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Brink: 'I still don't understand why people make the games they make'

Splash Damage CEO talks Brink DLC, Doom 4 and Quake...

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At Splash Damage we've had a team that have been in incubation for about a year just trying out crazy ideas. The kinds of people like concept artists or writers who don't have a great lot to do in the final year of production in the full game just try out cool and crazy ideas. We might do something for three months and that might not be something that we'd actually make but we might be like "Wow that one thing worked out really well though," so we keep that in our little stash box and it's a much more gentle way of trying to do things.

Zoom

So it's a subtle difference because it means we're more like a team and a half company now than just a single team company but it does mean that the pre-production can be at a slower pace. The longer you can make pre-production last the better the game; the more iterations, definitely the better the game.

We absolutely plan to support the game post-release, that's a big part of our plans. If you look at Bethesda Softworks and the way they've already supported their games and released DLC and us; for every game we've ever released we've released the SDK, the level design tools the source code, sometimes the entire media packs of the Photoshop files that we use as the bases of our textures so that people can make and modify their own textures.

We're quite happy to do that kind of stuff but it isn't going to be a decision that we take until we've got the game out there.

How are you going to measure Brink's success?

I think we're a rare company in that we've gone ten years now and we've never had a project cancelled, we've never had any litigation with anybody at all ever, we haven't made a single redundancy at the studio, we've fired less people than I've got fingers on my left hand. We have a really cool company that we're happy with and we're still completely independently owned so we still just have me as a sole share holder and we take decisions, mostly democratically as a group of directors about what we want to do next.

It's ok to be a content game developer. You don't have to be the one with 500 staff, exploiting everyone and grinding people into the ground and ruining lives and all for what?

So success for us I think would be to continue shamelessly pursuing critical acclaim and making sure that next month our staff can still pay rent and I think if we can do that we'll all be pretty happy.

Zoom

We talked about the current situation for studios last time we spoke. How healthy do you think the British games industry is at the moment?

I still don't understand why people make the games that they make. The fact is that the most successful games companies are generally the ones that make the highest quality AAA games, not the movie tie-ins, the quick cash-ins, the releases tied with sports events or whatever but we never really understand why people do that stuff. I understand that it can be profitable but we haven't yet seen a company that's turned that into a kind of sustainable business that's been really good for them.

It's such a challenging industry to be in as an independent developer, it's even more challenging to make AAA games and it's more challenging still to only make one at a time and to do so while remaining independent and not selling your studio to a publisher.

Yet every conference I've been to I've said the same thing, if I do a keynote or a big presentation to a crowd, you'll get 500 people in the audience and I'll say "Look our philosophy's really easy, we just go AAA or we go bust." We're totally happy with either outcome but we don't want to make movie tie-in games, we'd rather take a whole bunch of risks and just hope that it comes out OK.

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