January 1, 2009

GPU Interviews: Rich Briggs (Dead Space), Morgon (MGC)

GPU would like to introduce a new set of industry interviews. The first is an interview with Rich Briggs, producer on the EA game Dead Space, and second is Morgon, the creator of MyGamerCard.net.

We hope you enjoy a bit of a look inside the industry as well as inside the community. Stay tuned for more interviews!

Interviews after the jump.

Rich Briggs - Producer - Dead Space

What is your Xbox Live gamertag? (If you care to give it out)
Sgt Justin Sam

What is your exact job title?

What does that entail, what do you do on a daily basis?
I work on the Scripted Events and Market Research, and every day I make sure people have the information and tools that they need in order to do their jobs effectively. I also promote the game at various PR and Sales events.

What is the best part of your job?
It's incredibly rewarding to come up with an idea, either based on Market Research findings or while working on a Scripted Event, and then see that idea in the game a few days or weeks later.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
Gaming is my number one hobby. I started when I was 5 years old and don't see myself quitting that any time soon. The remainder of my time is spent collecting comic books, reading Sci-Fi and Horror books, watching tons of movies, and during football season managing my fantasy team.

How much time do you spend playing games outside of work?
I don't play as much as I used to, but I still average about 2 hours a night after the rest of my family goes to sleep.

What are you playing currently?
I always have a few games in rotation at once. Right now I'm alternating my time between Mirror's Edge and Tomb Raider Underworld, but every now and then I go back to Fallout 3. I'm on my second playthrough and have logged about 80 hours total. It's insane how good that game is.

What would you like to see out of the gaming industry in the next 10 years?
I believe we can bring our story telling to a new level. It may sound a bit cliché, but I want to develop characters with nuances and emotions so powerful that they can make you care about them and even cry for them. Movies do this, and eventually games will.

Dead Space Questions
First off, give those who don't know your summary of what Dead Space is.
Dead Space tells the story of Isaac Clarke, a Systems Engineer who is on a mission to fix the communications on board a deep space mining vessel called the USG Ishimura. Once Isaac and his team arrive at the Ishimura, they realize that the ship has been overrun by horrific creatures called Necromorphs. Isaac eventually realizes that the enemies are the former crew of the ship, and is trapped in a desperate fight for survival.

For Dead Space what did you work on specifically?
I was responsible for the Scripted Events (SEs) and the Market Research. For the SEs, I made sure everyone had the tools they needed to do their jobs. I gathered assets, managed schedules, created and distributed information, helped plan for and solve edge cases, and every now and then came up with an idea for an SE. On the Market Research side, I conducted research, distilled the findings, presented the information along with my recommendation to the team, and followed up on the action items.

What was the best part about working on Dead Space?
Seeing all of the pieces that I worked on, or influenced, come together into the final product was a great feeling.

How long was the overall production time on the game?
Dead Space was in production for close to 3 years.

How did the concept of Dead Space come about?
Our Studio GM, Glen Schofield, who was an Executive Producer at the time, had always wanted to build a sci-fi horror game. He is a huge fan of both genres, and thought there was an opportunity to put them together in the gaming space. He pitched the idea, twisted a few arms, and got a small team with which to build a vertical slice (early prototype) of the game, which was approved.

What is one thing everyone should know about the game?
Strategic Dismemberment, which is a fancy way of saying you have to rip enemies apart limb from limb to make sure they are dead, will change the way you approach combat.

Give me your best pitch line, why would a gamer love Dead Space?
Dead Space remains true to the survival horror genre, but also innovates in key ways with respect to Zero-G, combat, and how we scare you. Our real-time, no HUD presentation leads to complete immersion in the experience.

Trying not to have spoilers, what do you enjoy most about the game?
Isaac can die in so many ways, many of them absolutely disgusting. I always tell players to save often, so the first time they encounter an enemy they can let Isaac die just to see how the enemy takes him apart.

Is any more DLC planned for the game?
We have released several different packs of suits and weapons which have been quite popular. We don't have any news besides that.

With co-op becoming so big in gaming, are you considering it for the next game?
That's very tricky, how you're trying to get me to confirm the next game. We are incredibly pleased by the reception to Dead Space, and are always looking at what we did well, and what areas we still could improve in.

What about some kind of multiplayer?
See above.

Any hints about what is to come with the franchise? :)
See above ;)

Morgon, MyGamerCard.net

What is your Gamertag?

What is the story behind your gamertag?
Around 15 years ago, my first Internet experience was a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon - an online text RPG that served as the precursor to most modern MMOs). When it asked me for a name to use, 'Morgon' just sounded like a good character name. It's stuck since then.

How old are you? Where do you live?
I'm 29 and live on the east coast of the US in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

What is your occupation?
I haven't given myself a fancy title yet, but I currently work fulltime on MyGamerCard, as well as some other unannounced properties.

What is your role at MyGamerCard?
I founded MGC before the launch of the Xbox 360 in North America

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy gaming, of course! Traveling, trying new foods, and even programming for fun are all hobbies of mine. One day I'll get back into Scuba Diving.

Who does your family consist of? (Brothers/sisters? Husband/wife? Pets?)
My house simply has me in it. Most of my family lives in the immediate area, though.

What are your favorite TV shows, movies and books?
I'll watch or read anything as long as it has a good plot with some other worthwhile qualities such as storytelling or character development. Or it could be pure geek heaven - Blade Runner, The Matrix, etc. I've oddly been getting into a lot of TV lately. I'm looking forward to the return of '24', and The Sarah Connor Chronicles has had some very good character development.

