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May 18, 2007
Interview with NetDevil’s Scott Brown
 

By Nicole Hamlett

The NetDevil talk was one of the most anticipated discussions for OGDC. People walked around wondering what these guys would say about the fall of Auto Assault. There were some who speculated that they would come out and blast publishers or marketing. Hermann Peterscheck and Scott Brown stood up in front of a crowded room and did what nobody expected. They took responsibility for the game not being as successful as they had hoped. I was lucky enough to sit down with Scott Brown before the presentation and talk candidly about Auto Assault, Jumpgate, Warmonger and their upcoming LEGO title.

I started out with the LEGO game obviously. As a mother and a long time LEGO player, I wanted details.

"It's so much fun and they are so cool. As it turns out, LEGO used to be based in Colorado. US distribution was based out of Denver. I think it's neat for them too because now they have a reason to come back to Colorado."

"And who wouldn't want to be in Colorado?" I shot back. "It could be the lack of oxygen, but we Coloradans stick together." Unfortunately they can't talk about a lot right now because they're just not that far along. What they're working on right now however, is trying to find out what is a LEGO game is supposed to be about?

"I think now we've got a pretty good definition so we're selling it to more people at LEGO and doing focus testing and trying to find out if it makes sense." He told me. "Is this the kind of game that people are going to want to play? So there is a lot of work going on in the tech side. Because you know, we have to render a lot of LEGO bricks. It's an interesting problem. It needs to be a fully interactive environment. That's proceeding pretty well. We've also gone down a few design paths that have turned out very well. We really want to make a fun, cool game."

NetDevil is primarily making this game for Kids and Moms but the tagline is for Kids of all ages. "I think that the building part of the game is really going to appeal to adults. There's a group of LEGO fans called the Adult Fans of LEGO. These are adults who professionally build with LEGOs. The stuff that they make is unbelievable. We want to make sure that they're a part of this game as well. That's a lot of the work we're doing also, so they have a place to build."

I transitioned from there into Warmonger, the highly evolved FPS that NetDevil is GIVING away. That's right. They're giving it away. Why? Well you need a hugely high end machine to play it. So where is it at? "It's in the end stages. We're trying to figure out the right business model because we're going to give it away. We want to see what people want to do with it and then we'll see about making expansion packs like map kits or battlefield scenarios. We're also talking to a few publishers to see if we can make a full version. It could become an online game which would be really cool or even a console game. We have a lot of different things to go along with it. Mostly this was an exercise of doing something cool with AGEIA. If you had all of the power in the world on your computer what would you do? And this is what it's really about."

If you haven't heard of Warmonger yet, it's a true 3D space where you have the ability to blow through walls, floors, any barrier there is. Hiding behind a wall hoping that your opponent doesn't find you and blow you away is a thing of the past. With the AGEIA PhysX engine in place, the environment is totally destructible.

The conversation meandered toward Auto Assault. It's still chugging along. The team is now looking at different business models to find what is going to suit it best. They're also planning expansions and improvements on the game. It's a much smaller team, but they're always working on what's coming next. There were a lot of features that they weren't able to get into launch like the Auction House. They're able to include these features now after launch and they're always looking for ways to improve the user experience. It's now easier to get started and easier to play.

I steered the conversation toward Scott. I wanted to know more about this unassuming CEO. So what is he playing right now?

"Right now the MMO that I'm playing is Lord of the Rings and I've also gotten into Viva Piñata. I play Club Penguin a lot with my kids."

"It's research right?" I injected.

"Yeah that's it… research" He replies with a smile. "I also just finished CnC and I loved that. So yeah I play games every chance I can."

I wanted to know who Scott aspired to be. These guys go to conferences and learn from each other. Who did he look at and want to be when he "grew up"?

Without hesitation he responded; "Richard Garriott."

"Really? You want to be Richard Garriott?" I asked. "Why besides the obvious reasons?"

"Every time I've ever met him or we've worked together he's always been pleasant and approachable. The fact is that I just love his games. There are a lot of designers whose games I grew up playing and then you meet them and its sort of a let down. There's a lot of ego in our industry and Richard is really good at managing that. Not just shutting people down. He's such a cool guy; I'm a big fan."

Speaking of growing up playing different games, we talked about the fact that he's wanted to make games for as long as he can remember. He tells me a story about being in the fourth grade and getting the first Apples at their school and they would play Lemonade Stand while learning basic. That was it. He knew what he wanted to do from there.

"I just really want to make games." He says emphatically. You can feel the passion for the work exuding from him as he talks about his games, about his fears of ending up working for IBM. He really loves what he does and well…. He just wants to make games.

So from the Jumpgate server duct taped together and sitting on a plank on Ryan Seabury's laundry room sink to making the LEGO MMO NetDevil has come quite a long way. These guys are obviously really busy right now. Auto Assault is still up and going. They are still developing Jumpgate and now these two new titles are on the plate. Since I was last at their office a year ago, they've incorporated twenty more people into the staff. They are packed! They've got a new building and they're ready to move onward.

You can expect to see both high end IPs and complete unknown original games from NetDevil. When looking back you will probably see a comparison to Mythic in the fact that they'll make games that appeal to mainstream and then make the games that they really want to put out. In the meantime, check out Warmonger, Jumpgate and Auto Assault.

 
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