The lights are on
Tell me a little bit about the structure of Arkane and the setup that you guys have in terms of the way you work?
Colantonio: We have a team in Lyon, France and a team here in Austin. That's to simplify it a bit because we have a few contractors from other countries, but that's the main idea. And in Austin we have the game direction, us two, and we also have some of the level designers, and the gameplay programmer, and then one animator. Whereas in Lyon we have a big bulk of the art, and we have...
Smith: A few level designers...
Colantonio: Head level designers...
Smith: Core technology programmers and our executive producer is there too.
And how do you make that system work on a day to day basis? What's the interaction between the two major studios in two different parts of the world?
Smith: Well one of the things is that we come in a little earlier than most video game studios, like our lead programmer gets here at five in the morning. And that way he has maximum overlap with the French office due to the time difference. We also leave the video conference up all day. You know instead of just using it for meetings like most people do (which we think is a mistake) we like to put it on a cart next to to the desk and leave it up and just chat with the person. We leave it unmuted, that's another key. You develop this team vibe.
And the other thing is, I think this is kind of a trick, we try to go out of our way to only hire people who understand and love the kind of games that we make. We aren't just a game studio, we're like very much focused on these immersive first person action games that have RPG features built into them. And by recruiting those kinds of people, and sharing that passion for those games, a lot of things immediately become easy, even across language barriers. Because you can point to something in Bioshock, or something in Far Cry 2, or something older in Underworld or System Shock. They love them for the same reasons and that immediately creates a bridge.
There's an increasing trend of a lot of games introducing role-playing elements into features and gameplay that might not have had it ten years ago. I'm curious of your thoughts as to why that's happening, why pretty much any game these days can be called "/RPG".
Colantonio: Well we believe gamers are, over time, more used to playing games so they become more sophisticated and tastes evolve. It's like if you are a food connoisseur, you like better and better food with more depth. So there's no real surprise that games, or at least part of the games, the way they evolve is through more depth. So you see games like GTA and I think if they keep going this way they are going to be an RPG soon.
Smith: Hopefully people just keep on deepening the mechanics that are in those games. I think a synthesis is the ultimate experience for both of us.
Colantonio: It's interesting how games started this way, like in Underworld. It has got action, it's got depth.
Colantonio: Far more than most of the games in the last ten years. And for some reason the industry focused on making their games pretty and technologically impressive...
Colantonio: Yeah, shiny. And then by focusing on that so much they kind of traded off the depth. But now that games are mature enough, like the industry is so mature, I think it is time to bring back all of those values and all of that depth. We're glad that it's the truth not only for our game; there's also some other games that are going there and that's pretty cool.
Interview by Matt Miller and Ben Hanson
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