Archive for the ‘Studio’ Category

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 5

June 26, 2010

Okay, so what could top the 3DS at E3? Well how about the response to Disney Epic Mickey?

I talked to so many people – easily in triple digits – and got to see even more playing the game in the booth (as I ran from the Disney area to somewhere else). And by the end of the show, we’d been nominated for at least 22 awards – won 15, lost 2 and there are still, as of today, 7 we’re waiting to hear about. Go Mickey! Go Junction Point team! I don’t want to brag (too much!) so, for a full rundown on what happened – and to stay on top of what’s to come – check out the Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios web pages or, maybe even better, go to the Facebook pages for Disney Epic Mickey, Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios. Oh, and there’s even a Disney Epic Mickey You Tube channel, and of course David Garibaldi‘s stuff, too. Tons of cool stuff to see!

Finally, before I forget (as if!), this year’s E3 will live on in my memory as the E3 where I GOT TO MEET SHIGERU MIYAMOTO AND STAN LEE! IN THE SAME WEEK! I’m pretty sure I jibbered like an idiot on both occasions – definitely had to put my head between my knees briefly on meeting Mr. Miyamoto… and I vaguely remember telling Stan Lee I was NOT a stalker at least 15 times… which, of course, branded me as a stalker immediately. Sigh.

Both gentlemen lived up to my expectations and then some – in my experience, heroes usually do. (It’s what makes them heroes, I guess.) These are guys who changed my life – Mr. Miyamoto’s work pushes me to do better in my own… And Stan Lee introduced me to a world of heroes and villains I still live in today. I remember vividly buying Fantastic Four #13 (The Red Ghost issue) and Spider-Man #2 (The Vulture!), back in 1963 and having my 8-year-old mind blown. Getting to tell Stan Lee about that was priceless.

(BTW, if anyone who was at the Nintendo Press Conference rehearsal took any pictures of the magical – if embarrassing – moment when I was introduced to Mr. Miyamoto, please get in touch. I’d sure love a photographic record of a real career highlight!)

So that’s it. My E3 experience. All I have to say is this:

Best.

Week.

Ever!

If you feel like it, let me know what blew YOU away at E3 this year – remember, I saw almost nothing!…

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 4

June 25, 2010

Nintendo got 3D right – righter than anyone else. Ever. By far. Think about the 3DS – just the basics:

  • No glasses required!
  • No image degradation or color saturation loss compared with 2D displays!
  • Parallax control so viewers can adjust the images so the 3D effect is perfect for them, not for some average person with an average distance of 2.5 inches between his/her eyes.

But that’s just based on the basics, as I said. Wait, there’s more. I was backstage at the Nintendo Press Conference on Tuesday, June 15th, and as each new 3DS feature was described, my jaw got closer and closer to the ground. It’s a game machine… it’s 3D… it has a gyroscope and accelerometer built in… It has Wi-Fi connectivity and shares data with other 3DS’s in the background… It has a 3D CAMERA!… and it PLAYS 3D MOVIES WITHOUT GLASSES!… I swear if they’d said it was a phone, too, I would have dashed back onto the stage and snatched the prototype and run like the wind! I half expected to hear it would tuck me in at night!

When I got my hands on the 3DS at the show, I was blown away again. The feature set sounds good but the proof is in the pudding – in the product. And Nintendo’s got some mighty tasty stuff coming. Pilot Wings – incredible. Nintendogs – even cuter than before and more engaging. Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid – gorgeous. Kid Icarus is coming back plus there’s a Mario Kart, plus a new Zelda(!!!!!)! Not a bad set of games to brag about as you’re launching a new piece of hardware. And there was a tech demo, shooting game that was probably my favorite thing of all. The movie trailers were outrageous – best 3D visuals I’ve seen. Tangled looked great and How to Train Your Dragon was a revelation. Both were sharp, clear, convincing. Every title – movie or game – was a hardware-selling brand, each one looked cool and each was genuinely enhanced in some way by the 3D effect.

The 3D effect is basically perfect. I mean PERFECT. And the games and movie trailers shown on 3DS were stunning, enhanced and flat-out cooler than they could possibly have been in 2D. I was on the fence about 3D when I entered the Nintendo booth. By the time I left, I was floored.

