Alain Tascan is one of EA's big cheeses. He's in charge of EA Montreal, the studio responsible for Army of Two and its upcoming sequel Army of Two: The 40th Day. Here, in this wide ranging interview with VideoGamer.com, we quiz the man responsible for making Army of Two one of EA's biggest and best franchises. Can it reach Call of Duty levels? Can it work with Natal and Sony's wand? Read on for the answers to those questions and more.
VideoGamer.com: How much has player feedback from Army of Two been taken on board during the development of 40th Day versus new ideas EA Montreal has for the game?
Alain Tascan: A lot. It was very interesting. We did something a little bit unique. We had a big promise. We disappointed a few people with the delivery, but at the same time a lot of people enjoyed playing the game, and still today buying the game massively and playing in different ways. A lot of people are very, they go and play the game for 10 minutes, half an hour, an hour, two hours. To be very honest, we listen a lot to the press and we understand there were some turnoffs. We listen a lot to the players. The first one, it was like shoot shoot shoot, shoot shoot shoot, with the aggro and stuff, and I feel this time what we tried to put into the game is a lot of organic co-op. So you always have the possibility to play differently with your partner, whether it's online, whether it's the AI or whether it's on your couch. So this is what really we tried to improve. We drastically improved the shooting through the gun experience. Obviously it's not first-person, so we don't have the precision of first person, but for third-person I think it's starting to catch up with the best in the class.
We felt people like to be put in this scenario, which is bigger than life. With Shanghai and the destruction I think it's very interesting. If you're in the gaming industry you have a lot of opportunity to go to Asia and to Shanghai in particular. I feel Shanghai over the last few years, in the mass market the audience is like, everybody talks about it, the Olympics were in China, so I thought it was a good take to put our two characters within this destruction scenario in Shanghai.
To go back to your feedback, still today we do a lot of testing. We have some Powerpoints that are from the magazine world to give us their take on the game and we try to improve on it. But we know we have a base now. We know the unique particularity of our game was a good bet, a good strategy, and we try to double down on it.
VideoGamer.com: What was the reason behind releasing the game in January next year?
AT: The last game came in February. We loved the window the first time around. We adore the window this time around. We are after the storm!
VideoGamer.com: A lot of games seem to have been delayed to early next year in order to avoid the pre-Christmas crowd, but now it's created a new crowd.
AT: Imagine in three years, because people are not going to be able to pull the game. Usually it moves forward, so the new crowd will be the beginning of the summer next year. It's going to take six years to catch up! I don't know, but I feel like it right? The next transition is going to be great for Christmas.
The interesting thing is the cluster effect. Everybody is moving. We have so many games coming from our side or the competition in February and March. It's going to be great for the market, right? Really it was Christmas time, now it's Christmas in February.
VideoGamer.com: What's your opinion on the call from some to stagger game releases throughout the year? Is that something publishers should do more of?
AT: We always can improve. Intrinsically game development is not always completely predictable, to say the least. I feel we ship games when they're ready in terms of quality. If you look at what EA did the last 24 months, we drastically improved our quality average. It's very difficult to hold on a game for three months or six months, you know? How do you know the graphics are going to hold up? How do you know the market still wants it? I feel in the future for sure we need to do a better job at that.
I always try to do analogy for the toy market, but more importantly the movie market. Summer blockbuster came with Jaws, right? This was in 1975, and then suddenly it was oh summer is good for movies. I think we're going to discover a big game is going to come in August or July, and we'll say, oh people play games when they're on vacation, what big news! When we have a big event like this, the publishing organisations are going to start, you know, we can pace ourselves and Christmas is not only the time when people play games.
Obviously online is also going to change a lot. Online consumption, the way you consume, is going to probably change the way people buy games throughout the year. But that's the exciting part of being in this business, you know? As a journalist or as a publisher, we're still learning all of this. It's not a business where it's the same thing again and again. I feel like we're increasing the quality. We're increasing the respect for the player. The difference, and I've been in the industry enough to see it evolve from, let's put something in a box and call it Zoom Zoom and have it a little bit interactive and people will play, to now you need to deliver real quality. At the end of the day the customer is the winner and it's always good.