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Secret Lair Studios Inteview (con't)
FiringSquad: What can you tell us at this point about the company's first game?
Jason Robar: Our first product will be released on Xbox360 Live Arcade and is one of several in development and already approved by Microsoft. They have been fantastic to work with (hats off to Katie and Ross at XBLA!) and have created a great ecology for independent game developers like Secret Lair Studios.
In the online, persistent world efforts – we are still keeping the details locked up in the Lair. But I will tell you that we are one of the only development teams that I know of that have a Chinese office from day one – and that helps us truly focus on the global marketplace for online gaming. Just “localizing” a product when you’re finished with it doesn’t work. It’s really just one team that works in two locations. We travel back and forth a lot and everyone gets to know each other so its not just strange names on email.
FiringSquad: There are already a number of other MMORPGs on the market and more are on the way. Are you confident there will be enough of an audience for Secret Lair's project?
Jason Robar: I think the concept that there is no room for a new great entertainment experience is strange. We are constantly being influenced by new tastes and experiences that redefine and reshape our interests in entertainment. It wasn’t that long ago that “everyone knew” that no one could ever compete with Everquest. There is always another book I want to read, a new movie I am excited to see, and no matter how popular Seinfeld was eventually I wanted to watch something else.
I expect the same dynamic market for games. The challenge is not about market responding to quality, that behavior is certain. The challenge is putting together a talented team and creating the culture that allows that talent to create great games.
Secret Lair consists of successful, very talented game developers that could work anywhere in the industry but chose to work here because of what we have the opportunity to accomplish. I am pretty excited about what we have in the works and I think the gamers will be too.
FiringSquad: Why did you decide to license BigWorld's technology as the basis for the game?
Jason Robar: I believe that you can focus your company on one of three possible businesses: being a distributor/publisher of someone else’s game, sell the middleware/technology needed to make the game, or create a great game. If you’re going to make the games, then every single resource you spend duplicating technology that is already available is a resource that could have gone to make the game better.
I had the chance to talk with BigWorld extensively when they initially partnered with Microsoft on the Xbox. After that, I was again able to work with them while I was working with DARPA for the last few years on games for training and education. Over the last few years the Department of Defense has been looking to leverage the technology available in the game industry to advance the state of the art in simulations. Many training situations need either large scale or persistent world environments. BigWorld was one of the few technologies truly ready to work “out of the box” for what we wanted to do in the military training industry.
So when I put the team together for SLS and wanted to focus on the game rather than the technology – working with BigWorld was the best option available as a complete solution.
FiringSquad: When can we expect your first game to be released?
Jason Robar: Our first products will be from our casual development group for the Xbox 360 Live Arcade. The release window for these products is determined by Microsoft but we are expecting them to be available starting in late summer or early fall this year.
FiringSquad: What is your opinion on the current status of the video and PC game industry?
Jason Robar: I think it’s a very exciting time; almost every platform is being reinvigorated with new hardware and software. In 2005 we had the portable market redefined with the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. The console world is being shaped by the recent Xbox 360 launch. The Xbox Live Arcade model is an outstanding success. Of course, everyone is also looking forward to the PS3 and the Nintendo Revolution to arrive in the near future as well. Vista is coming for the PC and direct-sale-of-games-to-consumers is becoming more established creating more opportunities for independent developers. Casual gaming numbers continue to increase and WoW keeps breaking records in the online subscription space. Asia is showcasing a diversity of both gaming content and business models that will continue to push the online space forward. I can’t think of a more dynamic time to be apart of this industry or to be a passionate gamer. I think the best games are still ahead of us.
FiringSquad: Are you currently looking for people to hire for the company?
Jason Robar: Absolutely – currently on our website, www.secretlairstudios.com, we have a number of openings for a range of positions including art, programming, and we expect to be adding more shortly. We would love to hear from anyone with the talent and passion to create great games and who might like the opportunity to work in a company dedicated to a global focus for online gaming.
FiringSquad: Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about your plans for Secret Lair Studios?
Jason Robar: In this business, great games come from great people. We have an amazing group of people without the egos that you sometimes have to deal with. You can look for us to continue to grow our “in sourcing” model by opening studios in countries where we want to sell our products. Finally, games should be excuses to be social. So you can look for our games to connect people in new ways all across the world.
We’d like to thank Secret Lair Studos’ Jason Robar for participating in this interview. We look forward to checking out their first Xbox Live Arcade titles later this year.
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