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Afro Samurai's David Robinson: New Studio, New Problems, New Chances
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Afro Samurai's David Robinson: New Studio, New Problems, New Chances

October 6, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

I think that's true even within teams. There seems to be a lack of traditional management, in which someone can actually be chastised for doing poor work.

DR: Well, let me tell you... (laughs) Well yes, actually. Knowing most of the guys for years gave me an advantage: they were all friends. And when it came to the drama-cam, we could be pretty open with "Hey, you screwed that up." Actually, we use more colorful terms, but yeah, we say things like that.

As the team has gotten bigger, I've had to be cooler, when it came to relaying critical information internally. But I think in the industry as a whole, because we're constrained by talent, you have to be nicer to people than would normally feel like you have to. And I don't mean "nicer" as in treating them unprofessionally, I just mean giving people chance after chance to get it right.

It seems like the industry is growing so large, that it's just getting more and more people, so even if someone is really not that good at their job, they can always find one, and they can stay in the industry forever.

DR: Yeah. There are enough puppy mills to keep the people who aren't as talented as they should be well off. There are enough, now, industries pilfering our super-talent to cause a problem, I think.

Yeah, it's a little frightening.

DR: It's really frightening, actually. But that's created a waking effect, where a lot of guys get a lot of opportunities; get like a walk-on shot, you know? That's a dream, to get a walk-on shot and do well. I've seen the ratio of success is like 30%. Thirty percent of the guys we took a chance on never worked out.

Interesting. It's always that double-edged sword of "needing experience, but how do you get it?"

DR: Yes. But I think a lot of the kids who sign up -- who we would check the points in which they're training up to make it, and the kids who got kicked out of their mom's house because all they want to do is art, and they've got tons of their own freakin' art.

Some of it is like really weird art, right? I've seen some weird art. But it's the guys who literally would rather draw than hang out with a girl, so they don't have a girl; those are the guys you want.

Yeah. Like the people making entire games by themselves during college; that kind of stuff. So how is the collaboration with the property's creators going? Since it's the same company, technically, right? It's a co-production.

DR: It was really awesome. I came from Universal, and we were doing Crash, and I did Battlestar Galactica, and there are licensors who can be a lot of drama; they don't understand the process, and they can really muck it up, when they don't even have to. And Gonzo was just amazing, in that they understood what they didn't know.

They were struggling, with two guys on their own when we met them, and the initial meeting was like, "Look, we've got this great idea! No one believes in it! Do you want to help us try to change the world?" And we're like, "YEAH!" It was pretty awesome.

And that's what it was: Everybody was broke, everybody was trying to keep their jobs and do something cool, and then boom, it caught on fire, and now we've got this huge thing.

It's better to do that by taking a chance on something, instead of going, like, "Alright, we're gonna have to make something that's exactly like Evangelion, because everybody's going to buy it."

CR: Yes. Right. Yes. And all the props really go to Namco's management, because Namco really had a checkered past -- just really bad luck in the past five to seven years -- and this cat named Makoto Iwai came in and really literally changed the company.

And it was hard, you know? Imagine a general dropping down and cleaning guns: that's the kind of guy he was. And for them to take a chance on a property that wasn't even greenlit for the series, and no one knew what it looked like, and a freshman team inside the studio managing everything, and then us guys who had a lot of game experience but there was no remaining internal institutionalized memory of making a game.

So it was really difficult for them to swallow -- but they did, and they believed in us, and they gave me a lot of freedom. Criminal freedom! To just get it done, and I broke a lot of rules out of ignorance, you know? I'm just like: "I'm not gonna miss that milestone!" And I'd find out, through all kinds of means, that I broke rules. That I won't do again -- but at least they understood.

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