After its unveil in May and strong showing at E3, Starhawk is once again hiding within the walls of LightBox’s Austin office.
Thankfully, LightBox’s office is only a block away from Austin’s lively bar scene on Sixth Street, making for the perfect spot to coax new details out of LightBox president Dylan Jobe — an unusually cheerful, generous guy who genuinely cares about the game he is working on.
Over a couple beers, we discuss Trenched, the PSN outage, Ladyhawke, Pagan theorists and Austin, Texas.
How was E3?
At Sony’s E3 press conference, I was surprised the spotlight wasn’t put on Twisted Metal and Starhawk. Did you have any input on that?
No. I’ve been working with Sony for 12 years and as an employee for ten. If you remember me flailing around on stage with the Sixaxis Controller [in 2006], I got to see what happens behind stage. It’s a lot of business strategy and all of that stuff, so you just kind of hang on and wait for the opportunity. They didn’t ask us to do any on-stage stuff. In fact, we finished the gameplay trailer they showed only three days before the conference. It’s just whatever the Sony executives want and we give it to them.
Did you have a chance to check out any games, at E3?
But, most of the time I just sat at our developer booth and was dragged to press interviews. Kind of a bummer.
I think a lot of games show too early, so they’ll contract a CG house and get the players amped up with some gorgeous video that is indicative of the tone but not indicative of the game.
You recently set up a Facebook page for feedback and suggestions. Have any fan comments been worked into Starhawk?
This guy on the forums that is complaining is totally right, but I know in order for me to fix it, it’s a minimum of $32,000 dollars worth of cost to submit a patch and all that stuff. What we really want to do is do what Naughty Dog brilliantly did with Uncharted 2, where they have a patch system and a hotfix system that could by-pass Sony and react quickly.
No, but a lot of our hardcore fans love LAN mode. From a business perspective, not many people are playing LAN mode but those people who play LAN mode love your game. Do you want to shit on your most hardcore fans or do you include LAN mode? We decided to keep LAN mode. When you boot Starhawk and there isn’t a network connection, it just says “Do you want to play LAN mode?” So, you play LAN mode. So it didn’t really effect us.
Warhawk was at the forefront of PSN, when Sony didn’t really have things figured out. Now that the service has matured, are there elements that you can now include in Starhawk?
PSN and Crossbar updates have given us new stuff, but really the new things we are doing in Starhawk are pushing the boundaries of the service. We are still having discussions with Sony — one of the things we want to do is have the game always online, whether in single-player or multiplayer.
In Call of Duty, you choose multiplayer or single-player and it starts up a different game. If you go multiplayer, you have to exit all the way back out. That always seemed weird to me, so what we ended up doing is taking all the functionality associated with friends list and wrapped it up in number of apps in our Uplink, which is our pause menu. You bring up a menu in the middle of a single-player game and you can see what your friends are doing and even browse the server list.
I read you guys cut single-player out of Warhawk, because you felt it wasn’t up to snuff. How did that inform the way you approached a solo campaign in Starhawk?
For Starhawk, we built a big design team. We have a legitimate scripting language, tool pack for building machines, a separate A.I. team and we get the incredible benefit of having the God of War team critique our shit. They know how to make a triple-A, cinematic experience. Sure, Starhawk is a different game but they can help us gauge where we are going.
We always had staffing troubles in Utah. It’s always been my belief that when the content matches the culture it works really well. We are a rambunctious group. We like our beer, we like our music. We wanted to build a community that we couldn’t build in Utah.
That’s a damn good question. It’s tricky. I think if you could comeback with a really good Tony Hawk game and do it right, that’d be a good product for a publisher. I like Ladyhawke. I think they can re-film Ladyhawke and it’d do good at the box office. I think the bigger question is: Who will be the hero of the Ladyhawke game? Would it be Andre the Giant, young Fred Savage in the bed or would it be Columbo. I don’t remember his name. He’s the dad telling the story.
Wait, you just described Princess Bride. That’s not part of the deal!
Oh my god, you’re right. That’s Princess Bride! I just totally botched that. I’d probably do Ladyhawke because I like the idea of doing a Zelda-style game where you have missions during a certain time of day and a certain set you have to execute at night. And there are some missions you need to transform into the hawk and finish the rest of the mission, then wait for the sun to come up to transform back.
No, we probably won’t do a pagan crossover. You unlocked PAGAN RITUALIST! Maybe, robots and paganism would be cool. Maybe.
You ever played Starhawk, the 1977 arcade game?
Yes. Early on when we talked to Sony about it, we all wanted to call it Starhawk. Sony lawyers took care of the rest, although I’m not sure who owns the rights in Japan.
Was Call of Starhawk ever in debate?
Nooooo! Call of Starhawk: The Re-Staring and…Its Adventures? No, just straight Starhawk.