Interview: War of the Worlds Developer Other Ocean InteractivePlatforms: Sony PlayStation 3 | Microsoft Xbox 360
We've already been lucky enough at The Digital Fix to talk to Chris Fowler, the writer of the re-imagining of The War of the Worlds game coming this October to XBLA and PSN (the 26th for XBLA for 800 MSP). Now we have the second interview related to this game, as Mike Mika, Head of Development at Other Ocean Interactive - the game's developers - was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for us regarding this very exciting new title.
1) Much of your back catalogue is on platforms other than PSN & XBLA. What’s been your experience of coding on these platforms and working with Sony / Microsoft?
MM: We’re a young studio, and many of us came from studios who’ve built a name in XBLA and PSN. Some of us worked on XBLA/PSN games for Capcom, Konami, Hudson Soft, and Midway. So while our name is different, we’ve been working on downloadable console games since the launch of Xbox Live.
2) Where does the WOTW production experience stand compared to your other titles? Specifically has the licence and / or Patrick Stewart been a big factor?
MM: It was very different. The game is a lot more deliberately paced, and the narration plays a big factor in telling the story of the game. Also, the game is entirely in 2D. The team had to re-learn a lot of old tricks and techniques. We also cared more about the source material, too. More than we typically do.
3) How do you structure your organisation? Does this have an impact on the way you work?
MM: We don’t work on big AAA games. We focus on smaller sized games, and for a reason. We like the intimacy of small teams. We like being able to have more control over every aspect of production. We typically never have more than 20 people on a game if we can help it. War of the Worlds did use some outside help, but ultimately, we were always about an 8 to 10 person team, for just under a year.
4) What is OO’s size and does this affect your choices?
MM: We’re about 120 people now, across three studios, and it definitely affects our choice of projects. We aren’t built to take on larger games, and some of our smaller teams have only worked on mobile or handheld. We’ve been built to be reactive, so we don’t have any loyalty to one platform, or genre. We like working on a variety of things. For instance, we took on an adver-game for EA and Epic to help promote Bulletstorm because we had a team who had just finished up on something for Unreal, and they were dying to do a shooter or something with comedy. They had the chance to do both in Duty Calls. We could only make that game because we have small, tight knit, teams.
5) How have you created the Trophies / Achievements for WOTW – what’s been your philosophy?
MM: We waited until the game was about Alpha before really locking down the achievements. The game is really hard overall, something it just became during production and something we embraced. So we wanted to reward players for their hard work. In that regard, we’ve built some achievements that even we, the team, have a hard time unlocking.
6) How did WOTW start out in life – did you find the subject matter or game type first? Was it your idea, or did another entity (Chris Fowler?) come to you?
MM: Paramount called us up after we shipped Dark Void Zero. They basically said something that we’d been waiting to hear: “Fly down to LA, look at our whole catalog of IP, and choose what you think would make a great game.” It was an open invite to make anything we wanted to. I had just finished reading War of the Worlds on iPad, so that was fresh in my mind, and I’ve been a lifelong fan of the old 1953 movie by George Pal, and the Welles radio drama. We discussed how we would approach the game, and came up with the idea of not basing it on any of the previous Paramount offerings, not entirely. We’d use elements where it made sense, but the founding concept was to start from the book. Everything would be new and we’d bring in talent to help realize it from Christopher Fowler, our writer, to Patrick Stewart, our narrator. Paramount was totally behind the idea. We set out to build it like an independent film: Low budget, short schedule, and invite talented people to it. As a result, we also got Chris Huelsbeck to do our musical score for the game.
7) Can you tell us your favourite bit of the game? What’re you most proud of?
MM: That’s hard to say! To be perfectly honest, every game I’ve ever worked on, I just don’t ever want to see it again. Anything I look at, I just want to make it better or I have things I would have preferred doing. I really like the visual style. It’s very unique, very different. I enjoyed watching that come together. It really is built like an old 16 bit game, and that makes me pretty happy.
We at The Digital Fix would like to thank Mike Mika for sharing his thoughts with us.
About Other Ocean Interactive:
Other Ocean Group has developed games and conducted Quality Assurance (via its Sculpin QA division) for the industry’s most established publishers. OOG is best known for the development of Konami’s award winning Xbox LIVE™ Arcade download, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Midway’s Nintendo® DS™ release of the popular franchise Ultimate™ Mortal Kombat® and most recently recognized as the developers of the highly popular Sega’s Super Monkey Ball™ for the Apple iPhone. Other Ocean develops for multiple platforms, including (but not limited to) the Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox Live Arcade, PC, and the Apple iPhone. It is a Canadian company, with studios in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Its head office is in Emeryville, California.