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Getting Hard Boiled: Midway Chicago's Mike Bilder on Stranglehold
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Getting Hard Boiled: Midway Chicago's Mike Bilder on Stranglehold

October 31, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

Are you still in communication with Woo's Tiger Hill on this stuff?

MB: Yeah, certainly.

What has their reaction been to the near-complete build that you've got?

MB: They've been very pleased with it. We've kept tight communications with them all along, and as we've neared completion, we've sent them builds, submission builds, final builds, final cinematic builds, and so far they've been very ecstatic. And on top of that, all the press we've gotten lately with E3, with having this launch, our Xbox 360 demo... we've gotten a ton of positive press, and they love to see all that flowing as well.

Do you know if Chow Yun-Fat has actually played it himself?

MB: I know that he's seen it, I don't know if he's actually gotten his hands on it.

He seems a bit out of the gaming demographic.

MB: I don't know that I can answer that. (laughs)

That's okay. You don't have to.

MB: People on the team are a little closer to that, they've been involved with him as a resource on the product, voice-over and you know, other facets, but... again I can't speak to his gaming prowess.

So we were talking about the character randomization earlier, how I saw several guys with the same face and model on screen, simultaneously. Do you think that's one of the next hurdles we're going to have to jump over? We're getting closer to a sort of realism, but the closer we get, the more things like multiple instances of the same character become disconcerting. How long do you think before we get to the stage where we're beyond that?

MB: Beyond that meaning, technically beyond it, meaning it's no longer an issue for us as developers? Or just finicky as consumers would be on that...

Well, we'll never be beyond that. Consumers won't ever care. I mean more like reviewers and things. Consumers will never give a crap about that kind of stuff. I mean more as an art form, I guess I should say.

MB: Sure. Again, that's probably a speculation thing. It depends on... it's the tradeoff of what you want to have in your game, and what you want to spend your limited resources on as far as memory and performance, how systems in the game will function. So you could have far fewer people on screen and every one of them could be unique, or you could have far many more and have some of repetitiveness, and it's kind of the tolerance of the consumer and what they would prefer, and what your particular game dictates, design-wise.

In your experience, what is the threshold for that?

MB: I think fun gameplay always trumps. So if... say, every single character in this game is not the same. There is plenty of variety. But if you find crowded spaces and crowded levels, you're right, you're going to run into some repetition. But I think people will largely overlook that, so long as the action is there, the feverish gameplay, the stimulation is there, that's dismissed by the consumer. That's just my opinion, but I think that, again, I think fun gameplay always trumps. So if you have to sacrifice graphical quality or uniqueness in an environment or a character set to have gameplay be more exciting or exhilarating, that's what you always choose.

In a way, Midway has always kind of been about that kind of instant gratification arcade-style stuff, so it makes a lot of sense to take that approach here. I feel like for a while that kind of vision was lost for a bit, I don't know if you feel the same? How long have you been with Midway?

MB: I've been with Midway for seven and a half years.

So I feel like... probably during, around that time, Midway wasn't as much like itself in terms of like, as many of the Blitz games or Rampage type stuff, or just the pure arcade-style action. And it seems like you're getting back to that more now. Is that just totally me being ridiculous, or...

MB: We've always had a healthy mix of our mainstay, kind of action, fast-paced, kinematic, you feel it on the stick kind of games, be they rooted in the arcade classics or in stuff that we've done on current or even prior-gen consoles, but at the same time we've got a lot of diversity within the Chicago studio and within the other studios within Midway, where we've branched out into other areas and taken risks on different genres or different IPs, and some have panned out and some haven't.

And I think any good developer will take risks like that, and will continue to try to diversify themselves. You know, if all we did was twitch-action games that were cool in the '80s arcades, and that's all we did now, I don't know if we'd have that great of a business. But I think there are still some rooted people, people who have been at the company for years, who understand that marketplace and understand how to make games that are compelling for that kind of consumer, and it is reflected in some of our current games.

That's kind of what I mean. I feel like a game like Stranglehold is closer to that old aesthetic than a few of the games in the past. That's what I'm saying. It feels like this game, maybe BlackSite, some of the stuff you're doing for DS... feels like it's the old Midway spirit back again. I was wondering if that was a conscious shift or just a natural progression.

MB: It all depends on the game. I think what we've done well with our historical titles, and even in our arcade heyday, was really captivating the player, getting them to want to put another quarter in or press start another time, and we've certainly tried to reflect that in our current products, and that is a company-wide initiative to try to reflect that in all of our products, but I don't know that there's any kind of deeper-rooted direction or guidance that you might be alluding to. It's all based on what type of game you're making, and what type of genre and who's involved with it.


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