FIRINGSQUAD interview on Top Secret Project

February 27, 2007 — Leave a comment

You can see the article HERE.
Breaking into the video-PC game industry is a subject of considerable discussion, but Acclaim and famed game designer Dave Perry have a new wrinkle on that idea with “Top Secret”, a way that people can not only contribute to a new free MMO title but for one person to become the overall director for the game. FiringSquad contacted Perry to find out more about “Top Secret” and their unique way of bringing in new talent to making games:
FiringSquad: First, you now seem firmly set as the revived Acclaim’s new creative director. Did you think when you left Shiny a year ago that you would be involved in this kind of game development?
Dave Perry: When I left Shiny, my goal was to help Atari find a buyer. Atari ended up holding on for 8 more months, so I started to consider my options. Personally what drives me is learning, so this has turned into a splendid opportunity to learn all about several new things. (The Asian market, free games, MMO’s etc.) So I had no idea this is where I’d be putting a bunch of my time in 2007, but I must admit, its fun!
FiringSquad: You have helped to adapt two Asian created games, 2Moons and Dance, to a US audience. How has that experience been so far?
Dave Perry: We wanted to go beyond typical localization and try to find a way to enhance hit foreign games, and let them see the light of day in the USA. The developers liked this idea also. It turned out more work than we expected, as 2Moons required us to write 4,000+ pages of story and dialog. We added a lot of profanity and edgy stuff, and I guessed we crossed the line. So now we’re going through all 4,000 pages again in response to the gamers. It’s an enormous amount of work, but I’m sure they will be happy we truly listen and follow-though. There’s really no risk to consumers as the games are free, they also have real tangible access to us, so it’s going good so far. For closed beta we turned a lot of features off, in Open Beta we will start to unlock these and in Release even more. The release build of Dance is really really fun. The developers have done a killer job.
FiringSquad: How is your business going?
Dave Perry: Great. Acclaim is obviously my biggest client right now (making many MMO titles), and my team is growing fast. I’ve also got some other things going on we will announce when the games get announced.
FiringSquad: Let’s talk about the “Top Secret” project. First, this game, unlike some of your other Acclaim projects, is being developed based on your original idea and is starting from scratch. Can you give us any hints at all about your concept for the game?
Dave Perry: Anyone that knows me, knows I’ve been helping new talent into the business for years. I’ve tried various ideas along the way to see what I can do. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Westwood College with students and with our local IGDA chapter. On my website I connected a wiki and started inviting developers to post pet projects there, so they could find talent to work with them. So this is really that concept on steroids, instead of just hosting students and gamers, this way we will all work together and make a game. I’ll be writing to everyone soon, the goal for the first game is actually just to keep it simple (fun) and get something shipped. Then we can see who did what, and who did well. The winner will get their own MMO and they will be able to invite any of the talent they enjoyed working with to help on their game. (I’m sure a lot of close friendships will be generated.)
FiringSquad: How did the idea come about to open up the development of the game to outsiders for a kind of contest?
Dave Perry: To be completely honest here, I just don’t need to make lots more games. I like challenges however, I like to break new ground. That was something I used to be very proud of when Shiny started. I’m getting back there rapidly. I have stuff in the pipe I’m pretty excited about. Overall, I’m just having fun and welcome anyone that wants to join up with me. I’m also recruiting now from the people we find. I hired a girl called Jill right out of my forums recently, didn’t even ask to see a resume. She’s awesome. So that’s a rule going forward. Everyone is welcome, I could care less about resumes, they’re meaningless, it’s all about who shows up.
FiringSquad: How are the people selected to join the development team?
Dave Perry: We discuss a problem and people start posting solutions, the discussion is moderated, the good stuff starts to surface, we hold votes, if there’s a decision or a dead-lock, I make the call. We keep moving forward. The moderators have my skype address and I tend to work about 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, so I’m nearly always available to them. I also have my own team and they are also available to solve any problem. I actually do need more people so you can expect to hear some hiring when I see the talent that shows up. If you are an industry professional and want to volunteer as a moderator, please drop me a line via
FiringSquad: Evaluating things like programming, artwork, and audio is easy but how will you be able to evaluate what a beginning designer brings to the table?
Dave Perry: Actually we don’t want any programming (at the moment), we have a programming team ready to go, though custom tools might be needed later. But programmers are still welcome as they come up with cool design ideas. The design (like before) will be based on voting, with the cream rising to the top. If you need to work on something semi-privately, you can ask the moderator to carve some space for you. So a small group can bang away on an idea and present their results. If I like an idea, I’ll make it happen.
FiringSquad: Will you make the final decision on who will be the overall winner of the contest?
Dave Perry: Yes. It’s 100% my decision. From my experience, there’s always someone that shines like bright light. That guy/girl is out there, and we will find them, hopefully we will find lots so we can have a big show-down and let the team vote. (So they need to be nice to people along the way.)
FiringSquad: How will the winner take over as director of the game? Will he or she move to Acclaim’s offices to work on the game and how will you evaluate the winner during the process?
Dave Perry: The winner won’t take over, they get an entirely new project to work on. I’ve offered to stick around as their Executive Producer just to make sure they get everything they need. Their title will likely be more complex than game #1, so they will probably need some support. But make no mistake, it will be their title, their team, if they can do it without help, then maybe I get a day off! 🙂 They don’t need to move, we will set up all systems so they can work from home.
FiringSquad: How will the team members be compensated for their contributions?
Dave Perry: Everyone that signs is considered a team member. So we focus on what’s valuable to most students / gamers. They will have access to builds along the way. (It’s a free game.) They get the experience of making a real project. They get a real verifiable resume credit if they get anything in the game. If they are good (or show great promise), they will likely get a job offer from me, or the publishers/developers secretly watching this unfold. I’m going to announce a secondary competition that will lead to a job on my team. If they are fantastic, then they will make it through to the final round where I choose the winner. That person (from their bedroom) just took a pretty damn steep career curve. (I can’t wait to play the game they make.) They will make royalties off the game. Hopefully they will have a pre-built audience so they will make good money from their first title. If they do a great job on their first title, obviously Acclaim would be dumb to let them go, so a career could be the final prize.
FiringSquad: You mentioned that you will be bringing in some special guests to help judge and mentor the team. Can you give us any hints about who they might be?
Dave Perry: I will probably bring in some major video game celebrities. (I know them all personally. If any of you are reading this, and want to be involved, just drop me a line.)
FiringSquad: Are you a Simon, Randy or Paula when it comes to judging the team members to become the game’s director?
Dave Perry: I’m Simon. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, I’ll shoot it down, if people can’t handle criticism, then I want to know that now. I think that’s the difference, this is structured community development, you will be heard, you will be seen, you will be considered. This is not mob development.
FiringSquad: How long do you anticipate it will take to pick the winner and how long will the game’s development be?
Dave Perry: I’m keeping this game simple so we can aim to be done within 12 months. I don’t want to start a 5 year project. I’m amused by people saying we will make a World of Warcraft clone. No, I think we will start with something in a genre that everyone has experienced, that everyone has opinions on, and then challenge their brains. How do we push that paradigm forward? How do we create new hooks? What would make this genre more fun? Prepare for plenty of discussion.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about “Top Secret”?
Dave Perry: Yeah, it’s really risk-free, but it’s different. It’s also going to be part of gaming history being the biggest team ever to make a video game. So why not join in? We will cut off the sign-ups when we feel the forums are running at full steam, so to get an invite, you should sign up now.

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