GDC Interview

by InnerSphereNews in [ Developer Blogs ] on, Mar 23, 2012 11:55 AM UTC 40  comments


Dennis deKoning - Art Director

Matt Craig – Technical Director

Russ Bullock - President of Piranha Games

Bryan Ekman – Creative Director

Matt Newman – Production

Garth Erlam – Editor


[MechWarrior Online] So, you’re on the plane to GDC – what thoughts are going through your head?

[RUSS BULLOCK] Well I have been going to GDC for a lot of years so my answer to many questions may sound quite similar. I was filled with a level of anticipation and excitement that I have never before had for a GDC. I mean we have worked on some cool games over the years, but come on this is MechWarrior and our involvement with the Brand of course put this on an even higher level. So GDC 2012 had a very special feeling I won’t soon forget.

[BRYAN EKMAN] Pure excitement, with undertones of nervousness. I knew we had a great demo, but you just never know how the press will react. This was also the first time we brought down an entourage from Piranha Games, since 2002, so there was some added fun in that.

[MATT NEWMAN] I wish this was a drop ship and I could hot drop into GDC. That would be one heck of an entrance.

[MATT CRAIG] I was definitely wondering what the fan reaction would be like and what the media response would be.

[DENNIS deKONING] Although I was pretty tired, early flight and all, I was fraught with anticipation and anxiety. I was seated next to Matt (Craig); we talked about the technical and artistic aspects of ‘Mech destruction.


[MWO] So, now you’re at your hotel, you wake up the morning of the first day – are you scared, worried, excited, happy, what?

[RUSS] I’m still feeling a huge sense of excitement mixed with just maybe a little bit of anxious feelings because I just didn’t know for sure how things were going to go etc.

[BRYAN] Surprisingly calm. We did a walkthrough the previous day, which helped iron out the bugs. I had my morning coffee and yogurt, took a moment to walk to the show by myself, and chatted up the IGP, MWT and SODA teams before the first appointment.

[MATT N] Very excited and hungry! Also it was the first time since having kids that I slept in past 6 am so I was well rested.

[MATT C] Excited for sure, getting to go to tech talks focused on graphics/networking etc. that’s the kind of thing us techies live for :)

[DENNIS] Excited! Filled with anticipation; I have my note book and itinerary and am like a dry sponge hoping to suck up as much info, advice and inspiration as possible. There is always something to learn and I didn’t want to waste any opportunity.

[MWO] What was it like walking into that space, seeing all those people?

[RUSS] Well that part was the same as it always is and we were showing the game in the business center so we avoided the masses.

[BRYAN] This ain’t my first rodeo! GDC is reasonably civil, compared to E3 and we happened to be in the quiet part of the show, which was nice.

[MATT N] When we got there we grabbed our passes and Matt Craig was the only one who got a Swag Bag. I was jealous at first until I saw what was in it. Registering was a bit hectic but once I was in the demoing area things were pretty calm. I was much more comfortable in the 10 x 10 box behind the TV.

[MATT C] There was certainly a lot, always good to see the games industry thriving.

[DENNIS] Holy crap! I haven’t seen this many virgins since Comicon! (Kidding!) We arrived early to register and help set up the demo booth in which Matt (Newman), Bryan and Russ would be prisoners for the next three days; thereby avoided the crowds and able to leave a bit early to grab a beer (or three).


[MWO] Were you sweating like mad waiting for the event to start? (Be honest.)

[RUSS] At this point it’s huge anticipation, I can’t wait to show the product to the first group and get into our groove.

[BRYAN] It was like waiting to present your high school science project. I was going through the choreography in my head step by step, making sure I had it right. Perfection was necessary, and this was our big moment.

[MATT N] The Event was more a series of events. We ran thought the demo Probably 90 times? The first one gave me a few butterflies but they went away quickly when I focused on playing the game.

[MATT C] Only while I setup the demo and ensured all the tech was working, after that the pressure was on the other guys to do the demos. Got a nice scare when someone from marketing pulled our internet cable to use on their laptop causing a last minute scramble to get the demo working again but all worked out fine.

[DENNIS] No, I didn’t have to perform; I just had to attend as many sessions as time would allow.

[MWO] Who did you talk to first, and how did it go? Any hilarious mistakes to admit to?

[RUSS] Well before any media we had a test run with our PR manager and the guys from Ironclad and Acronym. Basically our PR manager Stephanie beat me up and corrected me wherever necessary, so thankfully that was the worst presentation I gave and prepared me for the real ones.

[BRYAN] Russ did all the presentations throughout the show. I had a relatively easy job working with Matt doing the demo. After each presentation, I added some colour commentary, filling out any details/answering some directed questions from the press.

[MATT N] I didn’t do much talking in the demos. Russ was the presenter and Bryan and I were demoing the features. As for mistakes, I would have to say, on day 2 I was losing focus and missed a cue from Russ. I was supposed to run around the corner and start attacking Bryan. Once I realized I missed my Cue I gunned the throttle and almost ran into a cliff face when rounding the corner. I thought to myself if we had falling from pilot error in the game I would be flat on my back right now.

Another mistake was, once I let Bryan kill me in the Jenner, I was supposed to re-enter the demo as an Atlas. Well I chose to re-spawn as a Jenner! Realizing my mistake I had to quit out and rejoin then select Atlas. Rejoining put me on the same team as Bryan for the remainder of the demo there was much Friendly fire to finish the demo. Thankfully Bryan was up to the task. ; )


[MWO] How hectic were all the showings of the games – did you find time flying or slowed to a crawl?

[RUSS] Well they were packed in back to back for all three days so when you think that we were showing the game steady for around 20 hours I guess it flew by fairly fast.

[BRYAN] The days flew by. The IGP folks had us stacked, racked, and packed all day.

