Interview with Dave Perry posted 3/28 at 8:48:27 AM PST by Tiffany Smith
Q: I have noticed with great interest your involvement at your site www.dperry.com in helping new talent break into the game industry. So specifically; what key advice could you offer aspiring game developers to help get them started?
DP: Well basically, I was getting hundreds and hundreds of emails from gamers saying that they wanted to be in the game industry, I found that the more emails I replied to the more questions I got and replying to them seemed to be taking a lot of time so I started to put them in my website, very quickly the site started filling out with answers. And I started getting emails that said, ďI followed your advice and it got me a jobĒ. There is information that needs to get out there. People have questions and if the content is really up to date and relevant then it will get people jobs, and already does. There really is no one easy way to answer your question because different people have different things that they want to learn, different skill sets, different friends; I always think that friends are an important part of it and coming to shows like the GDC is a good place to meet friends that have the same talent and together you can make demos and things like that. Its tough on my site and even on Gamedev.net (I have been to Gamedev.net by the way, and its very cool) to get the information out on the very steps you have to take but Iím sure someone will approach me at the show and tell me they got a job because of my site.
Q: How did you get started yourself?
DP: I actually went to the head of the computer department at school and said how does this all work, he told me to come back in a couple of years and said I was too young for computers, I did come back a couple of years later and eventually got to play around with the computers but it cost me two years right there, I could have been making games from the beginning. There were a few people who were very academic and were thinking of computers as boring and then there were some people there that were thinking of them as a tool to make games and we ended up being a small group of guys that would pour our time into making little games, this was a time before there were graphics, you were a letter B and you were firing periods at things, that was an incredible experience for me. My parents at the time, decided to buy me a little computer for at home, it had 1K of RAM, which is nothing, but its enough to make games, so I started to write articles on how to make games with 1K. From that point I started to get paid, one day a check arrived for like 600 dollars and I nearly fell off my chair because and I didnít know you could make money from this, I ended up opening my first bank account with that 600-dollar check. Game development became like a drug to me, it was very easy to do, it was fun, and I was getting paid for it. My other studies started to drop and by the time I left school I had no choice but to become a game developer.
Q: Shiny are obviously making great strides with the convergence of film and gaming i.e. Enter The Matrix; do you think a background in film production for game developers could become a more important factor in the future?
DP: Thatís a very good question actually, a very timely question. There are people here at the GDC that are very against the whole Hollywood thing its like a swearword to them. There are other people here at this show that think Hollywood is a great thing. If you ask yourself what Hollywood is and forget about all the money, glitz and politics; itís a bunch of talented people who are telling stories and educating other people, these people are visionaries, they can write things incredibly well, they can make you cry within three minutes, they can have you shocked and surprised, they can throw surprise twists at you and they can make the visuals absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Why would we have a problem with those people? Its not a case of them trying to tell us how to do things, they are just there doing their own thing, and they kind of have an interest in our industry. I have recently learned since working on ďThe MatrixĒ that if youíre a director and youíre shooting a car driving away, you set this whole place up, you bring the car the actors, the makeup, the lighting you take your shot and then get around to editing and realize that you forgot to get the guys foot hitting the gas pedal, you cant go back and do it, I mean if itís a big big budget movie they will do a pick up, but the difference is, in the video game industry we have everything all the time, we have that car, we have that situation we can easily put the camera in and take that footage. If people donít like that shot, weíll do another shot, we can change this endlessly until were absolutely happy with it and that concept of virtual cinematography is like a drug to the people in Hollywood. I think when they first dabble with this industry they realize the flexibility they could have. You canít experiment when youíre spending hundreds of thousands of dollars everyday. I think in general our industry is going to end up embracing these people because of their talent and I personally cant wait to see them show us on Playstation 3 the way they set up the stuff, the way they light it and the way they tell a story.
Q: What key programming disciplines do you think programmers in the industry should be focusing on (i.e. FX, AI, cinematics for future titles)?
