Archive | Studio RSS feed for this section

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 5

26 Jun

Okay, so what could top the 3DS at E3? Well how about the response to Disney Epic Mickey?

I talked to so many people – easily in triple digits – and got to see even more playing the game in the booth (as I ran from the Disney area to somewhere else). And by the end of the show, we’d been nominated for at least 22 awards – won 15, lost 2 and there are still, as of today, 7 we’re waiting to hear about. Go Mickey! Go Junction Point team! I don’t want to brag (too much!) so, for a full rundown on what happened – and to stay on top of what’s to come – check out the Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios web pages or, maybe even better, go to the Facebook pages for Disney Epic Mickey, Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios. Oh, and there’s even a Disney Epic Mickey You Tube channel, and of course David Garibaldi‘s stuff, too. Tons of cool stuff to see!

Finally, before I forget (as if!), this year’s E3 will live on in my memory as the E3 where I GOT TO MEET SHIGERU MIYAMOTO AND STAN LEE! IN THE SAME WEEK! I’m pretty sure I jibbered like an idiot on both occasions – definitely had to put my head between my knees briefly on meeting Mr. Miyamoto… and I vaguely remember telling Stan Lee I was NOT a stalker at least 15 times… which, of course, branded me as a stalker immediately. Sigh.

Both gentlemen lived up to my expectations and then some – in my experience, heroes usually do. (It’s what makes them heroes, I guess.) These are guys who changed my life – Mr. Miyamoto’s work pushes me to do better in my own… And Stan Lee introduced me to a world of heroes and villains I still live in today. I remember vividly buying Fantastic Four #13 (The Red Ghost issue) and Spider-Man #2 (The Vulture!), back in 1963 and having my 8-year-old mind blown. Getting to tell Stan Lee about that was priceless.

(BTW, if anyone who was at the Nintendo Press Conference rehearsal took any pictures of the magical – if embarrassing – moment when I was introduced to Mr. Miyamoto, please get in touch. I’d sure love a photographic record of a real career highlight!)

So that’s it. My E3 experience. All I have to say is this:

Best.

Week.

Ever!

If you feel like it, let me know what blew YOU away at E3 this year – remember, I saw almost nothing!…

Advertisements

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 4

25 Jun

Nintendo got 3D right – righter than anyone else. Ever. By far. Think about the 3DS – just the basics:

  • No glasses required!
  • No image degradation or color saturation loss compared with 2D displays!
  • Parallax control so viewers can adjust the images so the 3D effect is perfect for them, not for some average person with an average distance of 2.5 inches between his/her eyes.

But that’s just based on the basics, as I said. Wait, there’s more. I was backstage at the Nintendo Press Conference on Tuesday, June 15th, and as each new 3DS feature was described, my jaw got closer and closer to the ground. It’s a game machine… it’s 3D… it has a gyroscope and accelerometer built in… It has Wi-Fi connectivity and shares data with other 3DS’s in the background… It has a 3D CAMERA!… and it PLAYS 3D MOVIES WITHOUT GLASSES!… I swear if they’d said it was a phone, too, I would have dashed back onto the stage and snatched the prototype and run like the wind! I half expected to hear it would tuck me in at night!

When I got my hands on the 3DS at the show, I was blown away again. The feature set sounds good but the proof is in the pudding – in the product. And Nintendo’s got some mighty tasty stuff coming. Pilot Wings – incredible. Nintendogs – even cuter than before and more engaging. Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid – gorgeous. Kid Icarus is coming back plus there’s a Mario Kart, plus a new Zelda(!!!!!)! Not a bad set of games to brag about as you’re launching a new piece of hardware. And there was a tech demo, shooting game that was probably my favorite thing of all. The movie trailers were outrageous – best 3D visuals I’ve seen. Tangled looked great and How to Train Your Dragon was a revelation. Both were sharp, clear, convincing. Every title – movie or game – was a hardware-selling brand, each one looked cool and each was genuinely enhanced in some way by the 3D effect.

The 3D effect is basically perfect. I mean PERFECT. And the games and movie trailers shown on 3DS were stunning, enhanced and flat-out cooler than they could possibly have been in 2D. I was on the fence about 3D when I entered the Nintendo booth. By the time I left, I was floored.

I was completely wrong about 3D. Not a fad. Not going away. Here for good – and that’s a good thing. Nintendo deserves to sell a gazillion of these things. And I want the first one off the line!

As a consumer, I’m in. Sign me up. Price no object (or not much of one). As a game developer, well, sign me up for that, too. How do you design a game that really exploits stereoscopic 3D? Beats me… How do we take advantage of a 3D camera built into a gaming device? No idea… How do we integrate gyroscopes and accelerometers into control schemes? Got some ideas but nothing solid… I mean, how could anyone NOT want to play with this tech?

