Ben Judd has a job many people would kill for. He's a producer at Capcom, one of the biggest Japanese game publishers in the industry. After the success of Bionic Commando Rearmed, the downloadable remake from Swedish developer GRIN, he's now hard at work on the full 3D next-gen Bionic Commando, once again working with GRIN. We caught up with him to find out why a Western studio was chosen to make the game and if we're going to see more HD remakes.
VideoGamer.com: First off, congratulations - Rearmed turned out even better than we'd hoped. Are you surprised by the reaction people have had to it?
Ben Judd: You know, my marketing sensibilities and what I had sort of envisioned, a path to go down, that I always felt that most trends are cyclical, most are every 20 years or so. We're now, us, those of us in our 30s, are at the point when we see things from the 1980s and are like "Holy shit! Yes!". I think that's in games now too. You look back at those very early old classic games and we're like, you know, I want to play that again. But unfortunately with games some of the user unfriendly parts of those old 8-bit games now have been totally left behind in the past where they should have been left, so you do have to update the franchise. You can't just meta emulate it, throw a fresh new coat of paint on there and say 'oh look it's Bionic Commando'. There were some unnecessary frustrations that occurred because they didn't have the technology back then.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of things spring to mind?
BJ: Without a doubt, the save system. A lot of those games you had to beat with one sitting. I remember playing Ghosts and Goblins, on the fifth level, and having to leave it on for three days because I just couldn't beat it. There's just no way, no password, no save, no nothing. So, things like that. Bionic Commando, of course being able to update the weapons so you weren't just using the bazooka all the time. It's nice to be able to make fixes that the developers didn't know back then - they didn't realise until the game came out, in hindsight.
We've actually got phone calls from other developers saying 'you arseholes, now because you've made a game at such high quality and priced it at $10, now that's the gold standard. If we try and put out a game for $15 people are going to say, well what about Bionic Commando Rearmed? What if we put out a game that's just meta emulated, they're going say we're being greedy'. Because we've raised the bar to that level now we've got other developers on their toes, where they should be. There's a lot of potential there, but right now people are being too damn lazy. They're not paying the respect to the old classic games that they should.
VideoGamer.com: Do you think this will open the door for more remakes from Capcom?
BJ: It's hard to say unfortunately. It's a game that's been done by a Japanese publisher so even though it's doing extremely well, that information hasn't really sunk in to their side. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Mega Man 9. That right there could set our internal strategy. If the Mega Man 9 stuff is successful we might see more retro games like that. But if ultimately Rearmed is more successful, they could come back and say 'people really want these high def, high quality remixes, they don't want just the old stuff'. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
VideoGamer.com: I heard online that we might be hearing a fairly big announcement at Tokyo this year...
BJ: It's quite possible.
VideoGamer.com: Can you give any clue, like a one word clue, just to keep us playing along?
VideoGamer.com: Bonus, that's a good word.
BJ: That's obtuse but also informative. After the fact you'll go 'oooooh'.
VideoGamer.com: We'll get our top guys working on it.
BJ: The code breakers (laughs).
When rearmed came out, to be honest I didn't know how well it was going to do. It never sold well, any of the old Bionic Commando games, which is kind of crazy - so many games for a title that has never proved itself. I was very nervous, but we've outsold all the other big summer campaign games, including Braid and Geometry Wars 2.
VideoGamer.com: It really has been a great summer for downloadable games.
BJ: All fantastic. MS is on a roll when it comes to their Arcade games - they're all great. I want to see what Castle Crashers does as that's the one that everyone's also really really excited about.