Creative Minds

Feature: Ex-Rare man Martin Hollis talks games

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This is what I meant by 'one person can't design an original game'. Each leader influences and is influenced by the group, and the most successful games are the result of a pleasing harmony of personalities. When it is possible to do the labour of the majority, then auteur theory works, but generally it is false.

After leaving Rare you worked for Nintendo and helped with the design of GameCube. Could you go into detail about how this came about and what you worked on?

Perfect Dark pushed the N64 to its limits

Hollis: Yes. I should cover a little history. Over a year into Perfect Dark my relationship with Rare was troubled. Each of us was asking for more than the other could give. This situation ended with my departure, and with very deep regret I was unable to see Perfect Dark to completion. Despite these difficulties Chris Stamper then recommended me to Nintendo.

The result was that I took up employment as a consultant at Nintendo of America (NOA) in Redmond, Washington State. My responsibilities were chiefly to advise on the development of GameCube at Nintendo Technology Development Inc. (NTD). This little known group was newly created to architect and direct the development of GameCube hardware and associated software. My role was to bring the point of view of a game developer to the table, and to ensure the hardware was game developer friendly. The experience was fascinating, as I have always loved hardware and enjoyed having a full and deep understanding of what is going on under the hood. The chance to influence and to learn more about hardware design was very exciting. I learned an enormous amount from Howard Cheng in that era, especially on the subject of high level architecture and console design strategy.

You've also stated that 'realism isn't relevant to good gameplay' yet increasingly (many) modern games seem to be striving for ever more realism. What are your views on this?

Hollis: Firstly I believe realism has many parts. I was talking about realism in general, including functional realism or how things behave, and you may be asking about visual realism.

Unthinkingly striving for visual realism is dangerous. If all games were visually realistic in the way that nearly all films are visually realistic then the space of games would be impoverished. There are more universes out there than the universe we can see. Why constrain an art form to one universe? Why legislate against Dali and Hopper? Because the public does not have an appetite for it? Because Wal-Mart does not have an imagination? These are worthless answers. The industry must lead the market. Without games that are alarmingly different the space of possibilities will become diminished until stagnation smothers the industry.

Zoonami has a running spy theme

Regarding realism and gameplay, it is obvious to every experienced game maker that you can make a better game if you can alter the game universe. The best approach is to mould the universe and the gameplay repeatedly so that they suit. If all you can think of is reality then you are imprisoned and your hands are tied. How can you mould anything then? All you can make is a photocopy of something that already exists.

At Zoonami you have an 'incubator system' for game creation. Could
you please go into detail about this philosophy and how you feel it aids great game design.

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