Archive | July, 2007

The House of Mouse

23 Jul

Last time we got together, I wrote about pet problems and how they got in the way of blogging. (Those pesky pets!)

Well, sometimes life throws you curves like that. And other times, life throws you an entirely different kind of curve. Like, for example, oh, you know, a gigantic multinational megacorporation acquires your little start-up studio and all of a sudden talking about reactive innovation in game design seems somehow less…pressing.

So, for another week, I’m going to continue sliding down the slippery slope that leads further and further from regular posting. The last couple of weeks have been a little different for me and for Junction Point and we need to talk about that.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a game news junkie, so you already know what’s up, but just in case, here’s the big news:

Junction Point Studios has been acquired by Disney Interactive Studios, the videogame arm of The Walt Disney Company.

Woot!

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews about the deal, the reasons behind it and so on, so I’m not going to repeat all that stuff here. Check out the news sites for info about the nuts and bolts or to learn why I don’t see this marriage as weird, the way some of you do. What I want to talk about here is how cool I think this all is, and to address some concerns a few of you have expressed about whether JPS will stay true to its mission (as I expressed that mission in earlier blog posts).

I’m here to tell you that, near as I can tell sans functioning crystal ball, your concerns are unfounded and our mission remains the same as it ever was. I’m as psyched about game development, about specific projects and about the prospects for Junction Point Studios as I’ve ever been — I think that’s true for all of the JPS staffers. There are a bunch of reasons for this.

For one thing, I’ve been a huge Disney geek most of my life and always wanted to work for the Mouse. Personally, this is kind of a dream come true. Another box on my life resume will now be checked off.

For another, JPS has been doing concept development work for Disney Interactive Studios for some time now — several months last year and again this year, so we kind of know the folks over there, where their heads and hearts are, what their hopes and plans are. And they mean business.

Disney Interactive Studios is a serious attempt by a major media player to make an impact in the world of gaming. Sure, they’re going to exploit Disney brands — I mean, who wouldn’t? If you owned some of the most popular, successful, culturally significant properties on the freakin’ planet, wouldn’t you want to take them to a new medium and reach a new audience? I love creating original stuff but, man, the idea of having access to Disney’s history — and future — is hugely compelling.

On top of just the existence of all that great IP, the fact that Disney operates in so many different fields — movies, theme parks, music, print media, television AND games — means when we DO create original stuff, there’s no limit to where that stuff can go. Again, hugely compelling.

And then there’s the Disney legacy of technological innovation in storytelling. In his day, Walt was always among the first to recognize the value of new tech — color movies, stereo sound, multiplane animation, television, robotics… He pioneered all of them. And in my interactions with folks at Disney, they still get the value of innovation — new tools to tell stories in new ways? They’re all about that. They talk a lot about innovation as a core value and that, too, is hugely appealing to me.

Throw in the deep pockets, the possibility of collaboration with guys at Pixar, Disney Imagineering, Disney R&D, Disney Feature Animation — the opportunity to learn from those guys…man. Who wouldn’t be psyched?

But doesn’t Disney make kiddie games? And doesn’t JPS make mature games for adult gamers? That seems to be the root of most of the concerns people have expressed to me. And there’s some truth to both parts of that statement — Disney does do a lot of stuff for kids, and most of my games have been geared toward older audiences. However, that’s only part of the story.

First, check out Turok, which is being published under the Touchstone brand. Definitely not for kids! And check out the Pixar movies… look around the theme parks… You find stuff geared toward all ages, not just kids. That, too, is hugely appealing to me. While other game publishers seem content to grow the gaming audience incrementally, mostly going after slightly older young men, Disney’s overall focus on entertainment for the entire family is something the game business can, I think, productively carry over.

Maybe it’s just the place I am in my life and career, but I’m looking forward to making games everyone in the family can enjoy. I truly believe you can make deep, rich, story-driven games — games that challenge people’s notions of how the world works, how human relationships work, what constitutes right and wrong — without falling into the trap of assuming you need all the stuff that typically passes for “mature” in the game business.

And, on a purely personal note, I’m looking forward to working for a company whose aesthetic sensibilities don’t begin and end with hyper-realism. I mean, Disney’s a company built on cartoon magic and theme park fantasy — sign me up!

Hope you’ll stick with us, as we transition from independence to being Disney cast members. It’s going to be an exciting time, full of surprises. (Oh, my, are we going to surprise you!) Stay tuned…

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Mea Culpa aka “On a Slippery Slope”

8 Jul

So, I know I said I was going to talk about Reactive/Editorial design approaches and Innovation but that’s going to have to wait. A ton of work stuff came up this week (continuing on into the weekend). Let’s just say there’s a lot on the old plate right now!

And on top of that — not that anyone’s really interested in my home/pet life — my lovely wife, Caroline, and I have had to take two of our cats (Floyd, the crotchety old guy, and Bob, our youngest kitten) to the emergency vet clinic. And then our dog, Maggie, went from hyperactively athletic quadruped to pathetic tripod overnight so we had to make a trip to the emergency clinic with her, too! Turns out she has a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Come on — a dog with a torn ACL? What’s she doing? Sneaking out for a little one-on-one with Kobe Bryant? I mean, really…

Anyway, I know I’m on a slippery slope, deviating from the goal of weekly blog posts — the distance between “weekly” and “never” is just a hop skip and a jump — but I’m taking the week off.

I’ll be back atcha next week with more game ramblings — sooner, if I get ambitious. There’s always E3 this week. If I spot anything interesting maybe I’ll post some thoughts from the show.

Thanks for your indulgence. Keep watching this space…

Warren