Dear English users from abroad! This is the Interview with James Gwertzman, Director of Business Development of Popcap.

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. We could call [Bejeweled] as 'Tetris of 21th. Century', due to High success & fame. But nobody might expect it in Production period.

When we first built Bejeweled, we had no idea how successful it would become. Back then, we thought our primary business would be licensing games to websites ? not building downloadable games. In fact, we almost sold the entire game to another company for only $50,000 which at the time we thought would be a good deal! Luckily that deal didn’t work out, because Bejeweled has gone on to become very popular. Bejeweled started the same way all our games start ? as a very simple, very fun game mechanic that we prototyped quickly. Then we added everything else around it and came up with the idea of using jewels.


2. 'Casual Game in Download Market' became very big at now. People could analysis about that, the reason why, in some different ways. What about thoughts & view of Popcap?

We believe that everyone likes playing games ? they just don’t necessarily know it yet! Casual games are so popular because they appeal to everyone and they are so simple to learn and play. Many other games are too complicated to appeal to everyone. Because many of our customers don’t think of themselves as gamers, or don’t know they like playing games, they would never go to a store to buy a game. So really the casual game market had to wait until the internet came along to get started. And it’s been growing every year since!


3. As I see in Popcap homepage here, http://popcap.com/aboutus.php, I could see your basic moto is 'easy to learn, tough to master'. Does it infleunce of your company name 'Popcap', to show people what game this company is making? If not, could you please let me know how come to make that name?

I wish we had some insightful story about our name, but we don’t. Maybe we should make one up! Actually we just knew that we wanted the word “Pop” in our name, to symbolize games that would be popular and made for everyone. We went through all words we could find that started with “Pop” and discovered “PopCap” and the name stuck! A Pop Cap is actually the top to a bottle of soda, and early on our logo looked like a bottle top.


4. Could you please let us know what you think about Korean gaming market?

We think the Korean game market is extremely exciting. In many ways, Korea is several years in the future compare to the US and other markets when it comes to building online games, so we watch what is happening in Korea with great interest. The online market in Korea is also known as a very hard-core gaming market, however. With the exception of a few games like Kart Rider, most popular games in korea are very competitive and aimed at hardcore audiences. It will be interesting to watch how the Korean market grows in the future. For example, here in the US many of our customers are older women. When I talk with companies in Korea about this they are always very surprised ? in korea, housewives are apparently not yet a big gaming audience. Will they be a big audience in the future? Perhaps.


5. Until now, Korean people know about [Bejeweled] well, but not all Popcap games. Please pick 5 best Popcap games, and add brief reason why or basic information.

Bejeweled is certainly our most famous game, but we have a number of other very famous games. I’d encourage you to check out our game Zuma which is my personal favorite ? it’s also a match-3 game, but it’s got a great theme and is more challenging. Bookworm is a word game, but has a very passionate number of fans. We just launched a sequel to that game called Bookworm Adventures which we were working on for nearly 3 years and I believe it may be the most expensive casual game ever made. Heavy Weapon is an action game that was never very popular online, but we have a version coming to the Xbox soon and we expect that to be extremely popular. And finally the games Feeding Frenzy and Feeding Frenzy 2 are extremely popular, and I personally worked on both those games so I’m especially proud of them.


6. Please leave some message for Korean readers of Pig-Min.

You are all very luck to live in a country with such fast internet connections! It means that you are on the cutting edge of defining new games and ways to play games, which is very exciting. We look forward to bringing our PopCap games to your market in the future to provide great game experiences!

------

James Gwertzman
Director of Business Development
PopCap Games, Inc.


Korean version of this Interview.
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Pig-Min, the first & only Indie Game Webzine for Korean, did an e-mail Interview with the Lead Designer Jenova Chen of [Cloud] & [flOW].

Korean version of this interview.

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1. Would you introduce us about the [Cloud] team?

