Hi James, you worked as the Release Manager on Crackdown for Realtime Worlds and then transferred to Ruffian to work on an “un announced project”. It all seems so obvious in hindsight. Did anyone guess? Did you have to lead an MI5 life of espionage and guile?
Lots of people guessed what we were upto but we didn’t have to put much effort into avoiding the speculation. It was great to see the buzz being generated and the biggest problem we faced was being in a situation of needing to recruit whilst at the same time not being able to announce what we were working on. Remembering back to that now we were rather lucky as the less we said, the more the speculation seemed to bring people knocking at our door.
What’s working in Ruffian Games like? Are you guys one of those corporate talent farms, one of those zany idea hubs with scooters and space hoppers or somewhere in between?
Probably the exact opposite, save for the rather excessive number of LCD displays around the studio you wouldn’t really think we’re making games. Probably the most whacky thing we have in the office is the Pie Bell; a small desk bell we used to ring when the pie man came in the mornings. Thankfully to our waistlines he stopped turning up so the Pie Bell is now consigned to history as a desktop Pavlovian novelty – ring that bell and half the studio starts salivating.
What’s your view of the gaming industry and community like in Dundee? What about in Scotland? Are we as strong as we need to be?
I think videogames are a fantastic asset that are somewhat undervalue by the general population. The community we have in Dundee between gamers, students and professionals is incredibly close and I think is a great model for us to showcase around the world. Abertay University do exactly this with the Dare to be Digital competition each year – something we support and follow very closely – yet it still fails to make much of an impression as a general interest item on the evening news. It’s a strange situation considering the industry’s financial worth.
Let’s risk a question that gets close to politics. A lot of us hoped that the UK 2010 budget would have some tax prizes – but that didn’t really happen. Are you disappointed? Or is this annoying political stuff that will come and go anyway?
We’re not disappointed, we can’t regret not getting something we weren’t expecting. As much as we’d like to have a share of some free money if it were available it’s not something we can depend upon for the success of the company or our products. We believe passionately in the creativity of videogames but we are also a business and businesses that can’t show long term viability without ongoing financial support are not healthy ones. Our strategy is to make great games, we don’t believe any game will ever attain critical acclaim because of how many tax breaks the developer got.
What was E3 like for you and the company? Is it an experience you’d recommend?
We had a quiet but very successful showing. We didn’t go in any type of announcement or work capacity this year as it came at a time when the team was incredibly stressed on finishing the game. So we had the Crackdown 2 demo running on the show floor and the booths were packed all day every day. We always try to measure our success by the fun people have with the game and a lot of people were left with huge smiles so we call that a win.
People rarely believe this but E3 is not fun if you’re there to work. Doing any type of PR Event, and especially trade shows, is a lot of long days spent saying the same thing repeatedly and usually you’re jetglagged and horribly hungover from doing the same thing the day before.
I’d love to go to E3 as a consumer but that’s never happened. So I’d recommend people go there to enjoy it in their own time but think twice about working there.
What can you tell us about Crackdown 2? In a saturated gaming marketplace what’s going to make it leap off the shelf at us and scream “buy meeeeeeeeeeee!” (other than some robotic modding and a voice box!)
This is a really tricky question as we think there’s something in Crackdown 2 for everyone. The key thing for us is that we’ve made a game that’s a bit of a joyous riot when you play it. When you play in co-op, that experience explodes like some sort of nuclear fun bomb and it’s a non stop fun and funny roller coaster. It’s hard to convey that in the box, so that voice idea…?
Has Crackdown 2 changed your life – if so, how? If not, why not?
Like every game or project it’s expanded the number of people I can call friends and to me that’s one of the greatest achievements available.
Have there been any influences on Crackdown 2? Music, for example, a movie or perhaps a book-shaped-paper-thing?
There are lots of references all over the place, the look of Crackdown 2 comes straight from the pages of various graphic novels and Achievements are very obviously nods to certain movie moments like “Yippie Kai Yay” in the Die Hard trilogy. One of the things we’ve considered as a reference most, however, is a little old game called Quake. The first time we had 16 player multiplayer running we instantly all felt we’d hit that feel of incredibly fast gameplay so we just ran with that type of experience.
Providing you’ve had any time for game playing of your own – which games have you enjoyed lately and what would you recommend?
Time has been limited for games in the last year. I just this weekend past started playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 which should need no explanation but the game I’ve enjoyed most in the recent period has been Bayonetta. It’s just stunning, it’s almost the perfect game for me as it’s got blends of arcade like depth of skill with very over-the-top and beautiful presentation.
Who do you know in the industry who really should step forward and offer themselves for an interview on Geek Native… and why would the readers enjoy it?
Shout out to Bill Green, we worked together on Crackdown and he’s since gone swanning off making games like Arkham Asylum to great critical acclaim. He’s a lovely chap.