I was completely wrong about 3D. Not a fad. Not going away. Here for good – and that’s a good thing. Nintendo deserves to sell a gazillion of these things. And I want the first one off the line!

As a consumer, I’m in. Sign me up. Price no object (or not much of one). As a game developer, well, sign me up for that, too. How do you design a game that really exploits stereoscopic 3D? Beats me… How do we take advantage of a 3D camera built into a gaming device? No idea… How do we integrate gyroscopes and accelerometers into control schemes? Got some ideas but nothing solid… I mean, how could anyone NOT want to play with this tech?

I’ve been hoping something like this would come along since Origin and Looking Glass supported VR headsets in Wings of Glory and System Shock back in the mid-’90s, but I never actually believed it would happen. Well, it’s happened. The Nintendo 3DS changed everything for me.

Please, please, let it be the success it deserves to be. And all you TV manufacturers out there (or Sharp at least), get with the program and let me buy a TV that’s as cool as Nintendo’s little game machine. I know there are issues with view angles on parallax barrier technology, but come on, get cracking, solve the problems and let me give you a bunch of money so I can have my 3D, okay?

I should stop. I know it. But the 3DS is – seriously – the coolest hardware I’ve ever seen at E3… It’s nothing short of magical, both in the effect the stereoscopic stuff had on me and in the way the tech works. Not that I really understand how it works – not yet anyway! The 3DS was – dare I say it? – almost Disney-like in the magical feeling it evoked in me and I suspect you’ll have a similar reaction when you get your hands on it. And note that I said “when,” not “if.” That was no accident. Trust me – you’re gonna want and you’re gonna get a Nintendo 3DS.

Okay. Let me catch my breath. Two more things tomorrow and then I’m outta here and onto other things. (I’m really going to try to keep this blogging thing going from now on!)

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 3

June 24, 2010

On to day 2…

The show itself was a lot like Monday. I spent right around twelve hours each day (obviously, I started before the show opened and kept going after it closed!) in a room in the back of the Disney booth or a room over at the Staples Center – hence the title of this post. Get it? Two rooms… Eight walls… Running from one room to the other. That was my E3…

(And, may I just say, being in the Staples Center during the NBA finals was both cool and frustrating – cool, in that I could look down on the court and contemplate running down there for a quick pic and a probably takedown by a security guard, frustrating in that I was constantly reminded about the hoop fanaticism of which I would NOT be a part later in the day – no finals tickets for me!)

Anyway, 12-ish hours of interviews and demos each day on Tuesday and Wednesday. No breaks. Ate breakfast and lunch with cameras in my face. All I saw of the show was what I could see running to the rest room or running to some on-camera interview in someone else’s booth.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining! The fact that I was so busy was a reflection of how well-received the Disney Epic Mickey game was. I haven’t experienced anything like that since Deus Ex.

Okay, so I’ve explained the “Two Rooms, Eight Walls” part of the title. What about the “coolest thing ever?”

Easy.

Nintendo 3DS!

Holy cow.

The last day of the show, I actually got out of the Disney Interactive booth around 4:15. I knew I was only going to get to see One Thing at E3. And I knew it was going to be either Deus Ex: Human Revolution or the 3DS. Though it pained me to make the call, the 3DS got the nod.

All I can say is “Wow!” Okay, I lied – I can and will say a lot more than “wow.”

The 3DS changed my life. Seriously. I can be pretty stubborn and when I decide I know something or I’m right about something, I don’t often change my mind. Well, I just want to say I’ve been completely wrong about 3D all my life. I never got it before. Until now. Until the 3DS. Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it.

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 2

June 22, 2010

Last episode, I said I tell you what my E3 was like. Well, that’s easy. Basically, I saw nothing at E3 this year. Well, literally, I guess I should say “almost nothing,” but I’ll get to that later.

Monday, the day before the show opened, I could have walked around the show floor while everyone was setting up, but instead I found myself doing a couple of interviews (including one two hour, on-camera thing that was a ton of fun. I can’t talk about that one yet…).

But the big deal that first day was a rehearsal for the Nintendo press conference at the Nokia Theater. Talk about a thrill!

