Yesterday we brought you the first part of our mammoth interview with Rare’s design director George Andreas. Today, in the second part, Andreas goes in depth on Project Natal, the current focus of the legendary UK developer’s attention. Just how revolutionary is it? Can a first-person shooter work on Natal? Are core games now behind Rare? Read on for the answers to those questions and more.
VideoGamer.com: You’ve advertised for developers to help work on Project Natal. What’s your opinion on that technology now there’s been some time to absorb the unveiling at E3?
George Andreas: I remember when we first saw stuff on Natal, I remember being amazed by some of the demos. Just from a creative perspective, it just boggles the mind in terms of what can be achieved and what is possible. I can honestly say that each and every day that I come into work, my mind continues to boggle. I still see new things. I still feel that initial rush of creative energy and thinking, wow, this is an amazing piece of technology, just wait till you see what we can do with this.
That is amplified day after day after day. The more we learn about the technology the more we can do. From a creative perspective it is most certainly the biggest creative challenge I think the industry has seen for a very, very long time. It’s very easy to discard it as something that isn’t so creative. I hear some people think it’s very easy to design for. But believe you me, on a scale of one to ten in terms of difficulty to design for, from a creative challenge anyway, it’s very high up that scale.
But when we first saw it we were really enthusiastic about it. As we learn more about it we continue to be enthusiastic about it. We learn more and it just fires our creative imaginations. I do feel in many ways that – and I’ve said this to some people as well – for me this is really the first time that Microsoft and Rare are on a very similar path. We’ve obviously been tasked to create experiences that nobody else can create, which explains things like your Kameos and your Piñatas and your Banjos. But obviously the hardware is aimed at a different demographic, and so we’ve always battled against that.
Whereas now with Natal, it looks like the roads are on the same path. It’s a union of the two philosophies of the different companies, I guess. Natal is supposed to reach out to a broader audience and a broader consumer, and Rare’s products are always aiming in that direction as well. So from that perspective the future looks incredibly bright for us really. It’s definitely something everyone’s enthused about and energised about.
VideoGamer.com: Does Natal have application for more core focused games? Will core gamers accept Natal in terms of games they’d like to play?
GA: It always comes down to the experiences themselves. You could argue that hardcore gamers are a little bit selfish. In their tastes and what they like – they know what they like, they know what they don’t like. Trying to get a core gamer to do something they’re not used to is going to be a challenge, yes. Does that mean it’s an impossible challenge? I don’t think so. We’re learning a lot of stuff about Natal every day, and there are many types of experiences that can be created with that technology. You just need to be able to rethink how you approach those particular design problems.
Obviously the buttons and the controller itself are gone, so there’s a different type of challenge there. How do you engage the player with something that isn’t tactile, that isn’t something that they’re used to pressing – R trigger to fire for instance. Are there ways around that? Yes there are. It’s just down to the individuals and making sure you put your best creative people on that task. It’s just thinking about things in a very different way.
To take a shooter, as an example, you would just have to rethink the way a shooter works. Shooters work the way they do at the moment because they’re based around the original Xbox 360 controller. You throw that away, you throw that interface away and here’s a completely different interface – now how do we create a shooter for this? Does it mean that you have to run, strafe, turn, throw grenades in the way that you’re used to? Maybe not. Maybe there’s another way of doing shooters.
I think back to the original one stick controllers, way back when, things like the Atari VCS for instance, where you had one stick and you had one button. The kind of experiences you create for that are very different to the kind of experiences you create for the modern day 360 gamer pad. The experience has evolved with two sticks, multiple buttons, and it promotes very much twitch gameplay I guess. It’s just trying to rethink that whole genre with a completely different interface.
You’re probably not going to get exactly the same experience that you do with a conventional controller, but that could also be a very good thing. There may be new avenues there that people haven’t explored yet that might open the product up to an even broader audience. We don’t know.