Mike Bithell is a British game designer best known for the BAFTA-Award winning Thomas Was Alone. Recently, his company released Subsurface Circular, which was quickly met with positive acclaim. At DICE Europe 2017, he’ll be talking about offering high-quality entertainment through small games with small budgets. Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Mike Bithell.
On Subsurface Circular:
It’s a detective game about robots riding an underground train network. You play as a detective. You have to have various conversation with colorful characters who are also on that train with you. You’re trying to get to the bottom of a series of disappearances. Various robots have gone missing, something seems not quite right, and you’re trying to get to the bottom of it. You play through a series of a dialogue sequences — kind of like a conversational puzzle game, at some level, but with a level of visual polish that hopefully makes it satisfying to a broad audience.
On whether videogame creators can switch between small projects and big-budget products, similar to what movie directors do in Hollywood:
It’s a bit different from movies. My job on a game is this weird combination of director and producer. There’s definitely an argument to be made that someone like me, at this stage of my career, shouldn’t be in charge of a $30-million project. Frankly, I don’t know how to run a team like that and the team would know that I don’t know how to run a team like that. It would be tough for me to gain their respect. With films, you have the producer as an external person. You can change out the director and it will still work. With games, I’m well equipped to work within the zero- to a few-million-dollar budget range. I definitely think that I shouldn’t be in charge of the next Far Cry or anything. Maybe later in my career. There’s a lot of stuff you have to learn on the path to bigger projects like that. I’m working my way up, but I don’t think it’s the equivalent of taking a cool indie director and putting him in charge of the next Marvel movie. I don’t think you can make that jump in scale in games as you can in film.
As a huge fan of Thomas Was Alone, it was outstanding getting the opportunity to chat with Mike Bithell. His games are wonderfully creative and charming, while still being very accessible. To learn more about his DICE Europe 2017 chat and to read his thoughts on a number of topics, kindly check out the full interview by hitting the link below.