Mark Gerhard and the Jagex Factor
Eurogamer just published a new interview with Mark Gerhard called "The Jagex Factor". In it, the motives of Jagex as a company and Mark as a gamer are covered. The Stellar Dawn related portion of the interview picks up on page two and continues on through page four.
Below I've snipped out the short and juicy bits from the interview. I encourage you to read the entire thing though. The excerpts are in chronological order.
Eurogamer: How much money did you effectively lose canning MechScape?
Mark Gerhard: Tens of millions. A large sum: an eye-watering amount. We weren't cavalier about it. That really focused our minds. There's years of salary in there. Nevertheless, would we put our reputation at stake for tens of millions? Never.
Eurogamer: So you went back to the drawing-board and Stellar Dawn was born. Can you afford to lose another "eye-watering" amount should it not turn out right?
Mark Gerhard: Absolutely. Whether we can afford it or not is academic. If it's not right, we won't launch it, simple as that. And again, that's not a decision we take lightly. We're not trivialising it nor are we being arrogant about our success, but our community has come to fondly regard us and respect us as a purveyor of high quality games. You can take on board that we haven't done a traditional new release now for 10 years. We rely on that good will, that trust, so they can play, take, buy our next product. It's crucial. Finances won't rule that decision.
Eurogamer: Are you being more cautious with Stellar Dawn as a result?
Mark Gerhard: No, no. The team size is as significant as previously. 75? Yep, 75 people.
Look, we are being more cautious. We're certainly not being more sparing. What we did this time is we had the wisdom of hindsight. We could look at MechScape and go, "What went wrong?" And on a lot of things we didn't ask the difficult questions first. "What is combat? How does the economy work? How will trade work?" These are very boring questions, but until you know exactly makes the game fun, raw fun, you can't actually put the game around it.
When we went back to the drawing board on this one, the design team spent literally months saying, "Ignore what we've got, ignore how we want to play, let's answer these difficult questions. Let's talk about balance." Infinitely balancing components of a game you've yet to build when everyone tends to do it the other way round. As a result of locking down that game design Bible, the team has been able to develop really, really rapidly. And crucially it's now fun. We've now got a game we're all enormously proud of.
Eurogamer: Jagex told me last year that MechScape would have no XP, no skills, no levelling. Is Stellar Dawn trying to be as ambitious, as revolutionary?
Mark Gerhard: Yeah... That wasn't true. That was an ambition, it wasn't a reality.
Eurogamer: Stellar Dawn will welcome those MMO fundamentals, then?
Mark Gerhard: It will have an, er, accumulation mechanic.
Eurogamer: What's left of MechScape in Stellar Dawn?
Mark Gerhard: The game meta-view, story, concept remain the same. We still loved the story, it was just the implementation.
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