DP: Well thatís a good one too because times are changing, it used to be a one man show, it used to be ďJohn CarmackĒ and it was all about making a kick ass engine. These days the price of admission is unbelievably high, there are so many features. I mean if you were to look at all the features of a modern day engine there would be a big long list, so programmers have continuously over time divided into two programmers, its like a cellular thing where they split into two and then expand again into four, we are seeing that more on teams, there are lots of programmers on a team and the reason for that is because they split the job up, this is good for programmers because it means that they can pick a discipline and stick to it, you can be the AI guy, you can be the engine guy, you can be the game play guy, I mean thereís all these different jobs now and thatís actually good for programmers, they donít have to be like John Carmack to be a super hero programmer, you can be a super hero physics programmer and people will come to you and say wow your game looks incredible.
Q: Do you think Shiny will be getting involved more with film tie-ins and partnerships? And as Hollywood directors and scriptwriters take a more active role, will this stifle the developerís creative role?
DP: Iím going to be giving a speech tomorrow, and I cant help myself I have to talk about licensing, so Iím actually going to be talking about what I consider to be all the ways you can license and make movies with Hollywood. I can scratch my head for a while and I can only come up with 17, so Iím going to go through all 17. The idea is that when people think about licensing they think about Lord of the Rings and that itís going to cost millions, so they just dismiss it and they donít want to do some crappy old thing so they say forget about it. Whereas I have come up with 17 directions they could go in. Thereís got to be at least 2 of those 17 that they could do, that arenít buying Lord of the Rings. Thereís also lots of other ways to do it. So the idea is to kind of prod people and go ĎBe more creativeí. A good example is American McGeeís Alice, did you ever see that game? Itís a good idea, to take a look at that. Because thatís the kind of game that shows you can take a property like Alice in Wonderland, which is not going to be an expensive license. Sometimes theyíre public domain. And then put your own twist on it. I mean one game and this guy is suddenly a known brand. Weíve all heard American McGee now in the development community; because, he did that. He basically took the property, put a really weird spin on it, and made it the evil Alice, carrying a knife and all of the rest of it. And so if you think of it that way how may other properties are there, that are kind of cool? That if you would just, freshen them and bring them to today. People would be saying, ďOh yeah, thatís interestingĒ. And itís as cheap as hell compared to going and buying the biggest movie license. There are tons of other ways and thatís really my point. I think for us, for Shiny, we canít afford to get involved in games that arenít going to sell. I think brands are a great way to get that.
Q: Shiny have always been renowned for their creative titles, for example, Messiah, MDK, Sacrifice, and Earthworm Jim. Will Shiny continue these kinds of titles, or do you think that youíll head more down the road of licensed titles.
DP: Oh thatís a really good question. We were known for taking risks, meaning that I could really do whatever I wanted. Whatever I green lit, was what got made. If I wanted to make Messiah, it was Messiah. I was in a very lucky position to be able to do that. So I abused it a little bit. I kind of thought, I want to do a helicopter simulator. So weíre going to do a helicopter simulator. It wasnít really paying attention to what the gamers were buying or what the market needs. It was really just for my own self-gratification. And thatís not really ok. Its cool really because it gets you some kudos, like at least youíre innovation, we were doing things that hadnít been done before. I mean Messiah had possession, MDK had sniper mode, Sacrifice was our first multiplayer game, and Earthworm Jim became a toy line. So we were doing things, that at that time were fresh to do, but it wasnít very cool as far as really taking the needs of the publisher into consideration. The needs of the publisher really do matter these days considering how many publishers there are and stuff. By doing something like Matrix, that was a very very successful game. So we are, as a company, at this time, because the industry is growing, because the games are getting more expensive. We need to be a little more fiscally responsible, and so I think youíll see games from Shiny that show weíre really thinking worldwide. One of the great things about coming from Europe is, I know what Europeans want to buy, and I understand that there is a place called Europe, and theyíre all gamers too. Itís like being in England and thinking itís a great idea to make a Snooker game, or a Rugby game. Whereas; there are a lot of countries that donít like Rugby or Snooker. Same with America, you make a Baseball game, its not going to sell in England, because they donít even know the rules of Baseball. Something that you can guarantee we are going to do is look to the world and to what is really going to make an impact at that minute. Working with Hollywood is something that we find works so we are going to stick with that. But as youíll see from that list of 17 ways, there are variants in there that will allow you to still do that but also get a bit more creative, so weíll see. You can read Daveís keynote here.