Cloud is made by a team of 8 students, here are the info about us on our website.
http://intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/cloudteam.htm
And if you are interested, there is also a gamasutra article you can refer to
http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060202/cloud_01.shtml


2. It's very unique to 'fly & gather the cloud'. How come to get such an imagination?

Cloud concept was created for our school's "The Game Innovation Grant" which was intended to support the production of experimental games by giving a student team the space, time, and resources to complete a game that falls outside of the mainstream. When I was seeking a unique game subject one day, I glanced at the sky. The clouds were so beautiful that day, then the idea came. And the story and mood about the game has been through many iteration. Eventually I combined my memory and some very personal experience into the flying and cloud theme to create the world of Cloud. Instead of focusing on addiction, stimulation, direct competition or violence, Cloud experiments with creating a richer emotional experience for the player. It focuses on resonating with the emotions associated with looking at the blue sky and the white clouds, such as relaxation, creativity, goodness, nature, and zen.


3. As I see, Thatgamecompany has [Cloud] team & even [flOW] team.

I'm the lead designer on both [Cloud] and [flOW]. Kellee Santiago was the producer on Cloud. And she is my classmate in the graduate school. We enjoyed working together on Cloud and other school project. And we both have talent the other doesn't born with, so we decide to work together for our future.


4. I saw NDS version at Cloud Project Blog (
http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/). Seems to be cool. Is this real deal, or just your plan & wish?

This is a fake concept :) We have been thought about it would be cool to be a DS game. But we end up doing flOw for ps3 first.


5. Does thatgamecompany do some other project, commercial or non-commerical one, except for [flOW] PS3 version? If there are some, could you please let us know briefly?

We are sorry, they are confidential currenlty.


6. You might get tons of feedback, due to success of [Cloud]. Could you please let us know some impressive ones?

We have players wrote our emails telling us they literally cried when they play our games. It also generated a lot of online debate about whether games are art. There are people from the medical industry asking us to use Cloud as a medical treatment for relief.

In three months after Cloud Prototype was released online, without any official PR.

Cloud had:

- 500,000+ downloads (40mb)
- 5,000,000+ hit on the official website
- 25 countries
- 23 academic papers & conferences
- 37 printed articles including
  * LA Times
  * PC Gamer
  * EDGE
- 15 TV channel including
  * CBS
  * G4
  * SpikeTV
- 300+ websites & blogs including
  * Wired
  * Gamasutra

Awards
- Game Informer Magazine, Issue 156 Top Ten Games You've Never Heard Of
On March 22nd 2006,
- Cloud and flOw were presented at the 5th Experimental  Gameplay Workshop during the March 2006 Game Developers Conference.
-
Cloud is a winner of the Independent Games Festival 2006 Student Showcase competition.
- On Jan 25th 2006, Cloud won Slamdance Film Festival Guerrilla Game-maker Competition.
Best Student Philosophy Award.
- In November of 2005, Cloud won the "Internet Download Game of the Month" designation from the United Kingdom|UK magazine Edge (games magazine)|Edge in their issue number 156.
- Cloud was featured on First 50 on the TV show, Attack of the Show on the G4 (TV channel)|G4 network.


7. If you do some Commercial project in the future, can you send Pig-Min some Promo copy for Review?

Most of our future project will be commercial game under contract. So we might not be able to show anyone without permission. But me personally might have side project that I can share with you.


8. Can you pick 5 Impressive Indie Games, and brief reason why? Of course, not including [Cloud] & [flOW]. :)

Oasis - winner of the Best Game Design on IGF 2005. It is really a addicting game, people describe it as Civilization in 5 minutes.

N - It's a great online platforming game, the online community features like level editing and replay sharing is really neat.

Darwinia - Winner of this year's IGF. Being different, being true to themselves made this game extrodinary.

Nubacular Drop - The portal related gameplay is mind washing. They also made it to the incoming Half-life 2 expansion.

Facade - Revolutionary procedural narrative technology, it just opened my eyes.


9. Do you have any plan for [Cloud] sequel, or related to that?

We have plan to make Cloud a full game in the future. But we don't know when exactly...


