Again, as a leader of your team, how do you inspire people to not be precious about what they're crafting? I think, for most people, that's an innate human desire to be very precious about what you're making.
CC: I think so. Again, I'm very fortunate to have a team that's naturally very good at this, but we try to do as a group is just be honest with our feedback. I think that's what Big Huge Games philosophy is as a whole. It's not even down to my team.
As a company, we've always said that if you're saying it for the good of the game, then say it. No matter what it is you're going to say, if you believe it's for the good of the game, get it out there. Obviously, you can be nice about stuff, but the more important thing is to make the point and improve the game. It's a philosophy of usability and just getting to the player at heart.
Given the high investments that have been made in games this generation, the number of people who have to buy a game to make it successful is very high, and there's a certain belief that we have to make them work for a lot of people.
But RPGs are pretty serious investments for players. Do you have a sense of where, philosophically, you lie in terms of saying, "How understandable does this game have to be?" or "How readable does it have to be?" Who are you targeting?
CC: One of my favorite things about our game... The combat, for example, anybody can pick up the combat, press the buttons, and get through the game. it's very approachable. It's very organic. It feels the way that combat should feel, I think in a lot of ways. You press the button, and something happens the way you expect it to happen.
That said, the player that wants to can learn about the different talents, learn about the ways... Like this attack does this, and you can chain this attack into this attack, and use a spell with these attacks or with these weapons, and you can apply this buff to this weapon.
There are a lot of opportunities to customize yourself and add a lot of depth to it. That's where all the RPG depth comes in. So, I think... You're never going to please everybody, but I think we've done a good job of creating a spectrum that can appeal to a lot of folks.
And that kind of goes back to what you were saying earlier about creating content that not everybody will see -- especially art, right? Art is the most expensive part of game creation, probably. How do you make determinations about those resources?
CC: It's a lot of give and take. You know, you start with an idea, and you have to have the willingness to change that plan. "The best laid plans", like they always say. You make your best guess. You have to have flexibility and patience and be able to roll with the punches because things get thrown out, things get made that don't get used or get completely redone.
You realize at the 11th hour that "Oh my gosh. We need this entire new thing, like a different kind of tree, because this isn't making sense with the narrative." You have to be able to, you know, not get too frustrated. It's part of game development.
That's sort of the fun nature of it, that every day is a new challenge, every day is a new adventure; you're never going to have the same problems twice. You'll learn from them and be able to use the lessons toward future problems, but everything is always a new adventure.
Can you give me an example of something that you ran into that was one of those moments in the game? Like sort of a shift in what you thought wasn't necessary or possible, suddenly be came necessary.
CC: That's a good question. Let me think for a second. Well, I think, in a whole, the world builder position might be an example of that. We wanted the spaces to look as beautiful as they could be, but we realized that we needed -- because combat was becoming so important and so unique to our game -- we needed to build the stage for that as well as we possibly could.
So, shifting artists into being in the design department and thinking like designers was actually... There were growing pains with it. It wasn't an immediate process, but it's one that I think has really paid off. We've had people really dedicated to making that part of the game work for combat while still maintaining the visual fidelity.
So, can you take me through that decision in terms of like why and when did you decide that you knew to like create a design-led art department?
CC: Well, it's not a design-led art department, actually.
How would you phrase it?
CC: I'm not in charge of the art department, I should be really clear about that. Or even the design department. I'm in charge of my team of world builders. We're integrated in a lot of things, but there's an art director, a design director, and that kind of thing. I'm just a cog in the machine, or what have you.
An RPG has so many systemic things that are so important to it, that all those pieces have to make the game fun. That's really the heart of it. If it's not making the game fun, you have to ask, "What purpose is it serving?"
There are a lot of the things in the game that are just beautiful, though. That can be part of the gameplay, you know -- things that are gorgeous or immersive; that's a part of playing through the game.
But it was pretty early on on Reckoning that we figured this out. We learned from previous projects, previous iterations, from making RPGs, that this was an important thing to us. I would say it was really quite early on in Reckoning, and all the way through we just learned and got better as we went.