First, just walking out on that stage, where American Idol finalists sing for 7000 people and all, was fantastic. You don’t want to know how many times I was asked if I was nervous or scared. The honest answer is “no.” I love talking to people about games, whether it’s one person or thousands. It was just an incredible scene and ended up being as much fun as I expected it to be.

Frankly, one of the reasons it was so exciting and fun was Nintendo. Everyone at Nintendo, from the very top of the organization to the guys in the trenches, was incredible. The feeling of family, the sense of being on a mission, the development-centered culture was palpable. I have no idea what it’s really like to work at Nintendo, but if the outward projection of the company’s culture is anything like the working environment… well, let’s just say I have a richer understanding of why Nintendo games look, feel and play the way they do. Joy and positivity in the environment must translate to similar quality in the work, right? I should be so lucky as to create an environment like that at a studio of my own someday!

And the really cool bit? Everyone I met that first day at the rehearsal made me and Adam Creighton (the Junction Point producer, who drove my demos), feel like a part of the Nintendo family and contributors to the company’s mission. That was really special.

Anyway, from the Nintendo rehearsal, it was over to the Disney booth to rehearse for our own on-stage demos – two 15-ish minute demos a day, followed by a show by Disney Fine Artist, David Garibaldi.

Meeting David at the Disney rehearsals was over the top cool. I have some of his artwork on my walls at home, and I’d already seen some of his magical dance/music/art shows on video (you just have to see him in action for yourself to get a sense of how incredible his work is…). I guess what I’m saying is I’m a fan and was really pleased to meet him and be able to tell him so. It’s hard to imagine anyone better-suited to the task of bringing some of the Disney Epic Mickey characters and locations to life in new ways. He outdid himself!

From there, it was over to a theater to catch a sneak screening of Toy Story 3. Yowza! There was much laughing and crying… I definitely steamed up the ol’ 3D glasses, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Just pick yourself up and see it yourself, if you haven’t already.

That was Monday – interviews and rehearsals and Pixar’s latest. Day over. Saw nothing…

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the show itself.

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 1

June 22, 2010

So, I know it’s been forever since I posted anything here but with E3 behind me, it seemed like a good time to get back in the swing of things. I can’t promise I’ll be the most regular blogger in the world, but at least now I can talk about the game I’ve been working on!

The word is out about Disney Epic Mickey, and in a big way. I couldn’t be happier. This week, I’ll try to tell you why.

Here’s the story of my E3 (or, at least, part one of that story, with more parts following the rest of this week):

Man, what a show! Though we announced Disney Epic Mickey, officially, at an event in London last October, and the good folks at Game Informer ran a big preview feature around the same time, this E3 was our debutante ball.

And what a ball I had!

The Disney Interactive Studios folks put together a killer booth – not just for Disney Epic Mickey, but for all the upcoming titles. I thought everything showed well – Disney Epic Mickey, Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, Guilty Party, TRON… I hope this shows the gaming world We Mean Business!

But, obviously, I was especially pleased about the Disney Epic Mickey area and the response to the game. First, a shout-out to the guys who put the space together. The Disney Epic Mickey area looked like a Mickey-fied version of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Classy and appropriate. I loved our space.

There was some terrific artwork by a variety of artists hanging from the walls and Disney animators were in the booth drawing original sketches for people (and, man, you should have seen the lines for that!).  And, of course, David Garibaldi was doing the amazing art/dance/music thing that only he can do. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Apparently, neither could gamers! The place was packed all day, every day. I brought about a dozen people from Junction Point to man the booths and they did me, the game and themselves proud. I can’t tell you how much I love the Disney Epic Mickey team. The talent, passion and commitment the guys and gals showed at E3 was incredibly special – and completely typical of what the entire team delivers on a daily basis. Definitely one of the top teams I’ve worked with in my career.

As for me, well, check back tomorrow and I’ll explain what I was up to and what the title of this post is all about.

We’re Number 23!

September 27, 2008

Most people aspire to be number 1 — you know, the sports fan’s cry of “We’re Number One!” and all that. Well, not me. I mean, it’d be great to be #1, but I now have a new goal.

