Bringing More Depth to Consoles
It was a fervent love of PC-based shooters that led to the creation of London-based Splash Damage in 2001.
But despite those PC roots, studio founder and creative director Paul Wedgwood is bringing his studio into the console age. While that statement is enough to make the hardcore PC elitists cringe with thoughts of “dumbing down” games for the console masses, Wedgwood’s angle is the opposite: to bring more PC-like depth to areas he sees as generally lacking in the console space.
He did it with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, which appeared on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, and to Wedgwood, it would seem that deepening the console experience is more of a personal mission than a money-driven business strategy. Luckily, the philosophy appears to be working out financially as well.
The following is an excerpt from a longer chat with Wedgwood.
You’ve been able to make a pretty smooth transition from PC-centric development to a strategy that includes consoles. Was it a difficult change and did you find that PS3 in particular was as difficult to handle as many claim?
Coming from the background of a PC game developer, obviously the Xbox 360 is easier. If anything, the 360 is even easier than the PC because we don’t have to optimize the hardware parts for Intel, AMD, ATI and Nvidia. We just have this one platform and if it runs well, it runs well the next time you boot it, irrespective of which 360 you’re running it on. PS3, it’s more of a challenge.
Because we haven’t decided exactly which platforms our latest game is going to be on, we took a pretty loose attitude towards development at the start of the year, and just said ”let’s have fun trying out development stuff.” We knew that the PS3 would be more of a challenge, so that’s the one we got going with.
But we decided pretty early on, in order to make the kind of transition from PC developer to console, it’s really important that even on the PC, we’ll play-test it with console controllers. We’ll play-test using peer-to-peer networking rather than a client-sever model, even if we’re playing on PC. We’re just trying to adopt that kind of philosophy, treating everything like a console irrespective of whether it’s PC, PS3 or 360. But it’s been going very well.
To be honest with you, I think programmers prefer having a challenge versus something being really easy.
id recently said that the PC isn’t going to be driving their business decisions anymore. Is that the same with you guys?
Not quite. I think that our business decisions are not really about revenue and profit. They’re about what’s going to create a really cool experience for somebody who takes the game home. We have two business goals: the shameless pursuit of critical acclaim, and then ensuring staff can pay rent. If we can achieve those two things, we’ll always be happy.
But PC has innovated in so many ways, there are so many great things in first-person shooters, real-time strategy games and role-playing games that had never been seen on the console. The challenge has only ever been to translate the control interface to a console controller. No more than that, really.
Why has this generation of consoles been ideal to expand beyond PC?
We’re at that moment where the PC, PS3 and 360 are aligned in terms of power for the first time in a really long time. So we can focus on developing technology where we only have to create maps once, a character once, and have them work for all three platforms. And that’s really convenient for us. What it means is that we can take all of our experience in what makes PC games so deep and compelling and so exciting, and translate that for a console audience in a way that they’ve never seen.