatically increased in quality is the ability of teams to do the most amazing demo. It's like that E3 show-stopper demo. There is a real craft in doing that; there are separate teams that just do an E3 demo or press demo.
I begin to say to myself, "Well, hang on a second. This is a bit like what Hollywood does with trailers, which I absolutely hate." You see a trailer for some action film, and you know you've just seen the best bits of the movie. I think games are starting to go down on that side. The amount of craft that we put into the public perception and the demo and the stage presence of it and the pacing of it is astounding. It's amazing, really, because, of course, that's totally distraction off the game.
Do you think it stops the team from concentrating on the right thing?
PM: Absolutely. In fact, we've always struggled a little bit with that, because I've hated actually doing demos for demos' sake. You have very little time to make a game, and a great press demo for a really important product can suck weeks of time away from the team. Obviously, if you're a well-planned team, you've probably scheduled that into it, but it's incredibly distracting for everybody. So I've always chosen picking up the machine and showing off what we've got, but those are the old days. Those days aren't going to come back.
Especially if you have to put something on Xbox Live for the users to download prior to the release, as well.
PM: That's right. All of these are part of the lead-up event. So often, there's a struggle because you know that you see some demo from us, or from anybody that's a year away from launch, there's no way that that game could be that balanced as the demo suggests.
To that end, you demoed Milo, and there was some back-and-forth on whether it was going to become a product itself. It became more of an R&D effort to increase technology internally. Is that what we sort of arrived at?
PM: I can't say anything about Milo. I've got in such trouble -- an amazing amount of trouble, like standing in the corner of the room and being shouted at sort of trouble. I've always been cheeky in the past, and I've always pushed the boundaries of what publishers would like me to say, but this is literally standing in front of a court and being stripped down repeated times. (Laughs)
The reason that it interests me to an extent -- not what the fate of Milo is -- is that there could probably stand to be more pure research-oriented development, the expectation that everything that developers come up with inside an organization doesn't have to play out as product. Nintendo does a fair bit of that, but it doesn't seem like that's built into a lot of other companies.
PM: Yeah. I do one or two things that we're doing that you might be interested in. I agree with you, by the way, because you end up driving down a dead end if you just make stuff for the game that you're making. At some point, you'll reach a dead end, and then you'll have to go back again; when you go back it's very expensive and incredibly time-consuming.
One of the things that we do at Lionhead -- and I'm thinking of inviting some press along to this -- is we have a creative day where people at Lionhead can show off their ideas, and we give people working on those ideas blocks of time that they can work on them and they can form little mini-teams.
Some of the stuff in Milo came from one of those days -- the object recognition stuff came from that day. We all come together in a whole-day thing. Everyone shows off their project and their idea and what they're working on. Sometimes it's a website, sometimes it's a piece of art, sometimes it's a whole game, and sometimes it's a game mechanic; but I think that it's incredibly healthy to do something like that.