Warren Spector

Exclusive: The seminal designer speaks out on Junction Point, JC Denton, cartoon violence and the System Shock legacy!

Up until now, Deus Ex and System Shock creator Warren Spector has been somewhat quiet. The world knew that, having left Ion Storm, he'd set up Junction Point Studios and that a Source-powered and Steam-distributed game would be forthcoming - perhaps, as Net hype would have it, dealing with animated issues such as 'cartoon mice, cats and wabbits'. But now, accompanied here by his crazy dog Maggie, the man himself has spoken out exclusively to our comrades in arms over at PC Zone...

What was it that spurred you on to start up your own development studio?
There are all sorts of reasons to do a start-up - all of them more or less rooted in insanity! Mostly, it was the fact that I'd been working for publishers for so long and wanted to try living and dying by my own mistakes, rather than having to deal with mistakes others imposed on me. I make more than enough of my own mistakes, I assure you! Also, I'd gotten so into publisher-level stuff that I wasn't able to be as involved as I wanted to be in, oh, you know, the games... I wanted to be part of something smaller, tighter, more team- and project-focused, less business-focused. Although, I was clearly smoking something when I thought a start-up would allow me to be less business-focused! I'm still knee-deep in non-game stuff, sadly!

Where did the name Junction Point come from?
Back when I was running Looking Glass's Austin office and exec-producing its role-playing stuff overall, I worked with a bunch of guys on an MMORPG called Junction Point. We never got funding for it (more's the pity - it'd still be pretty state-of-the-art), but I always loved the name. Frankly, I like it even better as a company name than a game name - it seems to say so many things that are cool and important. You know, a junction point is a place where a lot of different things come together and from which you can go in a lot of different directions. I like to think the games I've worked on bring together a variety of genres and, I hope, allow players to choose their own paths. So the name kind of fits.

Is getting a new game studio up and running as hard as people say? What are the main challenges you've come across?
Oh, man, the last year and a half to two years have been a rollercoaster ride! You're constantly on the edge of running out of money. You get a deal, you lose a deal, you bite and scratch and get another deal. Then you have to build up a management and tools infrastructure from scratch, build a culture from nothing - even starting with half a dozen people, you're building a team basically from scratch. Plus, you don't have a tech base, there's no PR department to help get your messages out, no business office or HR department or anything. It's been the most amazing ride I've been on in years. You go from the highest high to the lowest low... Every day. How cool is that?

How did the whole Steam release come about? Why are you pursuing digital distribution rather than the more traditional route?
I'm a big believer in online distribution being a big part of our future. Valve's the leading exponent of that idea right now, so it seemed like a pretty good fit. Plus, Gabe Newell and I have talked for years about finding a way to work together on something. The timing and technology on this was right, so it was an easy call to make - for me, anyway - I won't speak for Valve! I'm just thrilled to be able to test the waters of online distribution.

Can you tell us anything about what you're working on?
Nope. I've gone down the hype and hyperbole road and didn't much like it! This time, we'll talk about stuff when we actually have stuff to talk about!

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