[MATT N] First Day flew by, the next morning went at the perfect speed but the afternoon my energy really took a dive and I made my 2 mistakes listed above. By the third day it was going really well and our flight was that afternoon at 3 so we took off pretty quick after our last demo.

[MWO] Did anyone unexpected come up to you as a fan of MechWarrior?

[RUSS] We only got out of the booth for lunch breaks but even still we had several people walk right up to us and request a picture when they saw the shirt. It just shows you how passionate people are about MechWarrior and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be a fan and see the next true MechWarrior title finally coming out.

[BRYAN] A father and son fan duo said hi while we were eating lunch at Jillian’s. They snapped a couple of photos outside. That was a pretty cool moment! My wife is still teasing me.

[MATT N] I was pleasantly surprised to meet Darren from NGNG, I think that was one of my favourite demos. He seemed really happy and said something about how we were going to be responsible for upsetting his wife somehow. We were wearing our MWO shirts out to lunch and people approached us as well.

[MATT C] I had the odd person say hi as a fan but not as many as I expected flaunting my mwomercs T-Shirt.

[DENNIS] I have to admit, wearing the ‘Mech t-shirt in a sea of so many game-enthusiasts, I expected to be approached at least once; but alas, not at all; must be my bitter, unapproachable demeanour.

[MWO] Which conversation you had surprised you the most?

[RUSS] I think in was just surprised in general at the overwhelming positive reactions we were receiving from the console centric media sites had.

[BRYAN] Talking with Darren from NGNG was awesome.

[MATT N] Not a conversation but my favorite news piece was titled “Changing the perception of Free to play.” I like to think we are doing that.

[MATT C] I really enjoyed chatting with the IGP crew and the guys from Tactics, it was great to see how much passion everyone has for MechWarrior.


[MWO] When you were doing the actual demo, how did people react to the video itself?

[RUSS] My favorite moment was to watch their faces that very first moment we showed them actual game-play at the same time I told them they were some of the first people on earth to actually see MechWarrior Online and their faces lit up with smiles along with a few other noises.

[BRYAN] I didn’t get to see many faces, as I had to pay attention to the screen I was running. Once in a while I did get to sneak a peek, and there were some surprised, excited, and geeked out faces.

[MATT N] I couldn’t see the reactions but I heard some oh’s, ah’s, and some excited laughs. We had the subwoofer on so you could really feel the size of the mech. Again I want to thank Darren for giving us a real gut response.

[MWO] What one question were you asked the most? (And was it ‘can I get in the beta?’)

[RUSS] That’s a tough one to try and remember but there was a lot of questions about when the game was going to open beta which I think was a good sign that everyone wanted to get their hands on it.

[BRYAN] Most people asked about monetization, which we gave a very light response to.

[MATT N] When are you launching? Haha! I made a joke to one media person that he had to marry my sister to get in the Friends and Family beta. He seemed open to the idea.


[MWO] As the GDC was coming to a close, did you feel relief, or sadness? Or both?

[RUSS] I guess some of both but mostly huge excitement because we had just completed all of that hard work and now it was time to start to soaking up all the articles as they went live, so it was like having a big reward.

[BRYAN] You’re switched on for 8 hours a day, so you’re pretty tired at the end. It was a relief to be done, and immensely gratifying reading the reviews and fan comments.

[MATT N] I felt happy at the success and the fact that the gameplay media was finally getting to the fans!

[MATT C] Relief it’s more tiring than you’d think and I wasn’t even trapped in the booth each day.

[DENNIS] A little relief; I was exhausted yet still pretty wound up at the same time.

[MWO] What memory stands out the most from the whole event?

[RUSS] I really can’t pick one moment. I won’t do it. They are all precious to me.

[BRYAN] The IGP folks made the experience so welcoming and easy to manage. Rather than one specific event, I have to say GDC 2012 was the best GDC I have ever attended!

[MATT N] Dinner at Tommy’s! and surfing the MWO forums on my Iphone and finding the first video Interview online while we were drinking beer at the hotel bar. Then checking the forums for the rest of the night on the spotty hotel Wi-Fi.

[MATT C] I think the evening we were having drinks when the GameTrailers interview went up was awesome, watching the fan reaction was just great. I think we’d felt for a while that the game was shaping up great but to have it confirmed by the fans is what really matters.

[DENNIS] The weirdoes standing out front holding up signs that read “God hates game designers!” I thought of Paul.


[MWO] So now you’re on the plane back home – what’re you thinking?

[RUSS] At this point I am dead tired and just watching some crappy movie with my mind shut down.

[BRYAN] Job done, time to focus on the next sprint. I had a great conversation with Dennis on the way home about level design and some ideas for new levels.

[MATT N] Clear customs, kiss my family, Sleep in my bed, and back to work on Monday!

[DENNIS] All fired up and motivated thanks largely to the recent release of the ‘Mech in-game footage and Russ’ interview which drew such overwhelmingly positive feedback.

A lot of reflection; wishing I could relive it to make sure I missed nothing.

Also, game-play aside, (as the art director) It makes one feel pretty stoked reading positive reviews regarding the over-all look and feel of the ‘Mechs and the world surrounding them. I have an awesome team.

This was a ‘Mech-filled week! Before breakfast until after dinner (when we were all together) we talked ‘Mech: ‘Mech, ‘Mech, ‘Mech, and never got bored of it; every conversation was enlightening and productive, until Matt lost his GDC pass.

I was honoured (ahem) to be seated next to Bryan on the return flight and (despite that) we had a pretty inspirational brain-storming session about the ‘Mech world art; couldn’t wait to get back to document our ideas.

[MATT C] I wonder what we’ll be doing for GDC 2013 ;-)



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