I’ve been hoping something like this would come along since Origin and Looking Glass supported VR headsets in Wings of Glory and System Shock back in the mid-’90s, but I never actually believed it would happen. Well, it’s happened. The Nintendo 3DS changed everything for me.

Please, please, let it be the success it deserves to be. And all you TV manufacturers out there (or Sharp at least), get with the program and let me buy a TV that’s as cool as Nintendo’s little game machine. I know there are issues with view angles on parallax barrier technology, but come on, get cracking, solve the problems and let me give you a bunch of money so I can have my 3D, okay?

I should stop. I know it. But the 3DS is – seriously – the coolest hardware I’ve ever seen at E3… It’s nothing short of magical, both in the effect the stereoscopic stuff had on me and in the way the tech works. Not that I really understand how it works – not yet anyway! The 3DS was – dare I say it? – almost Disney-like in the magical feeling it evoked in me and I suspect you’ll have a similar reaction when you get your hands on it. And note that I said “when,” not “if.” That was no accident. Trust me – you’re gonna want and you’re gonna get a Nintendo 3DS.

Okay. Let me catch my breath. Two more things tomorrow and then I’m outta here and onto other things. (I’m really going to try to keep this blogging thing going from now on!)

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 3

24 Jun

On to day 2…

The show itself was a lot like Monday. I spent right around twelve hours each day (obviously, I started before the show opened and kept going after it closed!) in a room in the back of the Disney booth or a room over at the Staples Center – hence the title of this post. Get it? Two rooms… Eight walls… Running from one room to the other. That was my E3…

(And, may I just say, being in the Staples Center during the NBA finals was both cool and frustrating – cool, in that I could look down on the court and contemplate running down there for a quick pic and a probably takedown by a security guard, frustrating in that I was constantly reminded about the hoop fanaticism of which I would NOT be a part later in the day – no finals tickets for me!)

Anyway, 12-ish hours of interviews and demos each day on Tuesday and Wednesday. No breaks. Ate breakfast and lunch with cameras in my face. All I saw of the show was what I could see running to the rest room or running to some on-camera interview in someone else’s booth.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining! The fact that I was so busy was a reflection of how well-received the Disney Epic Mickey game was. I haven’t experienced anything like that since Deus Ex.

Okay, so I’ve explained the “Two Rooms, Eight Walls” part of the title. What about the “coolest thing ever?”

Easy.

Nintendo 3DS!

Holy cow.

The last day of the show, I actually got out of the Disney Interactive booth around 4:15. I knew I was only going to get to see One Thing at E3. And I knew it was going to be either Deus Ex: Human Revolution or the 3DS. Though it pained me to make the call, the 3DS got the nod.

All I can say is “Wow!” Okay, I lied – I can and will say a lot more than “wow.”

The 3DS changed my life. Seriously. I can be pretty stubborn and when I decide I know something or I’m right about something, I don’t often change my mind. Well, I just want to say I’ve been completely wrong about 3D all my life. I never got it before. Until now. Until the 3DS. Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it.

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 2

22 Jun

Last episode, I said I tell you what my E3 was like. Well, that’s easy. Basically, I saw nothing at E3 this year. Well, literally, I guess I should say “almost nothing,” but I’ll get to that later.

Monday, the day before the show opened, I could have walked around the show floor while everyone was setting up, but instead I found myself doing a couple of interviews (including one two hour, on-camera thing that was a ton of fun. I can’t talk about that one yet…).

But the big deal that first day was a rehearsal for the Nintendo press conference at the Nokia Theater. Talk about a thrill!

First, just walking out on that stage, where American Idol finalists sing for 7000 people and all, was fantastic. You don’t want to know how many times I was asked if I was nervous or scared. The honest answer is “no.” I love talking to people about games, whether it’s one person or thousands. It was just an incredible scene and ended up being as much fun as I expected it to be.

Frankly, one of the reasons it was so exciting and fun was Nintendo. Everyone at Nintendo, from the very top of the organization to the guys in the trenches, was incredible. The feeling of family, the sense of being on a mission, the development-centered culture was palpable. I have no idea what it’s really like to work at Nintendo, but if the outward projection of the company’s culture is anything like the working environment… well, let’s just say I have a richer understanding of why Nintendo games look, feel and play the way they do. Joy and positivity in the environment must translate to similar quality in the work, right? I should be so lucky as to create an environment like that at a studio of my own someday!

And the really cool bit? Everyone I met that first day at the rehearsal made me and Adam Creighton (the Junction Point producer, who drove my demos), feel like a part of the Nintendo family and contributors to the company’s mission. That was really special.

Anyway, from the Nintendo rehearsal, it was over to the Disney booth to rehearse for our own on-stage demos – two 15-ish minute demos a day, followed by a show by Disney Fine Artist, David Garibaldi.