You see, in its June 27/July 4th issue (which I only just got around to reading recently, proving I’m behind on all sorts of things in my life — not just blogging!), Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on what they called The New Classics — “the 1000 best movies, TV shows, albums, books & more of the last 25 years.”

Well, games fell into the “& more” category, and Deus Ex made the cut. Check it out, it’s right there on page 128.

Here’s what they had to say: “Vast conspiracies abound in Deus Ex, a smart cyberpunky RPG where you play a nanotechnology-enhanced agent.” The description isn’t likely to get anyone’s heartrate up, but it’s nice to be recognized, for sure.

I mention this not to brag or anything, but because I started wondering how DX stacked up against comparable titles in the other lists. (Some of you may remember an earlier series of posts where I confessed to a fondness for… okay, an obsession with… lists.) I wondered what movie was ranked #23, what album, what book and so on. Here’s what I found:

Movie: Memento
Television: West Wing
Music: The Soft Bulletin (from The Flaming Lips)
Book: The Ghost Road (by Pat Barker)
Style: Andre 3000 (of “Hey Ya!” fame)
Stage: M: Butterfly
Tech: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader

Ni…ice! Yeah, being #1 would be cool, but #23 is, apparently, all about quirkiness. And that appeals to me, big-time. But when I look at the #23 slot, I see more than “quirk.” For one thing, I see stuff I really like a lot — I mean, Memento blew me away. West Wing was, for years, my favorite television program. The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin? Come on — enchanting. And I lust after a Kindle with every fiber of my being — if Amazon would drop the price another 50 bucks I’d have one in a hot second!

More than just “I like them,” I see in the 23’s (we’re all part of a club, now, at least in my warped imagination) work that set out to to make a political or cultural statement (assuming there’s any difference between the political and the cultural…). At #23, I see creative enterprises that set out to challenge assumptions — sometimes public assumptions, sometimes a creator’s personal assumptions about his or her own work. I see projects that changed things, that influenced the content or aesthetics of their respective media or changed the direction of the businesses of which they were a part.

And I’m proud that something I worked on is in such august company.

So that’s my new goal. No more “#1” aspirations; I’m shooting for #23, where all the quirky, cool things are! (Okay, just kidding, Disney — #1 would be cool, too!)

The House of Mouse

July 23, 2007

Last time we got together, I wrote about pet problems and how they got in the way of blogging. (Those pesky pets!)

Well, sometimes life throws you curves like that. And other times, life throws you an entirely different kind of curve. Like, for example, oh, you know, a gigantic multinational megacorporation acquires your little start-up studio and all of a sudden talking about reactive innovation in game design seems somehow less…pressing.

So, for another week, I’m going to continue sliding down the slippery slope that leads further and further from regular posting. The last couple of weeks have been a little different for me and for Junction Point and we need to talk about that.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a game news junkie, so you already know what’s up, but just in case, here’s the big news:

Junction Point Studios has been acquired by Disney Interactive Studios, the videogame arm of The Walt Disney Company.

Woot!

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews about the deal, the reasons behind it and so on, so I’m not going to repeat all that stuff here. Check out the news sites for info about the nuts and bolts or to learn why I don’t see this marriage as weird, the way some of you do. What I want to talk about here is how cool I think this all is, and to address some concerns a few of you have expressed about whether JPS will stay true to its mission (as I expressed that mission in earlier blog posts).

I’m here to tell you that, near as I can tell sans functioning crystal ball, your concerns are unfounded and our mission remains the same as it ever was. I’m as psyched about game development, about specific projects and about the prospects for Junction Point Studios as I’ve ever been — I think that’s true for all of the JPS staffers. There are a bunch of reasons for this.

For one thing, I’ve been a huge Disney geek most of my life and always wanted to work for the Mouse. Personally, this is kind of a dream come true. Another box on my life resume will now be checked off.

For another, JPS has been doing concept development work for Disney Interactive Studios for some time now — several months last year and again this year, so we kind of know the folks over there, where their heads and hearts are, what their hopes and plans are. And they mean business.

