Brian Reynolds answers 10 Questions from the Academy

And now, 10 Questions from the Academy: A weekly feature from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences wherein significant figures in the video game industry provide their input on past trends, current events, and future challenges and goals for the entertainment software community.
Brian Reynolds is a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and will speak at the D.I.C.E. Summit in 2010. After working with Sid Meier at both MicroProse and Firaxis, Reynolds went on to create Big Huge Games, where he served as CEO until the sale of the company to 38 Studios earlier this year. He now heads up the newly established social gaming team at Zynga East in Baltimore.

AIAS: What's your favorite part of game development?
Brian Reynolds: The last 25% of the project, when you're polishing and tuning the thing to make it perfect for release. Of course it's never actually "perfect," but the game starts to feel like a real game rather than a prototype – all the parts start working well together and you finally realize "hey now we have something I want to play!"

What game are you most jealous of?
Half Life 2 – totally wish I had meaningful skills for making games like that. It's got such an amazing combination of good writing, good technology, good level design, and just overall great craftsmanship.

What's the one problem of game development you wish you could instantly solve?
A game engine that runs from the get-go and stays stable while we create the design. The best way to create a game that's truly fun is to play it and refine it repeatedly, so you need to be able to get your ideas running early: so you can find out how bad they actually are and make them better before it's too late! The sooner you start and the more play/refine/play/refine loops you can do, the more fun your game will be, guaranteed.

If you weren't in game development, what would you be doing today?
I've always wanted to captain a small boat – maybe a ferry or something.

Tell us one of your recent professional insights.
Social games are about to be a multi-billion-dollar industry.

On a practical basis, what's the one thing you're going to tackle next?
Making Facebook games more fun. Facebook games have to appeal to a very large, broad, audience, and so they tend to be rather simple experiences. But not many of the developers have learned how to make simple experiences fun by providing the right kinds of player choices. Hopefully my fellow designers and I can bring some of our game design skills to bear on that problem.

Are games important?
They're an important form of entertainment, probably on their way to being the most important form in market terms. They're not very important as "art" or serious statements yet – that may change in time.

Do you think it's important for developers to continue playing games?
100% critical. Only way to know what's actually fun and not fun.

What's the biggest challenge you see facing the industry?
Adapting to an IP-climate in which increasingly games with online & persistent assets are the ones that makes the most money, both at the high and low end. The traditional retail market (console games) will continue to be challenged and may not grow as much; meanwhile the giant MMO games at the high end and the small casual and social games at the small end will continue to see the most growth (and therefore investment).

Finally, when you look at the future is there one great big trend that affects everyone?
Not really. You can sometimes predict the next developments in the short term (or more accurately, predict the relative success of things that are already developing), but in the long term change is the only constant. Who really saw Facebook games coming and that only started a couple years ago?


10 Questions from the Academy is reprinted with permission from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and appears on Joystiq every week. Read the archives here.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.