Meeting David at the Disney rehearsals was over the top cool. I have some of his artwork on my walls at home, and I’d already seen some of his magical dance/music/art shows on video (you just have to see him in action for yourself to get a sense of how incredible his work is…). I guess what I’m saying is I’m a fan and was really pleased to meet him and be able to tell him so. It’s hard to imagine anyone better-suited to the task of bringing some of the Disney Epic Mickey characters and locations to life in new ways. He outdid himself!

From there, it was over to a theater to catch a sneak screening of Toy Story 3. Yowza! There was much laughing and crying… I definitely steamed up the ol’ 3D glasses, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Just pick yourself up and see it yourself, if you haven’t already.

That was Monday – interviews and rehearsals and Pixar’s latest. Day over. Saw nothing…

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the show itself.

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 1

22 Jun

So, I know it’s been forever since I posted anything here but with E3 behind me, it seemed like a good time to get back in the swing of things. I can’t promise I’ll be the most regular blogger in the world, but at least now I can talk about the game I’ve been working on!

The word is out about Disney Epic Mickey, and in a big way. I couldn’t be happier. This week, I’ll try to tell you why.

Here’s the story of my E3 (or, at least, part one of that story, with more parts following the rest of this week):

Man, what a show! Though we announced Disney Epic Mickey, officially, at an event in London last October, and the good folks at Game Informer ran a big preview feature around the same time, this E3 was our debutante ball.

And what a ball I had!

The Disney Interactive Studios folks put together a killer booth – not just for Disney Epic Mickey, but for all the upcoming titles. I thought everything showed well – Disney Epic Mickey, Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, Guilty Party, TRON… I hope this shows the gaming world We Mean Business!

But, obviously, I was especially pleased about the Disney Epic Mickey area and the response to the game. First, a shout-out to the guys who put the space together. The Disney Epic Mickey area looked like a Mickey-fied version of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Classy and appropriate. I loved our space.

There was some terrific artwork by a variety of artists hanging from the walls and Disney animators were in the booth drawing original sketches for people (and, man, you should have seen the lines for that!).  And, of course, David Garibaldi was doing the amazing art/dance/music thing that only he can do. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Apparently, neither could gamers! The place was packed all day, every day. I brought about a dozen people from Junction Point to man the booths and they did me, the game and themselves proud. I can’t tell you how much I love the Disney Epic Mickey team. The talent, passion and commitment the guys and gals showed at E3 was incredibly special – and completely typical of what the entire team delivers on a daily basis. Definitely one of the top teams I’ve worked with in my career.

As for me, well, check back tomorrow and I’ll explain what I was up to and what the title of this post is all about.

We’re Number 23!

27 Sep

Most people aspire to be number 1 — you know, the sports fan’s cry of “We’re Number One!” and all that. Well, not me. I mean, it’d be great to be #1, but I now have a new goal.

You see, in its June 27/July 4th issue (which I only just got around to reading recently, proving I’m behind on all sorts of things in my life — not just blogging!), Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on what they called The New Classics — “the 1000 best movies, TV shows, albums, books & more of the last 25 years.”

Well, games fell into the “& more” category, and Deus Ex made the cut. Check it out, it’s right there on page 128.

Here’s what they had to say: “Vast conspiracies abound in Deus Ex, a smart cyberpunky RPG where you play a nanotechnology-enhanced agent.” The description isn’t likely to get anyone’s heartrate up, but it’s nice to be recognized, for sure.

I mention this not to brag or anything, but because I started wondering how DX stacked up against comparable titles in the other lists. (Some of you may remember an earlier series of posts where I confessed to a fondness for… okay, an obsession with… lists.) I wondered what movie was ranked #23, what album, what book and so on. Here’s what I found:

Movie: Memento
Television: West Wing
Music: The Soft Bulletin (from The Flaming Lips)
Book: The Ghost Road (by Pat Barker)
Style: Andre 3000 (of “Hey Ya!” fame)
Stage: M: Butterfly
Tech: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader

Ni…ice! Yeah, being #1 would be cool, but #23 is, apparently, all about quirkiness. And that appeals to me, big-time. But when I look at the #23 slot, I see more than “quirk.” For one thing, I see stuff I really like a lot — I mean, Memento blew me away. West Wing was, for years, my favorite television program. The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin? Come on — enchanting. And I lust after a Kindle with every fiber of my being — if Amazon would drop the price another 50 bucks I’d have one in a hot second!

More than just “I like them,” I see in the 23’s (we’re all part of a club, now, at least in my warped imagination) work that set out to to make a political or cultural statement (assuming there’s any difference between the political and the cultural…). At #23, I see creative enterprises that set out to challenge assumptions — sometimes public assumptions, sometimes a creator’s personal assumptions about his or her own work. I see projects that changed things, that influenced the content or aesthetics of their respective media or changed the direction of the businesses of which they were a part.

And I’m proud that something I worked on is in such august company.

So that’s my new goal. No more “#1” aspirations; I’m shooting for #23, where all the quirky, cool things are! (Okay, just kidding, Disney — #1 would be cool, too!)

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…