Disney Interactive Studios is a serious attempt by a major media player to make an impact in the world of gaming. Sure, they’re going to exploit Disney brands — I mean, who wouldn’t? If you owned some of the most popular, successful, culturally significant properties on the freakin’ planet, wouldn’t you want to take them to a new medium and reach a new audience? I love creating original stuff but, man, the idea of having access to Disney’s history — and future — is hugely compelling.

On top of just the existence of all that great IP, the fact that Disney operates in so many different fields — movies, theme parks, music, print media, television AND games — means when we DO create original stuff, there’s no limit to where that stuff can go. Again, hugely compelling.

And then there’s the Disney legacy of technological innovation in storytelling. In his day, Walt was always among the first to recognize the value of new tech — color movies, stereo sound, multiplane animation, television, robotics… He pioneered all of them. And in my interactions with folks at Disney, they still get the value of innovation — new tools to tell stories in new ways? They’re all about that. They talk a lot about innovation as a core value and that, too, is hugely appealing to me.

Throw in the deep pockets, the possibility of collaboration with guys at Pixar, Disney Imagineering, Disney R&D, Disney Feature Animation — the opportunity to learn from those guys…man. Who wouldn’t be psyched?

But doesn’t Disney make kiddie games? And doesn’t JPS make mature games for adult gamers? That seems to be the root of most of the concerns people have expressed to me. And there’s some truth to both parts of that statement — Disney does do a lot of stuff for kids, and most of my games have been geared toward older audiences. However, that’s only part of the story.

First, check out Turok, which is being published under the Touchstone brand. Definitely not for kids! And check out the Pixar movies… look around the theme parks… You find stuff geared toward all ages, not just kids. That, too, is hugely appealing to me. While other game publishers seem content to grow the gaming audience incrementally, mostly going after slightly older young men, Disney’s overall focus on entertainment for the entire family is something the game business can, I think, productively carry over.

Maybe it’s just the place I am in my life and career, but I’m looking forward to making games everyone in the family can enjoy. I truly believe you can make deep, rich, story-driven games — games that challenge people’s notions of how the world works, how human relationships work, what constitutes right and wrong — without falling into the trap of assuming you need all the stuff that typically passes for “mature” in the game business.

And, on a purely personal note, I’m looking forward to working for a company whose aesthetic sensibilities don’t begin and end with hyper-realism. I mean, Disney’s a company built on cartoon magic and theme park fantasy — sign me up!

Hope you’ll stick with us, as we transition from independence to being Disney cast members. It’s going to be an exciting time, full of surprises. (Oh, my, are we going to surprise you!) Stay tuned…

Secondary Values

June 9, 2007

Last time, I posted the first part of the JPS studio mission. That covered our reason for being and our Primary Values:

  • Player-driven narrative
  • Quality gameplay and quality presentation
  • Collaborative company culture

A couple of folks commented that those Primary Values seemed surprisingly Profit and/or Business oriented, rather than Art oriented. I’m going to have to come back to that some time, in a later post, but before that, I want to talk about the Junction Point “Secondary Values .” These support the Primaries (obviously) and, if you were surprised at how conscious we were about Business before, fasten your seatbelts. The studio’s Secondary Values are

  • Innovation (all right–one for the Art crowd!)
  • Partnership (huh?)
  • Profitability (uh oh…)

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Innovation

For some developers, it may be enough to refine and polish. We strive for something different, something more—we want to change things.

As an adjunct to “Quality,” and as a natural outgrowth of the value we place on player empowerment, all Junction Point Studios games showcase some feature or combination of features players have never seen before. Each game advances the state of the art in some demonstrable way.

In a business crowded with sequels and “me-too” product, however professionally presented and packaged, we believe the marketplace demands—players demand—novelty in setting, in tone, in graphical style and/or, best of all, in gameplay (notably, for us, the areas of player expression, player experimentation, player choice and obvious, significant consequences). Note that none of this precludes working on sequels, licenses or collaborating with others in the creation of characters, worlds, stories or anything else.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like “Does this game advance the state of the art in any demonstrable way?” and “Is there an approach to this problem or a way to implement this game system that will be new to players while remaining true to our primary values?”

