Tameem Antoniades' official title at Ninja Theory is co-founder and chief creative ninja. It's even on his business cards. What that means, though, is that he's the guy in charge of the creative vision, of the little details, and making sure Ninja Theory's next game - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - is able to cut the mustard. We sat down with him to find out about his inspiration, his view on UK games development and why he can't stand Resident Evil 4's Mercenaries mode.
Update: Tameem has contacted VideoGamer.com to clarify a statement he made about stories in video games. The interview text has now been updated to better reflect his opinion on the subject, specifically relating to the importance of story in story-based video games, not video games in general.
Q: Do you think people are going to like Enslaved?
Tameem Antoniades: Yeah, I think so. We [Ninja Theory] have been going for 10 years now, making games, refining, and honing what we're doing. Although I speak a lot about the storytelling and the talent, I do that because it does set the game apart. But the core of the game is the puzzles, the combat, the traversal and the mechanics. Compared to Heavenly Sword, I think we've just gone much, much deeper into the variety of just what makes a game fun for gamers. I think it's a solid game. It's the best game we've done by a long stretch.
Q: Are people going to be calling it a sleeper hit?
TA: I hope so. There's so many good games coming out, and most of them are sequels, so to actually break through now is really tough. I think the only way you can break through is if people like it. They download the demo and they like it, and they get their mates to play it and it kind of spreads. Kind of like Batman [Arkham Asylum] did.
Q: Are you putting a demo together?
Q: It's funny you mention Rocksteady as another prominent developer...
TA: We used to be mates with them. We were all part of Argonaut, and then Argonaut went bust, and they went off and founded Rocksteady and we founded Ninja Theory, so there's a genetic link.
Q: Do you think it's all a bit gloom and doom with British studios at the moment?
TA: I wish things were better. If we did have the tax breaks, it would just mean that we could push harder and get further ahead. The fact that we do these shoots, these five week shoots for the game, the cast and crew, the actors, the technicians - if they were working on a movie they'd get tax breaks. It's cheaper to make a movie than a game! It's a bit unfair. And the fact that this is one industry where Britain is so prominent, it's a shame that we're not pushing it further and going, 'Yeah, let's be number one.' We're kind of teetering. There's a few developers that are coming up and going down, but not really knocking it out the park.
Q: Do you see Ninja Theory as an up and coming developer?
TA: I hope so. Every game we've done, we've done off the back of our previous game. We're not getting massive investments or anything - we're not getting any investments - we're just building a game, and on the strength of that game building the next one. As long as each game is better than the last one, I think we can carry on and do things that are less derivative.
Q: Is there not a certain comfort in derivative stuff, though?
TA: I'll tell you something - I've never really understood the obsession with having a single game mechanic that defines your game. With certain games there's, like, gravity manipulation or time manipulation or rock manipulation. Or jetpacks! I think we're past that. I think you do need good, solid game mechanics, but you do need to present them in a unique way. If you can execute it really well, I think that counts for a lot. I think about my favourite games - Half-Life, Resident Evil 4, Uncharted - and I don't see a huge amount of innovation per se, I just see incredibly accomplished execution. I'm not ashamed to be in that category - take the mechanics that you know work, and add your own twist to it.
Q: So why aren't more studios doing performance capturing?
TA: Do you know what? It's just really technically difficult. We had the opportunity to work with Weta [Peter Jackson's visual effects company] for a year, refining it. It's one thing doing it in a movie, but doing it in real time is another matter. I think we've just got an incredible head start in that area. I'm actually shocked that nobody seems to have... I'm shocked it's not spread as much as it should.