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Monday, November 12, 2001

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Warren Spector Interview, Part 3
11:01 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The RPG Vault at IGN recently posted part three of their three-part interview with Ion Storm's own Warren Spector. If Spector's name doesn't ring a bell, the title Deus Ex, of which he was Project Director, certainly should. Spector discusses the temptations of developers to target bleeding-edge hardware in game creation, his thoughts on the current game world, and strategies on pursuing employment in game development.

One of the conundrums in PC game design is deciding what the system requirements should be for a title. The urge to use the latest and greatest is no doubt strong, and Spector seems to know this better than anyone. He points out that, in discussions about Thief 3 and Deus Ex 2, the argument that using bleeding-edge hardware will allow better looking and playing games is currently being hashed out. He also notes that this will yield lower development costs, but at the same time, a smaller audience.

Spector adds, however, that no one ever really remembers "the Best Game played on a 386," but rather just the "Best Game." He tips his hat to companies like Blizzard, who, in his words, "do a stunning job of balancing horsepower requirements and mass market accessibility."

Spector is critical of the increasing power publishers seem to have over gamers and developers alike:

I hate the rising costs and ridiculous timelines. I guess if you want to find a silver lining, a positive, you can cite a higher level of professionalism in the industry, better graphics and sound, but that's about it, really. Not much to like about bigger teams, extended schedules and increased risk!

The blockbuster mentality is as bad for gaming as it has been for movies or books - sure, some folks make a ton of money but the vast majority end up in the red. That means fewer developers have fewer publishers to sell game ideas to. Naturally, as risks go up, publishers become less willing to support efforts outside the tried-and-true. Originality becomes a rare commodity. At this point, it seems to me that only someone with a big name and track record can get a publisher to take a chance on something original. And that's just not right...

I'd love to find a way to make games for less money, in less time, with smaller teams. I just don't know how to do that and remain competitive. The Win Big - Lose Big situation we're in right now totally bites but, unfortunately, I don't see it changing any time soon.

Spector's advice on pursuing a career in game development may surprise some readers. Besides listing the usual "you must love games" argument, he notes that developers must also be very aware of the real world. He adds that having a good knowledge of subjects like history, psychology, economics, and art will really help when actually attempting to develop a game. He also notes that one should play a variety of games on a variety of platforms, and be enough of an analytical thinker to where dismantling a game via its design and implementation becomes second nature.

The rest of the interview covers topics such as Spector's view on multiplayer games, how to actually search for a gaming development job, and what he's really excited about in the current gaming scene. For those interested in gaming design as well as in the thoughts of one of the industry's most respected developers, this interview is a must.

RPG Vault: Warren Spector Interview, Part 3
IMG Review: Deus Ex
Ion Storm
Westlake Interactive
Aspyr Media
Deus Ex

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