Partnership

Though our internal corporate culture is our primary concern, the business of game development is increasingly one of cooperation and collaboration with groups outside the “home office.” We work, more and more, with individual contractors, outside companies that create assets for us and, of course, funding and publishing partners.

We treat these external resources as much like internal team members as we can—with the same respect and honesty with which we treat each other. In particular, we work closely and openly with publisher representatives in Development, Testing. Marketing, PR and Sales to provide them the information and materials they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible—they’re part of the team, too.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like, “If I had to promote this game, what would I want and can I help deliver that?” or “If I were a tester, would I have the tools I need to help find bugs that will compromise our other values?” or “If I were a contractor, would I feel like part of the Junction Point Studios team?”

Profitability

Our goal is to create high quality, innovative games, but to do so, we must generate sufficient revenue to sustain a viable business. We must, in other words, remain profitable.

In part, we achieve this through a focus on quality. In addition, we achieve this by making our games as accessible to as many players as we possibly can. We strive to reach an ever larger portion of the growing game audience. And we maximize potential sales by giving our publisher the tools to do the best job possible of marketing our work.

(Note: If you’re a publisher or other potential funding partner, you might want to stop reading here or, at least, skip the next paragraph.) 

However, it’s important to note that we do not believe that the only question—or even the most valid question—one can ask about a game concept, or a finished product, is “Will this game generate maximum profit?” Profit, yes, absolutely, but the desire to make money may be tempered, at times, by our other values, as outlined here.

From a practical standpoint, this secondary value leads to questions like, “Is there a way to save money on this aspect of development without compromising our other values?” or “Is there a way to increase the revenue-generating potential of this game without increasing cost or risk?”

Three Contracts

To achieve our goals, we must live up to three implicit “contracts”:

  • We have a contract with each other requiring that we work together to the highest possible standards and with utmost respect. We strive to satisfy our individual and collective creative desires, to advance the state of the art in gameplay and to help our teammates grow as people and as professionals. Collaboration and the unfettered exchange of ideas are paramount.
  • We have a contract with players requiring that we offer them maximum entertainment value. We embrace players as collaborators in the creative process—as much the authors of their own, unique gameplay experience as we are. Our games provide tools to encourage their creativity and active participation in the story. We never lose sight of the fact that our players are as smart and demanding as we are.
  • We have a contract with our publishers requiring that we work to remain solidly in the black. Our decisions may not always result in maximum return on investment but we will always make enough money that our publishers will, without hesitation, continue funding our efforts.

So there you have it. The full version of the JPS mission statement—the one I probably should have kept to myself. Let me know what you think. Am I crazy? Does this sound like a reasonable set of values? Does JPS sound like a cool place to you? Talk to me, people!

The JPS Mission (Director’s Cut)

June 5, 2007

If you check out the Junction Point Studios website, you’ll find a page outlining the company mission. It’s short, pithy, straight to the point and accurate, as far as it goes. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am one wordy bastard, and I don’t think the web version of the mission statement goes far enough. The website guys gave me two paragraphs to describe the company mission and I was, frankly, a little lost. I need more elbow room than that—a LOT more.

Below, you’ll find the first part of my longer version of the mission statement–long enough that I’m splitting it into two parts. The first part, below, covers the overview and our Primary Values. A second part, which I’ll post soon, will cover the Secondary Values and wrap things up.

As you’ll soon see, this was written for internal use and, to be honest, I’m not really sure anyone who doesn’t work here—or is thinking about working here—will find it interesting (though I hope so!). Still, the short version left me frustrated enough that I figured I’d use my bully pulpit to get the long version out there.

So, brave reader, continue on, settle into your comfiest web-surfing chair, grab a snack and let’s talk more about what makes Junction Point Studios tick. (You not-so-brave types should click on another link now…)

Putting Power in Player’s Hand

Junction Point Studios is an independent developer of innovative electronic games that feature strong, player-driven narratives.

We believe long-term success can best be achieved by delivering games of the highest quality—in gameplay and presentation—within the limits imposed by the reality of time and budget.

We seek the most talented and dedicated practitioners of the art of game development to join us in a company culture that is positive, friendly, and team-oriented—a culture built on a foundation of cross-disciplinary collaboration, open communication and life-long learning.

