Catching up with EEDAR director of analyst services Jesse Divnich was completely cool. Naturally, I asked him about how the console wars will shake out in 2010, as well as Project Natal vs. PlayStation Arc/Gem and traditional handheld gaming vs. iPhone/iPod/iPad.
Things got really fun when I asked Divnich about his background and how he became a gaming analyst. It’s a tale of a “hick from French-Canada” moving to America by himself, living in a trailer park, studying hard, and working his ass off to become one of the top analysts in the business. Divnich also revealed why he’s better than his competitors and spoke about his relationship with Michael Pachter. (If I had it my way it would be The Divnich Debrief vs. Pach Attack.)
Oh yeah, you’ll also learn why Canadians would make the best terrorists. How can you pass that up?!?
Last Friday I went to a Ring of Honor show in Los Angeles and caught up with world champion Austin Aries, fresh off his victory over Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Whether you call him the RoH champion, A-Double, the vascular vegetarian, or MV3, there’s no denying that Aries is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world. It was an honor chatting about videogames, karaoke, being vegetarian, being pro-choice, naked Shawn Michaels, women with meat in their mouth, and the writing in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw with Aries. It was also fun goofing off with a friend (ha!). Check out this very special RPad.tv PadCast with the master of the brainbuster and the owner of the most devastating 450 splash in the universe!
Last week I chatted with Tarver Games president and co-founder Chris Cross for an RPad.tv PadCast. Cross gave me an update on what’s going on with his excellent iPhone game Ghosts Attack and his upcoming project Brickman. Naturally, I was interested to hear his thoughts on the Apple iPad as a game designer. The always entertaining Cross revealed some cool insights that will give you an idea of how iPad games will be different from their counterparts for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Check it out!
Today’s RPad.tv “PadCast” features SwitchGames founder Jason Crawford. In addition to getting an update on Crawford’s burgeoning peer-to-peer game-trading service and community, we…kind of go all over the place. Things start off with an update on SwitchGames and move on to your excellent questions, where Crawford reveals how digital distribution will affect his business. From there we chat about the Apple tablet, what James Cameron and Rivers Cuomo have in common, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and more!
It’s long, but I think it’s a fun and informative conversation. As always, huge props to N8R for putting the video together. Please check it out and let me know what you think (please)!
From Total Annihilation to Dungeon Siege to Supreme Commander, Chris Taylor has a long and storied history with real-time strategy games. Gas Powered Games’ founder and lead designer on the upcoming Supreme Commander 2 is one of the most important creators in gaming, continually taking the RTS genre to new heights. He also happens to be ridiculously funny (sometimes it hurts hanging out with him, from all the laughing) and super sharp. I recently caught up with Taylor to ask him about working with Square Enix, running a development studio during an economic downturn, downloadable content, and more.
Raymond Padilla: Hey Chris! How is the funniest man in game development doing these days?
Chris Taylor: Keeping the dream alive, as I like to say!
RP: You’re hard at work on Supreme Commander 2. While lots of people are excited about the game, I’m really interested in your experiences working with Square Enix. From your dealings, what are the differences between working with a Western publisher and a Japanese one?
CT: They’ve been really great to work with, and they’ve easily been among the best publishers we’ve ever worked with. Truly a pleasure.
RP: Did you ever get the “token white guy” feeling during business meetings with Square Enix?
You’d never know this from his boyish good looks, but Gas Powered Games founder Chris Taylor has been in game development for more than two decades. Starting way back in 1988, someone thought it would be funny to hire a Canadian guy to work on baseball games. Since then, Taylor has made a huge name for himself with games like Total Annihilation, Dungeon Siege, and Supreme Commander.
Chris and his team are busy working on Supreme Commander 2, but he generously gave me some time to answer a few questions. Talking about the changes he’s seen in 21 years in the business, Taylor said:
Well, our target market has changed. The whole business has opened up to include many new types of players. It used to be 18-35 yr. old males, and now the rest of the world is playing games. This is a very good thing, but it also means that we have to think differently about what gaming is. We also play online now more than ever, but not in a competitive way, it’s actually about playing together, which I think is a great change. We also play on more devices than ever, and are focusing less and less about technology whizbang, and more on the actual gameplay, characters and story. And I guess I would be insane not to mention the increase in computing power, and visuals. I started out on a TRS-80 with 128×48 pixels, that were black and white no less…
My full interview Grandmaster Sexay Chris Taylor will run on Monday. Be sure to come back and check it out!
One of the most wonderfully imaginative developers in the business, Oddworld Inhabitants (Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath) has been a little quiet for the last few years. Its recent PSN releases indicate that the company is ready to make a move. Oddworld looks poised to shake things up in the near future, doing it with its trademark creativity and independence (naturally!). I recently caught up with company co-founder Lorne Lanning to talk about what’s going on with Oddworld, what the PSN releases mean to him, social gaming, being a creative developer in a harsh economic climate, the status of Citizen Siege, working with Electronic Arts, and more. While he didn’t say anything outright, it’s pretty clear where he thinks the gaming business is going and how he thinks Oddworld should approach it.
