As you know, I was able to get an interview with Mike Giam from SCEA. The anserws are in! Again, I apologize for my questions, but Mr. Giam was kind enough to make up for it in his answers. Enjoy! = Many children were left in awe by impressiveness of your monsters. Did you have an inspiration like this? If you're asking about inspiration for WotM, it actually drew on two main sources of inspiration. In my case, I was always a big fan of the whole giant monster/giant robot stuff (kaiju), so I was pulling on my love of Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, etc. as well as, of course, Godzilla, Gamera and the like. I can't recall where Dylan, Eric and the other guys were drawing their inspiration from, but Kellan (Hatch) seemed to be pretty inspired by the American retro sci-fi stuff, like Them, Attack of the 50 ft Woman, the Blob, etc. The idea of mashing up those Japanese and American movies together seemed very natural, kind of an all-star's game approach to monster battles. On a side note, for some of the monsters, such as Togera, we even tagged up with some of our Sony development counterparts in Japan to get their opinions on how we could get a bit more of the Japanese giant robot and kaiju vibe to come through in the designs. I only wish we'd had more time, as they had some great suggestions that we didn't have time to implement. In the end, however, Kellan and the rest of the Incog guys did a great job of refining the monster designs as well as creating an art style that allowed the two different worlds to mesh together. (Oh, and if you were asking about my personal inspirations to games in general....that one would take me a bit to think about. I personally draw on a number of different things, depending on the project, my mood, and the people I am working with. )
= What was the environment of the studio like during the making of WotM? Who did you enjoy working with? WotM was made with Incog in Utah, whereas I was with Sony and based out of CA. As was done with almost all of the Incog-Sony projects, the producer and I did our part to help shape and guide things, but the Incog guys were the ones in the trenches. I'd suggest tagging Kellan, Dylan and/or Eric for a more accurate picture of the day-to-day, but I can tell you what it seemed like from my perspective on the Sony side. Like a lot of the other talented dev houses Sony worked with (such as Naughty Dog, Insomniac, etc.) the Incog guys were both very, very tech savvy as well as creative. They had a great knack for not only being able to act on moments of inspiration pretty quickly to see if they bore gameplay fruit, but they also did a great job of leaving "tweaking hooks" so that the resulting gameplay could be experimented with in a number of ways. That kind of thing is huge to maximizing your bang for the buck, both technically as well as creatively. Who did I like working with? There was a lot of the standard push-pull that went on (you cannot make a creative fire without a little friction), but when the dust settled everyone was pretty awesome. I have the highest respect for those guys. I owe a lot to the Incog guys (many of who were SingleTrac guys before that) -- without them, some of my favorite games would never have been made!
= The music for WotM is brilliant, who was in charge of it? If my memory serves me correctly, the music was done through Big Idea, who are incidentally, the same guys who did the music for Jet Moto, WarHawk, and the classic Twisted Metals. I really liked the work they did on all of the games we had them on.
= Should the release have waited until holiday '03? Many people missed it, or found it by accident. I don't know if it slipped through the cracks because of its timing or because, unfortunately, it did not get much advertising/marketing backing. I believe that at the time, there were so many really good first party games coming it was probably difficult for Sony to publicize them all. It's hard for me to really fault anything or anyone specifically for a lack of exposure on the timing and/or marketing end. All I can speak to is what I believe what could have helped the game's popularity from the development side. I think it would have done better if it had a little more time to get polished up. I always felt it went out a little "undercooked", needing a little more play balancing -- and of course having time for extra content would have been welcome, as always. There are a few reasons I feel that it was a little undercooked. In hindsight, one simple one is that the AI could be a little frustrating at times. It seemed focused more on playing to win rather than playing to make the experience fun for the player...and that's not a knock on anyone (or myself, I guess), we were moving pretty fast toward a firm deadline and it simply slipped by us. What really seals the deal on the "undercooked" thery for me, though is that while there were positive responses -- including a nice blurb at Penny Arcade, one of my proudest moments -- there were also more than a few articles that characterized it as a shallow, button-mashing kind of thing. While WotM was definitely a bit of popcorn fun, we did also put a little more under the hood than just that -- so to me, that says that the learning curve needed more polish. The more refined the curve, the larger the number of players that can experience depth you build in the gameplay. The less refined the curve, the more you are relying on players happening to match the mindset of the team. When some feedback highlights a game's depth while other feedback calls it shallow, that means the game did not communicate itself well enough to let those who found it shallow to experience its depth. Btw, huge retroactive props to the team for the game still being visually impressive even to folks who did not happen to "connect" with gameplay. That was a pretty amazing thing.
= You said earlier that you want to make a possible sequel. Ideally, who would you work with? It feels like there was a huge opportunity missed to make a better game, and if someone gives me the chance (or I make the opportunity), I'm itching to take the shot. To do it, I'd love the idea of getting back together with some of the original Singletrac/Incog folks. but that doesn't seem very likely. I think most of them have gone their own ways, sadly -- although I believe many of the core Singletrac guys are Eat Sleep Play now, if I'm not mistaken, and I'm assuming Dylan probably corralled a few for Lightbox. Assuming that were not possible? For a WotM sequel, there are a billion possible folks I'd love to work with just to see how the game might evolve, so it degenerates into a "wish list" thing for me. I look back on older games like Powerstone, King of the Monsters, Virtual On, Cyberbots, and also stuff like Smash Bros and Towerfall and it feels like there's so much unexplored opportunity. Bah, I shouldn't bore you with me name-dropping a bunch of games whose creators' brains I'd love to pick -- I've got several years worth of giant robot/giant monster design bits rolling around in my skull, and Pacific Rim only made it a little worse :) In a nutshell my personal hope would be to blend the heart of WotM with Nintendo-level accessibility...sort of creating the world's most ridiculously destructive Smash Bros-meets-Powerstone-meets-WotM. I'll do it someday, too. I've loved giant robot stuff since I was a kid and have always wanted to make games that pay proper homage to it....so it's just a matter of time before I find a way. :)
= Is the wiki okay in using concept art and screenshots in our gallery? I have no problem with it...although I don't think, I'm the one you should be asking. I'm no longer a Sony man, I'm just another game dev geek. :)
= Recently, War of the Monsters released on PSN as a classic of the PS2. How do you feel about this? Simply put, I find it flattering. There was so much good stuff on PS2 that at the risk of falling into that "it's an honor to be nominated" kind of vibe, I have to say that anyone even remembering it during a hardware generation that saw Grand Theft Auto 3, Gran Turismo, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, etc., etc., etc., is a big deal. = Well, I don't want to take the risk of badgering you, so I'll cut the questions short. Again, please answer in your convenience, no rush! Thanks for your time! It was no trouble. My apologies for being slow and also for blowing up your email with a wall o' words as well as the undoubtedly huge number of typos. Feel free to drop me a note if you've any more questions. Also, I urge you to tag up with Kellan and all the other guys. They're awesome and probably will be way more interesting than me :) Note: Mr. Giam told me to correct the part where he said "Cyberbots" to "Tech Romancer". I would have gladly done it if I could find where he said that! So just replace it mentally. :)