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Earlier this week Dave Perry announced a new MMO project called Top Secret, produced in association with Acclaim. Here’s the crazy part: he wants the game community to participate in the creation of the title, and he’s looking for raw unproven talent to join the team. Then, the person who shines the most during the development of Top Secret will become the project director for Acclaim’s next MMO. From unknown to design lead in the course of one game — it can happen! Check out the Top Secret website for the full announcement.
The idea seems wild but is true-to-form for David Perry (who, as leader of Shiny studios, created classics like Earthworm Jim as well as more recent hits like MDK or Enter the Matrix). Perry has always been active bringing new talent into the industry. I grilled him for some details about the new project:
Fargo: What inspired you to go to the gaming community at large? Are you looking for fresh ideas, or just trying to mentor more people into the world of game development?
Perry: I’ve been mentoring students into the game biz for many years, but recently I’ve been trying some new ideas. In our 2Moons game (Game Info Page) we ran a competition to let the gamers be the NPC’s in the game. Audio professionals gag at this concept. But what the heck, it’s a game, it’s about having fun! So we let them record their lines, and we have prizes for those that make it in. (Like special items.) Needless to say, some are horrible (with dogs barking in the background), but some sound like a studio made them. That’s the whole point here. There’s a huge mix of talent and we want to find a way to expose it.
The hard part is there’s no book on this for me to read, nothing has ever been done on this scale before. So the planning has been complicated.
We also had a survey for 2Moons and for our Dance game. The response was simply amazing from the thousands that filled them out. Lots of really great ideas, and some ideas I really wish I’d though of! [Embarrassed] That’s what really lead to this idea, and it was also caused by a reporter telling me that gamers can’t innovate, so any game made by them will be average. They even quoted Lord British as the source, but I don’t believe he would have said that. The reality is it’s a numbers game, if 100,000 people sign up, and 1% do useful stuff, I’m still running the biggest development team in gaming history. If only 10% of that 1% are amazing, then I have 100 amazing developers. Not a team to poke fun at! Most teams of 50 have 10 amazing guys – if you are lucky.
So I’m quietly confident we will find people, we will have fun and there’s just no way to lose here. They get builds all along the way, and all builds are free. So it costs NOTHING to join in this competition.
Fargo: MMOs are tricky, tricky animals. Do you think that someone without development experience will understand the gameplay issues and pitfalls of a massively multiplayer world?
Perry: To be careful we will start small. It won’t be an MMORPG, it will be an MMO. So yes they’re diving into deep water by having to design for massively multiplayer online gamers (all over the world), but they only need to make something fun. (So it will get as big as it needs to get.) When the winner is announced he/she will then be able to make another game (that will be their project), and hopefully work again with the people that impressed them.
We will have some celebrities pop up along the way to help out on voting… We will also have some other competitions running in parallel. I (as an example) need more staff for GameConsultants.com, so I will be recruiting right out of the Top Secret forums. I recently hired a girl exactly this way from the 2Moons forums. I just look for talent, and she has turned out to be amazing.
I also expect publishers, developers & headhunters will be watching closely and making offers to people that shine. This is fine by me, as the overall exercise is to reveal the talent that’s out there. So if you are a talent scout, please don’t feel you need to lurk around, it’s OK. We can make a thread for you, so you can chat to the talent directly, maybe even answer some questions for them.
Fargo: How will this work? Will people submit ideas based on a theme, or will the theme of the game be chosen based on the best ideas?
Perry: For game #1 I will set the genre, I will also toss out some ideas to start conversation (for example I have a pretty amazing licensing deal for audio on offer – can they make any interesting use of that?), we will discuss all kinds of challenges I will make to the team, then where it goes from there, we can’t predict. We will use formal development paradigms, and will follow prototype development and milestones, including beta testing etc. So they are certainly going to get the chance to show any skills they have!
Fargo: This sounds wild! Thanks for taking the time to answer a couple questions — I’m really curious to see how this turns out.
Perry: So am I.
FILEPLANET.COM interview on Top Secret Project.
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