Raymond Padilla: First off, how are you doing? What’s new and exciting with you, Lorne?
Lorne Lanning: Doing great, in spite of the economy, which definitely makes all efforts more challenging.
We’re working on something new / something different, but we haven’t been able to talk about it yet — hope to in the not too distant future.
RP: With Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus hitting the PlayStation Network, your games have a chance to reach a whole new generation of players. How does it feel to introduce Abe to gamers that could barely hold a controller when the games were originally released?
LL: You mean, beyond feeling old?!? Beyond that, of course it’s a joy to see the fan mail from new players that have just discovered these games. A bit time machine’ish I should say. The feedback is fresh, it’s new to them, so there’s something that feels very much like it did when the games first came out. A lot of people got passionate about Abe. Now we’re seeing it again, and it’s the same vibe and reaction of newness, but a different generation. A bit Déjà to the last millennium.
When I see them write, “I remember my father used to play, but I was too young” it’s a serious testament to just how quickly time flies and how quickly the times change. We’re thrilled that the Abe games are finding a new audience, especially considering that we didn’t even foresee the future of digital distribution back when we originally built these games. I mean, most people still didn’t know what www.com meant back in ‘94 when we started building Abe. Strange how different a world it already is today.
Chris Cross achieved a great deal of notoriety in the gaming business from his work on the Medal of Honor series. You’d expect a game designer that had success on big-budget console-games would continue to work on big-budget console-games, but Cross has gone in a different direction — iPhone gaming. He recently started up a new development house — Tarver Games — and has a few iPhone/iPod Touch products in the works. Tarver’s first game, Ghosts Attack, has been submitted to Apple for approval and should be out shortly. I recently interviewed Cross to learn more about Tarver Games, get the skinny on Ghosts Attack, ask him why he went from consoles to iPhone, and to ask him some of your questions.
Cross is an excellent and entertaining person. Check out everything he has to say and be sure to hit the break for an exclusive Ghosts Attack video.
Raymond Padilla: Chris, you’ve had tremendous success on home consoles. Why head to the iPhone? Is it the excitement of undiscovered territory? A new challenge?
Chris Cross: Thanks Ray — Yes, I have had success on home consoles and who is to say I won’t again? But for the moment, we (Tarver) have decided to bring our first IP — Ghosts Attack — to the iPhone. Just take a look at what’s going on today with games, budgets, platforms, and accessibility. The iPhone offers both developers and consumers an incredible chance at amazing products and apps for a fraction of the cost of console products.
RP: Some of my readers might need a primer on your upcoming game, Ghosts Attack. Would kindly give a brief primer on the game?
CC: Ghosts Attack is an alternate reality/FPS with a twisting — and a bit twisted :) — storyline. Ghosts Attacks integrates Google Maps technology with a dynamic alternate reality gaming experience. You explore a parallel world that was accidentally discovered by a group of scientists 40 years ago. Using the Map Kit in the iPhone SDK we let you use our own world map as your guide. There are mysteries to uncover, hostile enemies to fight, fast shooting action, a remote rover to pilot and a whole lot more.
Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski is one of the most prominent game developers in the business. He’s just a smart, talented, and quotable guy (though he whines like a little girl when you hit him…more on that later). Whether he’s talking about digital distribution, what games he’s been digging lately, used-game sales, or bars in San Francisco Chinatown, the man always has something interesting to say. Here’s my interview with one the main minds behind Unreal and Gears of War, the infamous Cliffy B.
Raymond Padilla: With games like Shadow Complex and systems like the Sony PSPgo, digital distribution is becoming a bigger part of the gaming business. How does digital distribution impact you as a game designer?
Cliff Bleszinski: A couple weekends ago, I was up in East Village at “Videogames New York”, a combination new/retro game store. On the front counter, they had Borderlands and in the back aisles, they had the Vectrex and Game & Watch. My feelings went from initially geeking out to immense nostalgia to overwhelming pride for how far this business has come in my lifetime alone. We go digital and that physical history starts drying up and eventually vanishes. Older games become the same as a 45 record.
Digital distribution has the potential to end the used game debate that’s currently raging across the business. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On one hand, I love having that pipeline into my house: Look, a new game is up on Live; download the title right to your hard drive and fire it up. At the same time, I love having games, movies, and books on my shelves at my home. It feels like an IRL representation of the facets of your personality and tastes whenever people come over to visit. The Kindle and other devices are equally fascinating. I fear not leafing through a book ever again but at the same time I cringe at the thought of having to deal with a CD and a jewel case in a world of digital music.
Finally, as far as the kinds of games I’d like to design and contribute to? Digital frees up some risk. You can make that little dream game you’ve always wanted to make and take more chances, which is incredibly appealing as a creative.