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You've said that the game's programmers are highly tools-oriented, and they empower the designers. Could you talk about that?
SC: Our tech group has been very staunch -- and rightfully so -- in their approach to game development. Their approach has been very tools-oriented.
In previous games I've worked on, I've had instances where a designer would be wanting to work on the main character and fine-tune the way the character moves.
So he would go to a programmer and say, "Could I see what it would be like if the main character moved three meters a second?" And the programmer would write in the appropriate numbers and appropriate lines of code, and compile it and get it to run.
And the designer would play it and be like, "Hmm. Can I see what it would be like if he moved at two-and-a-half meters a second?" And it would be rinse and repeat. The programmer would input the proper numbers, and that process could go on until the designer was satisfied.
Here in Santa Monica, the programming team has a little bit of a different take on it. Instead of them being the keepers of that information, they basically provide our art group, our design group, and our camera group -- pretty much all of the other departments -- with tools to do those jobs.
Instead of sitting with a programmer, a designer will come to the programmer and be like, "Hey, I need to be able to adjust how fast the main character moves." And the programmer will go, "Okay, I'll write you a tool. Here's the tool. Here's where you can input the appropriate numbers. Go back to your desk and have at it."
The designer goes back to his desk and is inputting the numbers, and they're tuning it. They're tweaking it to their heart's content, and it doesn't tie anyone up from code to be constantly adjusting things to the designer's fancy or direction. Obviously they'll debug it if it doesn't work the way they expected, but beyond that, it's done, and they'll move on to the next tool.
They really do a fabulous job, and they're very responsive to the idea of empowering the people to do the things they need to do in order to do their jobs. They empower the designers and artists to be the best they can be, and not be the gatekeepers.
When you're working in that simple environment in my earlier example, the designer might ask him to change it three or four times and then think, "You know, I'm not going to ask him to change it again." And the game would suffer because of it, because it might need to be changed 120 times before it's absolutely just right. By providing a designer with a tool, the designer can do everything he wants to do until he's satisfied with it.
What about inter-studio knowledge sharing? There are a lot of really talented studios within Sony. How often do you guys exchange ideas and help each other out?
SC: We do have incredible amounts of talent within the Sony studio structure. We try to take advantage of that all the time. I think the only thing that stands in our way would be each studio's individual development cycles.
But that aside, everybody is hugely open. We had a number of meetings with our Naughty Dog studio, which is down the street from us, and then we had a number of meetings with our Insomniac teams over in Burbank. [Ed. note: Insomniac is not Sony-owned.]
Early on, we had larger group meetings with them, like, "Hey, this is our first time on PlayStation 3. What are the pitfalls? What do we need to look out for?" Then we break that down into smaller group meetings. The character group would go off and start asking direct character questions like, "What's the best pipeline to go with on the PlayStation 3?" and vice-versa.
They come to us. I know the Naughty Dog design team has talked to our design team at length early on in development about how we go about designing levels, and how they go about designing levels. There's definitely a very free and open exchange of ideas and philosophies and approaches.
I think the only thing that gets in our way is when they're ready to wrap up a project and it's not a good time to entertain people. When we're wrapping up a project, we're the same. We want to, but we really just don't have the time. When time permits, it's a very open form of communication.