10. Have you ever played, or even heard about Korean Game & Gaming scene?

I am from China. I've played most of the Korean MMO games. Lineage, Ragnarok online and so on. But I haven't played any non-online game except Genesis III.


11. Please leave some message for Korean Pig-Min Readers. :)

We have seen many great games from Korean, we wish the Korean gamers and game makers can embrace innovative games and support their makers. While our hardware is improving everyday, the gaming experience needs to evolve too.

Korean version of this interview.
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At now, Pig-Min did an Interview via e-mail with 'Jonathan Boakes' who made [Dark Fall].

Korean version of this interview.


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1. You did legendary indie game work with [Dark Fall]. Made by only 1 man -> Advertised through Adventure forums as GB -> Made contract with 'Adventure Company' even with unmade sequel at then. It's very successful for 1 man army indie work, and many people might be curious about the story. Could you please tell some Episodes about that?

That's an interesting question. Looking back, to 2001, it does seem very unbelievable that such a small indie, self-made garage game could go onto to spawn a sequel (with another in pre-production) and get globally published in 6 languages, including Russian and Italian! I'd love to inspire, and comfort, future indie game developers by saying that the process and creation of an adventure was easy. It wasn't. It was a task that required great determination, patience and a little insanity. I remember working on models for Dark Fall (my first experience with both 3D modelling and game coding) until 5am each morning, and rising again at 10am. I was working, part time, as a sushi chef, throughout the production, which was exhausting work.  Working such long hours, alone, during the dark night hours obviously influenced the actual game. Gamers have described Dark Fall as a lonely, dark and haunting experience. I often used to listen to the BBC World Service (a 24hr global radio station) throughout the night, which may explain why many of the ghostly characters encountered in Dark Fall are just voices, with no solid presence. I encountered lots of spooky moments while creating the game. The most chilling involved someone/something tapping at the window, at 2am. London is a big, busy city, so there is always the chance it was someone playing a prank, but the fact is, I couldn't see anyone outside the window, or in the street outside. Perhaps I like to think that supernatural forces were at play while creating the first of the spooky Dark Fall games.    


2. Are you satisfied with 'Adventure Company' as distibutor?

Dark Fall, and Lights Out, did appear on shelves across the US and Europe (for a very short period, in some cases), so I was satisfied with that. Beyond that, I can't think of much to say. Publishing independent games has changed in recent years, as larger publishers ignore the genre, and newer (more funky, and lively) publishers appear to take up the challenge of getting games into peoples homes.


3. After [Dark Fall], many other Indie Adventure Games are made & published. Some are self-published, and some got contract with distributor. You are pioneer of those new market. What do you think about new breeze like that?

Self publication is not only an excellent option for new developers, it pays well too. There are so many plus sides to the experience that it is hard to think why more don't give it a go. The positives include: knowing how many copies you have sold, how much the publishing costs were, who is buying your game, where did they find it and creating artwork yourself, that explains the content of the game, rather than hides it under gloss and false promise. All of the above can be hard to achieve with a commercial publisher. It is well known, and almost stereotypical, that publishers do not like to part with money, especially royalties. With self publishing, you can make as much money, honestly, as you work for. Promoting a game on adventure forums is only the start. A printed magazine, non-game website, newspaper or radio show will provide advertising space to an independent in much the same way as a commercial publisher. Obviously, an independent doesn't have the initial financial support like a commercial, so you have to pick your targets wisely. Paying for advertisements in the game magazines is pure silliness. You are competing with the big titles, with all their glitz and gloss. It is far better to focus on a publication that suits your market. For example, the recent indie adventure 'Barrow Hill ( http://www.barrow-hill.co.uk )' was advertised in science fiction fanzines, archaeology journals and magazines regarding the supernatural. The advertisement space was affordable, and got the game noticed by those who would buy it.

