Interview: EA Sports Active 2.0 executive producer Tarrnie Williams

Kevin Kelly
K. Kelly|03.11.10

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Interview: EA Sports Active 2.0 executive producer Tarrnie Williams
Tarrnie Williams, formerly of Relic Entertainment, now spends his days working at EA Burnaby on EA Sports Active, which now has him wearing plastic peripherals and extolling the virtues of exercise in his role as executive producer on EA Sports Active 2.0. He's definitely very eager about working out, and he's eager to shake the image of chubby dudes playing games in their parent's basement. He wants them to be fit while they're down there.

We talked to Williams at the EA Sports Opener at GDC where he deftly dodged questions about the Xbox 360 version, and didn't give up much information on the iPhone and iPod Touch versions, other than the fact that "they're online enabled." We'd sure hope so. He does talk about the peripherals and future plans for the property, which includes monitoring your brain. So jog beyond the break to read the full interview.

So where are you developing this title?

At EA Canada in Burnaby, which is Vancouver.

It seems natural that this was going to have a sequel, just because the first one was so uber-successful. When did you guys first make that decision to sequelize it?

I think we pretty much made the decision right away. The whole idea of interactive fitness as a category is, I think, enormously important for the industry and for EA Sports as a label. Really, with the advent of the motion sensing peripherals, first on the Wii and now as we have announced for the Playstation 3, it allows us to deliver a really high quality fitness experience. And fitness is something that everyone should do, but it is often hard to get to. So what we do is we make it a lot fun. And we are a fitness product. We are in the fitness industry. We take all our gaming experience and gaming knowledge and applying that to fitness. And all of a sudden, you forget you are working out and you do this, and it is a lot of fun. And you lose weight, you feel healthier.

Because you are playing a game.

Exactly. So, you know, we see a really long and healthy future for interactive fitness. And so EA Sports Active is a very important part of the label's strategy.

Let me ask you a couple questions about the peripherals. I see you have them strapped on. The heart rate monitor is one of the chest versions?

Nope! No chest strap. And let me tell you, that is amazing.

Those are not comfortable.

No, they are not. They kind of suck, actually. So this is basically way easier to put on. You have the three-part holding system. This is the PS3 system. The Wii system would be these two, and this one would be handled via the Wiimote.

Are the batteries user replaceable?

They are user replaceable batteries. I believe these are running on AAAs, a pair of AAAs in each of them.

And we saw there is a USB dongle that you attach?

There is a USB dongle that looks kind of like ... that! [produces USB dongle] And it communicates with the peripherals, and then we are online connected, as well. So all the data and all the exercises that you go through, we capture that and we upload it to your EA Sports Active profile online. And you can then share that with your friends, so you have some accountability, and you can join workout groups.

We are extremely excited about the advance what we are doing with the launch of Active 2.0, because, you know, we go wireless, we go connected, we go heart rate monitor, plus the new environment, a whole new set of exercises, you know, a new fitness program for the prescribed program using periodization. That's kind of the concept behind it. Three week segments that all link together. So, you know, we are kind of taking the success and saying, "Great. How do we now take that to the next level? How do we make sure we are delivering the ultimate fitness experience to our consumers?"

Since you are moving to the PS3, does it have the ability to make more workouts available via DLC?

Certainly, with the PS3, you will be able to download exercises and drills and workouts to your console. The exact mix of what that is, we haven't decided yet.

I guess the big question is, why no 360? Sensibly, it seems like you could do the same thing with that system.

Well, we are announcing a lot of things, but, you know, really we are focusing on the PlayStation 3 right now. We are always evaluating other platforms to determine whether we should support them.

And then the iPhone and the iPod Touch -- how will that work? The iPhone has GPS built in. I can see that working with that, but will there be new peripherals for that?

Right. So, we are really not talking about that today. There will be more to come on that, in which we will share more of the feature sets of those particular products. But I can share that they are online connected as well.

Well, I would hope so. Are you excited to be working on exergaming, given your background at Relic Entertainment?

It is exciting. I mean, you know what? I came back to EA to do this. I have been in the business for 20 years. The last nine years I have been making war games and have killed billions of virtual people, but now I am making people fit and healthy and, you know, maybe saving lives. It feels really good. I gotta say, when you put the new stuff on and you get your heart rate monitor onscreen, and you are running, you will literally be like, "Wow! I feel awesome." And you have fun, and you are like, "I know that is getting stored online. It's very compelling.

There's a company called FitBit that markets a device that tracks how active you are during the day, and it even monitors your sleep cycles. Will we see that in the next installment of EA Sports Active?

I can see that in the future.

Great meeting you. Have a good show.

Thank you, you too.
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