Talking About What I Can't Talk About
06/25/2011 by Jeff Pobst
We're entertainers. Sure, we write software, design and build new game capabilities, draw new concept art, model 3d sculptures, texture those sculptures, design new game systems, try out different game modes, explore what is fun and what isn't fun, test to make sure it works, think about the audio presentation and how to enhance the experience, and spend a lot of time thinking about things different players may want even if other players may not, but at the end of the day, we have one goal. We want to entertain you. That's both the larger group "you" and the more personal "you."
So, it was very energizing when Valve asked us to be a part of the Portal 2 launch ARG because never before had we been able to make game content, and receive such instantaneous feedback on game systems or features that we were developing right then and then adjust what we were doing instantly to make the release a week later even better. It was a completely different entertainment experience, both for us the entertainers and for the audience.
Michael Austin, Hidden Path Entertainment's Chief Technology Officer is going to tell more about that story and the things we learned from the community at the upcoming PAX Prime Dev conference - a new conference hosted by Penny-Arcade for game developers to share information with each other that takes place right next to PAX Prime. Michael gave some initial background of that experience at the LOGIN conference here in Bellevue last month, but will be sharing much more about the experience in August.
Not only that, but we've been told that Design Director Mark Terrano will also be speaking at PAX Dev talking about all the things we've learned about Kinect over the years. It is very possible that Hidden Path Entertainment has been working on Kinect/Natal/3D cameras for gaming and Microsoft longer than anyone else. Back in Spring of 2007 when Peter Moore was running the Xbox gaming group, there was a stealth group of game folks at Microsoft who approached us and asked us to make what I understand was one of the two very first Kinect demos. Another internal group at Microsoft made the other demo. Bill Gates saw the demos, and the rest as you know is history, or actually a lot of complex history between that time and now with several people leaving the project, joining the project and changing how things turned out over the years.
Since then though, we've helped out with many Kinect projects at Microsoft. Some of it you may see, and you don't know that Hidden Path was involved, some of it you haven't seen yet. We think Kinect is very cool technology and we think about it rather differently than a lot of other people, Mainly the difference is that we think it can be a great controller for core gamers who are looking for a unique game experience. The winds are just starting to blow this way - people haven't been quite as interested in thinking about Kinect that way for the past couple of years, but things are changing, and we'll see if we get the opportunity to share some of our approaches with you. Hopefully if we do, you'll think it's really fun (we think what we have right now is a ton of fun and we can't wait to share it with "you").
It will probably be a while though before I will be able to talk more about that since the whole process of making a game with a partner who publishes or finances it requires some secrecy, iteration, and polish before the story is ready to be told - after all, a half-done story isn't as good as the fully flushed out and detailed narrative.
There have been a lot of stories going on at Hidden Path though, and I'm getting excited because as I look at the calendar, and see how things are coming together, I'm getting the impression that I'll have a few things to talk about that I still can't yet talk about, but boy do I want to.
We've been working closely with the folks at Valve for a while now. Whether it was releasing Defense Grid on Steam, updating Counterstrike for the PC last year, or working on the Portal 2 ARG with new Defense Grid content, it is always interesting, refreshing, and just a lot of fun to work with the folks over there. We'll take our cue from them if there ever is an opportunity to talk about anything new, but I can tell you that they really are as great people to work with as their products are great to play.
I can also say (can I?) that more is coming in the world of Defense Grid. Things aren't complete yet, they aren't yet locked down, but we'll be doing something fun for a large part of the community here shortly, and then have some plans for everyone down the road. There are more plans being hatched than will actually happen, so I'm not sure what will turn into final reality, but rest assured that we listen to what you say regardless of game or feature or opinion, and we work hard to try and focus on what will entertain "you" even more and make your experience a better one.
Besides all the things above that I've not really talked about there are a couple of completely new things brewing that have no basis in any game we've released before. I think at last count there are 154 different game design documents in the design share internally, and when the whole team gets involved on turning those idea seeds into fully realized experiences, something magical happens in my opinion.
I'm getting to see the early magic now. I look forward to when we can share it all with you. Sorry if this is a bit of a tease, I'm less trying to tease and more just trying to share my excitement without saying anything that will change the future (kind of like those time travel stories, where you can accidentally change everything if you take the wrong step, run into yourself, or prevent yourself from being born). I'm trying to respect the sacred time-space continuum, while also telling you cool things are around the bend.
I look forward to seeing you there.