Our success—creative and commercial—rests on these mutually supporting pillars:

  • Player-driven narrative
  • Quality gameplay and quality presentation
  • Collaborative company culture

Primary Values

Player-Driven, Narrative Games

Junction Point Studios focuses on the creation of games unique in their combination of strong narrative plot arcs and freeform, player-driven minute-to-minute gameplay. We may occasionally venture out into the world of abstract games or some other non-narrative form, but only as a “palette cleanser” before returning to our first love—story games.

Story or no-story, our efforts are driven by one critical concept: Unique player experience is as important as developer creativity. By “unique player experience” we mean that, rather than being funneled down a predetermined, puzzle-strewn path, players are confronted with problems solvable in a variety of ways. Our games allow players to explore, experiment and express themselves through their solution choices—and we show them the consequences of those choices. If we remain true to these ideas, no two players will end a JPS game having had the same experience.

Our goal, then, is to deliver on the promise of “shared authorship” and “emergent gameplay,” ensuring that players feel they have crafted their own experience through their in-game choices. The story we craft exists largely to provide context and significance for player choices and lends predictability and the impression of inevitability to the consequences associated with those choices.

This hybrid narrative/freeform player experience, a hallmark of the Junction Point Studios “style,” is delivered in a variety of ways:

  • Through player tools and interconnected game systems that allow and encourage emergent behaviors
  • Through player interaction with those systems and with the gameworld
  • Through traditional story-structure and preplanned and/or scripted “magic moments”

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in questions each JPS employee should ask him- or herself regularly: “Will this decision empower players more fully? Is what I’m doing putting power to shape the experience in the player’s hands or am I taking power from the player?” The preferred answer is to favor decisions that allow players to shape their own, unique experience.

Quality – Gameplay and Presentation

In game development, quality matters—it affects everything from sales to review scores to awards to fan support and even employee satisfaction and retention.

Great games matter.

Our goal is, then, to create great videogames. We define “great” or “quality” as:

  • A game that hooks players quickly and keeps them playing—and replaying—from start to finish
  • A game that has broad appeal, meaning we make games about things for which there is already an audience rather than believing we can manufacture interest and create an audience
  • A game that is as accessible as we can make it, in terms of player training and user interface
  • A game that looks as good as it plays
  • A game that reviews well—90+ review scores are always our goal
  • A game that generates positive fan response and competes for Best of Genre and Game of the Year
  • A game that we believe is better than the last one we made

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in questions like, “Will this decision make the game empirically, measurably better, as measured by observable playtest results and/or by review scores?” We are less concerned with questions like “will I like the game better, personally, if we do thing X?”

Positive, collaborative company culture

To create great games we must create a great work environment. For us, a quality workplace is one which is positive, warm, friendly, respectful, healthy and smart. Specifically, our culture embodies the following ideals:

  • We value collaboration among members of the same discipline but also across disciplines
  • We encourage everyone to speak his or her mind without fear of judgment or ridicule
  • We talk talking openly about any problems we see and work to ensure that problems are addressed quickly and don’t linger
  • We recognize that everyone can contribute to the creative process and actively encourage everyone to do so, regardless of title or position on the org chart
  • We hire the most talented, dedicated practitioners of the art of game development but, as important, we look for people with the potential to grow during their tenure with us and/or who can contribute to our own growth and the enhancement of our development culture
  • We encourage personal and professional growth, helping one another to grow, both personally and professionally—we are all teachers and students

From a practical standpoint, the utility of this value lies in each employee asking “Am I thinking of team and project, first, and putting personal goals second?” It lies in hiring the people who seem likely to fit into or enhance our culture and who buy into our primary and secondary values. It lies in finding ways to involve more people, rather than fewer, in all aspects of the game’s development, asking “If roles were reversed, would I feel a sense of ownership in this situation?” It lies in asking, “Now that I’ve finished my work, is there anything I can do to help that other guy?” It lies in asking whether you can help someone do or be better, regardless of the circumstances.

This brings us to end of Mission Statement, Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 later this week and then try to get myself on a weekly blogging schedule. (We’ll see how long that lasts!) For now, though, let me know what you think about Part 1…