For those who don’t know, Mark Kern (the former team lead for World of Warcraft) recently left Blizzard to form his own MMO development company, Red 5 Studios. Mark took a brief respite from 24/7 entrepreneurship to answer a few of my questions:
When World of Warcraft first came to market, it succeeded in part by addressing some serious design flaws that plagued other MMORPGs. Now the competition has learned. How will Red 5 distinguish itself from companies like Blizzard, Sony, Ncsoft, Turbine, etc?
Competition is a good thing. We were certainly aware of it on our last project and I think we did well. So, it isn’t a new thing for us. I think World of Warcraft’s design and implementation caught many people off guard. Most felt it was the wrong direction to take and predicted that the game would quickly burn out. They are just starting to absorb the reasons why it worked, while we have the advantage of already internalizing those lessons.
To remain competitive, we will have to stay ahead of the curve, and build on what we’ve already learned. Being small has its advantages, in that we can take greater risks and are nimble enough to change direction quickly if we need to. We are also 100% focused on development. We didn’t want to have to split our attention between making the game and deploying, marketing and operating it like most other MMO studios. This can be a huge distraction.
Read the rest of the interview…
Ed Allard, Senior Producer for Popcap, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about casual games via email:
How have casual games evolved since the days of Tetris?
In a way, the games haven’t changed that much at all. The best casual games of today have a lot in common with Tetris – they have simple approachable mechanics, relatively low production cost, extremely wide appeal, and are insanely addictive.
Beyond that, there has certainly been some growth in the overall presentation of the core mechanics. Production values are increasing, which means better graphics and sound, longer game play, and on-line features such as high scores or user-contributed content. One key trend along these lines is the movement from abstract presentations of shapes and puzzles to strongly-themed presentations with real-world (or imaginary) characters, objects, and places. Many have simple stories that carry you through the game and provide a sense of progress and achievement.
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I recently chatted with Greg LoPiccolo, VP of Product Development for Harmonix and one of the brains behind Guitar Hero, an innovative game with great reviews. The conversation:
Guitar Hero comes bundled with a mock guitar. What are the risks associated with creating a peripheral for a console game?
Well, there’s developmental risk. The peripheral gets made in China. Hardware changes happen slowly and over great distances, which can be a problem when you’re rapidly iterating through a game’s development. Most of our development is done in one-year cycles, which makes this especially challenging. You’re flying blind, developing game features for hardware that doesn’t exist yet. We specked the whammy bar on faith alone. Fortunately, things worked out great…
Read the rest of the interview!