Finally, self-publication can be the start of bigger things. A game which gathers some successful reviews is bound to be more appetising to publishers. There are publishers who look to get indies on shelves, and promote them correctly. Sadly, there are not that many, which means competition is not too good. If approached by a publisher, always ask other developers (who have been published on that label) about their experience. You could save yourself a lot of heartache, misery and poverty by asking the simple question: "What has your experience been like with the publishers". Some developers may not answer, but some will. A little information is always better than no information. 


4. Did you have any Job contract with another Game company, due to success of [Dark Fall]?

I was approached by a few UK based multimedia outfits, and one in Venice!, who wished to create a game using their work force. These companies were producing websites, Shockwave material and menus for DVDs. They expressed a desire to move into games, after witnessing that indie games can sell well, and gather good reviews. I met some great people during that period, some of which I still work with today. Rather than join a company, and move from London, I decided to change my existing one-man XXv Productions to an umbrella organisation known as Darkling Room. There's no actual office building, or permanent team, instead I offer recording equipment, a skill base and specialist software to those who need it. In return, I get to ask difficult questions of professionals, and seek advice from those who have far more experience than I do. I couldn't have created my new game, 'The Lost Crown: a ghosthunting adventure ( http://www.thelostcrown.co.uk )'  without some guidance with scripting, animating and postproduction. No money changes hands at Darkling Room, as it suits us better to share what we have, and support each others projects.


5. Can you tell me how you chose Horror genre?

I love it! But, strictly speaking, Dark Fall and Lights Out are not 'horror' games as such. There's no blood, gore or monsters. I prefer to think of them as supernatural thrillers, ghost stories or detective fiction. There are ghosts, but they are not dispatched with guns or actions. Whereas The Lost Crown, does involve blood, a little gore and some menacing foes. Some will be conquered using your wits and ghosthunting skills, whereas others will require you to hide, escape or exorcise them. Dark Fall, on the other hand, was much more about understanding why ghosts exist, how they are created and what they need to leave the mortal world, and travel on into spirit.


6. Did you get some influence from Book - Movie - Music - Game, when you made [Dark Fall]?

I grew up watching lots of ghost stories, both on television and film, as well as listening to spooky stories on the radio and reading strange tales late at night. There is no one definite influence on Dark Fall, but the ghost stories from the 20th Century and British supernatural children's television would be high on a list of suspects. Time travel fantasy such as Sapphire & Steel and Doctor Who would have influenced aspects such as character and location. The haunted train station and hotel, seen in Dark Fall, were inspired by a story regarding an isolated rural train line and the story Room 13 by the famous writer, M.R.James.


7. Do you have some connection with other Indie Scene, not just Adventure Gaming? Gave & Got some influence from them?

I often hear from new developers, especially independents, who like to say 'hello' and talk about their project. I wouldn't say I influence any of them, but it's good to feel that people can approach me and ask advice, should they need it. I worked quite closely with Shadow Tor Studios in the summer (Barrow Hill) and provided some voice work for MDNA's game (Time Stands Still) and Nucleosys (Scratches).


8. Can you pick your 'Top 5 Game' list? (If you can, each list for Major / Indie. Or just whole 5 list.)

Top 5 games, yes? Both indie and none indie? Hmm, that's going to be difficult, as I've played quite a lot of games. Let me think....

Ok, Major Commercial games would be be:

1: Morrowind: Bloodmoon.
This was an expansion pack for the popular RPG. It features some brilliant puzzles, spread across a chilling landscape. The action can get a little boring, but the quests, characters and cleverness help promote this game to all-time-favourite....for now!

2: Riven:
The sequel to Myst is still a favourite. The landscape is gorgeous, the music is haunting and many of the puzzles were brilliantly integrated into the world. I should mention that it does get bad points for that last puzzle. Picking up and positioning rubbish looking coloured dots is a terrible way to finish off a gaming experience. Thankfully, memories of the main game help me to ignore that aspect of the game.

