R.I.P.:Where did you get the name for Boss Game Studios?
S.M.:We're affiliated with our sister company Boss Film Studios. Boss Film Studios has been around for about 10 years, and was started by Richard Edlin who did all the special effects for Star Wars. He also created special effects for the second and third Star Wars movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a number of other films. He started off founding Industrial Light and Magic with George Lucas and that whole crew and he eventually he split away. His first project as Boss Film Studios was Ghost Busters, and since then they've done the effects for quite a number of movies--Batman Returns, Aliens 3, Cliffhanger, Outbreak and some work on True Lies as well as others, but those are the most famous ones. Then last year they decided to start a game division and that's where we come from.
R.I.P.:What is your involvement with Boss Game Studios?
S.M.:Well, the first guy who started here is Martin Rae, who is the president. He's not a game person but he was looking around to find people that would be and he hired a person named Colin Gordon. Colin at the time was working with the head of development at Virgin in the U.K., and previous to that he had worked at Ocean. He's been in the industry for about 10 years, and while he was at Virgin, I knew him from there. When he came across, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to join.
R.I.P.:What titles does Boss Game Studios have under development currently?
S.M.:I can't give you any names, I can only say that we're doing development for the Ultra 64, the Saturn and the PlayStation. One other thing is that we are a developer and not a publisher. Because of that relationship, title names and a lot of that stuff will come through when the publisher is ready to speak about it. It's not an issue of anything else, since it will be their project we're not going to spoil anything for them.
R.I.P.:What publisher will you be working with?
S.M.:We're talking to a number of them, including Nintendo and some other big people, but even that I can't really say right now.
R.I.P.:What kind of background got you where you are today, how did you get started in the video game industry?
S.M.:I've always been a big fan of video games, and I played a lot when I was younger. I played a lot on my 2600, Intelivision and Coleco. My first computers were a Sinclar ZX81 with 1k, a Vic 20, a Commodore 64 and all that. I guess, like a lot of people, I was just a big video game fanatic. I used to go to the arcades a lot and so on. When I got out of school I didn't really know what I wanted to do and was still taking some classes at a community college and one of the jobs I took was at Babbages. While I was working there--the store had just opened--and I'd say about a week after it opened a couple of people came in and asked for a game. They asked "do you have this game in?" and I said "no, no, no... I'll go check and see when it's coming out" and they started laughing and said "oh we're finishing programming on it, so you wouldn't have it yet". It turned out they were from Virgin Mastertronik and the guy that actually spoke to me was a guy named Graham Devine who programmed 7th Guest, and started up Trillobyte. So, I became interested, and got to be friends with them. We used to talk all the time, and I would call them up when new games came in. I'd bring games to them and stuff like that. Then I started bugging them for a job, and after hassling them for about a year I got a call one day and they telling me "hey, you can be a game tester". Of course I said "yeah, yeah, sure I'd love to do it" and that's how I got my start. That was about 5 years ago.
R.I.P.:Has Virgin been the only company that you've worked for?
S.M.:Yeah, as a main company--I did a lot of things for Virgin. I started as a game tester, then move to product manager. After that, I became a producer, senior producer, then I shifted and took a turn into marketing and was the Director of marketing and advertising for awhile. Then I went over to design, and while there the last product I worked on was The Lion King. I worked on that through Virgin's other development company Westwood Studios, and lived in Las Vegas for about a year while on the project.
R.I.P.:Any suggestions on how someone could get into the industry today?
S.M.:I think if you want to go to Development, art is one way to do it, because there is definitely a need for artist. Also, I think you need to start getting some experience with 3-D and packages like WaveFront or Alias. I know that's kind of tough because people just don't have SGIs but if you do have a PC you can start playing around with 3-D Studio and products like that. Still, I guess the best way as it was before is game testing. It's a tough job, and not exactly a lot of fun at times, so game testers tend to have high turnover. But if you really like games and can stick it out, that's always a good way to get in.
R.I.P.:So you should call a company and ask them?
S.M.:Well... talk to them. I think a lot of it is calling around because people go through stages where they have a product and they really need to get a lot of testing in, and suddenly they need testers. That's one way, I think that's probably the easiest way. I don't think you're just going to be called up and have people say "hey, your a designer now" or "your a producer", a lot of places want people with experience. I think having a good knowledge about the industry, about games, systems, and things like that is definitely a plus.
R.I.P.:Where do you see the industry this time next year?
S.M.:This time next year... Well I think we'll be talking about the Saturn, the Ultra 64 and the PlayStation. It's going to be a tough Christmas this year because all of the systems will be new. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people that are really confused with those three systems. There's also the 3DO, the Jaguar, the 32x and the remaining 16-bit market. I think it's going to be a tough time because a lot of people don't know who's going to succeed. There is going to be a lot of people who will see the new systems there as just another new system and there wouldn't be clear winner by then. So, I don't think there's going to be one system that everyone is going to jump to.
R.I.P.:Any predictions on what system may be more favored?
S.M.:I predict that the Ultra 64 is going to have a big advantage because of the price, if they get under the $250 price mark like they said they would--that's definitely a magic price point being under $300 and especially under $200. So I'd say that they're probably going to have a big time. I think that Sega has a lot going for them because right now in the arcades they are very hot. Having Daytona, Virtua Fighters and Virtua Fighters II is definitely a plus. Because at the end of the day, really, it's not the hardware that matters, it's the software. It doesn't matter what systems are out there, if there is a game you want to play, you know, if you really want to play Metroid, well then your buying the Nintendo. If you really want to play Daytona or Virtua Racing then your buying the Sega. So really, it gets down to the software that's really going to sell the system.
R.I.P.:How many titles to you expect to have out this year for all of the different platforms you are working on?
S.M.:This year... well we're talking about a 12 to 18 month cycle for a product. So, you probably wouldn't see anything from us in the next few months. Probably sometime next year, because we want to take our time and learn the systems. Doing games right now has become a bigger production than it was a number of years ago. Obviously with CD-ROM, rendering objects out and modeling, it definitely means that it takes a lot more time and a lot more people to do a game. The other thing is obviously, new systems means a new learning curve, and so we're going to take our time to be able to maximize the new systems.
R.I.P.:Have you found any of the new systems to have a easier learning curve than the others?
S.M.:The Sony system has got some really nice stuff that makes it easy to get into. It's definitely easier at the beginning, and that might be one of the reasons why your seeing a lot more PlayStation titles quicker. But, Sega is announcing interesting things for the Saturn... so, they're both different. I just think it's a different animal to the 16-bit Genesis and Super Nintendo.
R.I.P.:Any plans for E3?
S.M.:We'll be there, and we will probably be with some publishers. By then we should be able to announce who we're working with. You probably wouln't see any titles, or talk about what we're doing, but we're definitely going to be there, and we'll be at the game developers conference also.
R.I.P.:Any closing comments?
S.M.:Well, I guess one of the neat things about the company here, one of the things that I really liked is that we're really all gamers. So I think gameplay is really important, and although we have a connection to the film studio, you're not going to be seeing a lot of FMV games from us. None at all actually. We're doing games for gameplay and I think that's a real big thing. One of the reasons that I joined here is because I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with people who just wanted to make games, as a developer and not worry about all the other things, and not have to feel that we have to have a license for everything. We are working on some original stuff, and one of the things we are working on is an original title, so that's exciting to.