What is your favorite type of music/band?
When I'm in the car or playing Rock Band, I tend to lean towards Modern Rock/Alternative -- Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, etc.
At home, it's mostly electronica - European dance/trance/etc. Expect to hear Armin Van Buurin, Ferry Corsten, Daft Punk and related acts playing.

What is your gaming setup like?
Despite being here for over a year, I still haven't fully 'moved in'... While my 47" Philips AmbiLight II has been mounted since day one, I only have 3 of my 7 SVS speakers (plus a subwoofer the size of a large mini-fridge) connected to my Denon 3808-CI. That handles my DVR, Wii, Pl*ySt*t**n3, and of course the Xbox 360!
In true geek style, furnishing consists of LoveSac's 'Sactionals', which make it look like I have real 'adult' furniture yet has the comfy feel of a game room bean-bag chair.

What systems have you owned?
Odyssey II, NES, SNES, N64, Gamecube, Xbox, PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360...
Not to mention my various Franken-PC's that I've built over the years.

How many hours per week do you spend on your systems?
Unfortunately not as many as I would like! Some weeks are 0, some are 40. It depends on what responsibilities or opportunities are presenting themselves to interfere with gaming time.

Single Player or Multiplayer?
This will be a shock to the younger generation, but .... Single player. There's nothing better than a good, solid campaign to really let a game shine. I have a demand for a certain level of consistency -- for example, if I perform 'x' action on an enemy (two shots and a melee), 'y' will always happen (enemy falls).

I don't know if it's developers not paying attention to a game once it's complete (other than paid content), or networking problems .. but I take my screen to be the Almighty Word, so when my screen says something should have happened (i.e. grenade exploding at someone's feet) and then two seconds later it tells me something else happened, it's very frustrating.

RPG all the way. But the point of RPGs are to be immersive, you're "Role Playing" - a good story is critical. Some companies have missed this memo over the past few years and slapped Health meters and randomly-named weapons on top of a game that's clearly a button-masher.

Soda, Energy Drinks, or Juice?
As crazy as it sounds - Water! Get a big case of bottled water from your local Warehouse Club and you'll be surprised how fast you can empty them when you don't have other beverages getting in the way.

Hardcore games or Casual games?
I like a little of both. While I grew up in the era of 'One mistake and it's back to the beginning', I simply don't have that kind of time any longer. There's a fine line between 'challenging' and 'cheap', and some of these self-proclaimed 'hardcore' games clearly don't know the difference. There's so much more to a 'challenge' than simply giving the enemy pin-point accuracy and more health.

Classic arcade games or new arcade additions? (Think Pac Man vs. Braid)
I like a little of both, but I'm starting to lean towards the 'new arcade additions', as you call them (especially since you mentioned Braid). Most interest in 'classic' games is nostalgia-based, and not necessarily indicative of the game itself.

While there are some games that could probably stand the test of time (where's my -real- Marble Madness game? Does anyone remember Thexder?), slapping a flashy neon palette on the same game is not appealing to me.

What is your favorite original Xbox game?
If we're going by sheer enjoyment, I really loved playing LucasArts' 'Gladius' and would love to see another game like this on the 360. If we're going by hours played, then of course Halo: CE and Halo 2 would take that title.

What is your favorite Game on the Xbox 360?
I haven't quite picked a favorite yet. Again, if we want to go by sheer hours played, then it would be Oblivion or Halo. I also enjoy Scene It! and Rock Band.

What would you like to be doing in ten years?
Hopefully working on whatever sequel to MGC there may be!

What would you like to see out of the gaming industry in the next 10 years?
I'd like to see many things. Firstly, more user-generated content - Halo has done a nice job with allowing people to modify maps and gametypes, and Far Cry 2's map editor is great once you get the hang of it, but both developers of these games could learn a lot from each other, as well as easily incorporate 'more, More, MORE!' to the same basic features.

Secondly, multiplayer devs need to really work on their networking code.
I think the first developer to use distributed connection technologies will really blow the 'single host' garbage out of the water and become the Next New Thing. By each client having a shared say over what happens in a game not only mitigates cheating (if 1 client says they shot rockets out of their pistol, and the other 7 says he didn't....), but would also make for a more enjoyable experience for all players connected.

Thirdly, and maybe this is a biased wish, but I'd like to see developers working more closely with community developers or at least provide some way of people such as myself to bring more value and awareness to their game by allowing others to share their scores or other stats with people not in the game. (The Geometry Wars 2 ScoreCard at MyGamerCard comes to mind :) )

What would you like to see out of MyGamerCard in the next few years?
'Bigger, Faster, Better, More'! The site continues to grow even after 3 years of the 360, and there is a ton of room for more features and interaction within the userbase. As Microsoft increases their support of MGC, this in turn will extend to the community.

What is the best part about running MGC?
Seeing the site being mentioned and used on places that aren't gaming-related. I see MGC GamerCards on car forums, anime sites, music artist's homepages; and in nearly every country and culture. These are served up anywhere from 13 - 15 million times a day.
Gaming is a universal language, and it's very moving to have a hand in extending its reach, even as small as my involvement may be.

Any hints as to what's to come from MGC?
I tend not to answer these questions because other things always come up, but there are quite a few items in development, both fully related to MGC and extending outwards to other parts of Xbox Live's offerings.

What are your gaming-related New Year's resolutions?
I haven't really set out for anything in particular, but there are a ton of games that I need to finish; most notably, Oblivion. 2009 is the Year of Completion, and I fully intend to comply.

Any closing comments?
Thanks to all of the users of MGC, whether you're a fan or just use it because 'it's there'. I've had the opportunity to face some unique challenges that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else - MGC provides a daily education.
Also, thanks for the opportunity to write this up! Happy gaming in 2009 :)

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