3: Zork Nemesis:
Fans of the Zork games tend to criticise this instalment into the series for being too dark and miserable. I don't see that myself. It's full of sophisticated, dark humour and inventive puzzles. This was the first adventure that I played, and it stays in memory as being one of the best.

4: Condemned: Criminal Origins:
Some might think this is an odd choice, but I absolutely loved this game. It's brutal, violent, sadistic and utterly bonkers. The story shifts, twists and spirals out of control. Favourite moments include the moment when a dirty shop dummy blinked at me, and them attacked, or being hunted through an abandoned house by a masochistic and lethal killer. Scary stuff!

5: No-one Lives Forever 2:
Another 'action' game. This has enough adventure elements, and story, to warrant a look-in by the adventure purists. Locations like the Indian Streets and the Siberian Military Base are beautifully constructed and feature lots of detail and gaming experimentation. I particularly liked hiding in the darkened military barracks, watching soldiers come and go, visit the toilet, chat with each other and share cigarettes. Maybe that says far too much about my personality, but I found the experience fascinating. It was a crime that a third game was not produced.

Top 5 indie games, should be easier to pinpoint:
1: Barrow Hill:
This was an easy choice. Some may smirk at my choice, given that I was involved in some parts of the production, but simply put, it's one of the best indie adventures ever produced. It features logical, world based puzzles which build to a larger enigma, a spooky (but fun) atmosphere and an enlightening story regarding ancient pagan forces. It's a 80% non-linear experience and features multiple endings! What more would an adventure gamer want? I see the Korean 'Post Adventure' website gave the game 85%, so I'm not the only one who thinks Barrow Hill is a great adventure title.

2: The Agon series:
It's a same there's no sign of the new Agon chapter, as this is a brilliant adventure series. The Private Moon developers prove that independent doesn't mean 'amateur'. A few trashy, badly constructed and composed indie titles have damaged the adventure scene, which companies like Shadow Tor and Private Moon help to re-balance. These games definitely deserve to be published for global gamers to enjoy.

3: Scratches:
The atmosphere and detail in Scratches is very impressive. I particularly liked wandering around the deserted country house on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while thunder rumbled outside and something nasty stalked the hallways. The puzzles are not the best feature of the game, so great sound design and music help make this a favourite of recent years. In terms of a debut effort from the developers, Nucleosys, it's a fantastic effort. 

4: Rhem/Rhem2:
Knut Mueller's lovingly produced Myst/Riven homage is easy to like. The puzzles are brilliant brainstrainers, the locations are solid enough to feel interesting and the rusted/derelict atmosphere is positively decadent. More often than not, I felt like I was wandering around some long lost cold war installation, left to crumble into nothingness.

5: The Carol Reed Mysteries:
MDNA have, so far, created 3 adventure games. I think that's incredibly impressive. The games are enjoyable, light and unpretentious (which may be why they are lesser known). I personally like to play each new title with a group of friends, with some good wine and endless snacks! The slide-show, paint effect graphics are always pleasant, and evoke feelings of nostalgia or lost memories. Basically, they have a dreamy, existential quality which I haven't seen in other games.


9. Have you ever experienced, or even heard about, Korean Games?

I don't know. Many games, by the time they arrive at European shores, have been localised and changed for the market. I play a lot of Playstation games, as well as PC, so I am bound to have experienced some Korean games. I am a big fan of Korean horror/supernatural cinema. Particular favourites include: Whispering Corridors, Into The Mirror and A Tale of Two Sisters. These films appeal to my tastes in the supernatural and feature super, intelligent stories which have left me thinking hours after the DVD has stopped spinning.


10. Can you send some promo copy for next game, to PIG(
http://www.pig-min.com) and PA(http://www.postadventure.com , Korean Adventure Zine - Forum)?

Yes. Definitely. I am more than happy to make sure that news regarding my games travels as far and as wide as possible.


11. Please leave some message for Korean readers.

Keep making and supporting brilliant supernatural movies, and thanks for reading this interview.
Jonathan.

Korean version of this interview.
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