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.
Dan Connors is a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. He works for episodic gaming developer Telltale Games.
AIAS: What's your favorite part of game development?
Dan Connors: Between Alpha and Beta, because it is the time where you get a sense for what the game will be. It is also the time where the ability to iterate quickly pays off the most.
What's the one problem of game development you wish you could instantly solve?
Ego Inflation. It leads to situations where individuals become so invested in their specialty, or in being right on every individual point, that they lose sight of the greater need of the team and the product.
Are games important?
Games like all forms of entertainment communicate the myths and stories of our age to many people in our society, most of whom are in their formative years. So, like it or not, they are important. I also think as games continue to evolve they will be used for all kinds things like teaching social skills, training athletes and helping sick people. As a programmer once said to me in response to a feature request, "Anything's possible," of course he also said, "With enough time and budget."
How do you measure success?
Against the plan of course. This assumes a well thought out plan that is getting you towards the ultimate vision.
What game are you most jealous of?
Rock Band, I swear I thought of it in 1994 and even have it written down on a piece of notebook paper. Of course, execution is everything, and Harmonix nailed it.
Tell us one of your recent professional insights.
Every franchise requires its own unique business plan. There are some external factors in a licensing situation, like level of involvement of the license holder and talent, and types of marketing partnerships. At the end of the day the right investment in a product for hard core gamers is much different than a product for a casual gamer or a product for a social network and the products all work for different reasons.
On a practical basis, what's the one thing you're going to tackle next?
Building out executive management at Telltale
What's the biggest challenge you see facing the industry?
Busting out of the niche it is in and building enough high quality diverse content to put it at the top of the entertainment food chain where it belongs. I think we are starting the process, and I think the diversification of distribution is creating the opportunity to reach wider demographics. As we expand into these demographics we need to rethink some of our core assumptions about how money is made. At this point the personal computers are as ubiquitous as televisions, but not everyone with a computer is using it to play games even though they could if they wanted to, why is that?
Do you think it's important for developers to continue playing games?
Depends on the role, designers for certain, artists not as much. Every discipline, however, should know the state of the art.
Finally, when you look at the future is there one great big trend that affects everyone?
The speed at which the user expectation evolves. Developers need to realize that the habits that they fall into are not necessarily the habits that the next generation will have. They should be staying on top of trends that lead to changes in user behavior and they should recognize it as it creeps into their own life as consumers.
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.