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Interview With Bing Gordon (EA) 87

Posted by Hemos
from the talking-with-the-man dept.
djedery writes "I interviewed Bing Gordon (Chief Creative Officer of EA) via email. We discussed game design in academia, outsourcing, game scheduling / budgeting, games for India / China, getting along with marketing, and risks." Decent interview; could be longer but the line about reverse engineering the Genesis is an interesting one, especially considering that some of the current legislative attempts would make that illegal.
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Interview With Bing Gordon (EA)

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  • by dushkin (965522) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:01AM (#15605224) Homepage
    Games, as they are now, are generally horrible. It's a lot like Hollywood nowadays, not just because of movie frenchise games, but also because it costs millions of dollars to just make a game, and then nobody wants to take their chances on a game that is less likely to sell (i.e. isn't really mainstream) so they release pretty much ONLY first person shooters.

    yawn@games & lol@interweb
    • I think that is where quick thinking smaller developers come in. Sometimes they might generate enough interest that the bigger developers will follow. Other times you still have playable games from obscure companies.
      • > I think that is where quick thinking smaller developers come in.

        Yeah, they can write really terrible games that you'd need a bloody film tie in to sell - hence the number of small companies bought up by large companies...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I would personally argue that games have been getting better and better in quality but their originality has been greatly hurt by the cost of development; on top of that the focus on a handful of genres has taken several genres (FPS) about as far as we can with current technological constraints, and it will take dramatically more power (100-1,000 times as much processing power) to really take a great leap forward.

      Consider Free-Radical's Second Sight (a paranormal 3rd person action adventure); if the game wa
      • It's the same trap that Hollywood movies have fallen into. The production values are very high now. Lots of eye candy and polished artwork. However the huge budgets mean that studios have to play it safe. That means lots of sequels and licensed franchises. No originality.
      • Well he states right in the interview what's wrong with EA games (in addition to the genre safety play you mentioned): "The trick to finishing any creative project on schedule is to ship whatever is done by a given date. This is what advertising agencies usually do with the commercials they create. Of course, no one remembers that it was on time after it fails miserably." He'd have a point if commercials crashed or exhibited other show-stopping bugs and continued to be pushed out on deadline whether they w
    • by DrSkwid (118965) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:20AM (#15605354) Homepage Journal
      Have you played Geometry Wars on the 360 ?

      Your opinion is just so generally wrong =)

      Perhaps there are only FPS games WHERE YOU LOOK.

      This lot are even free :

      http://www.megagames.com/news/html/freegames/freeg ames.shtml [megagames.com]
      • Have you played Geometry Wars on the 360 ?

        It simply cannot compare to... Hexen...HD. Seriously, that game rocked.

        My bet is that an old school 2D game will arise out of the ashes of the industry and bring the genre back where it so richly deserves to be.....on a TV screen. RPG's too. There's good eaten in an RPG. Just look at Oblivion, and that's an american RPG!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The real problem is the gamers today. Games have become main stream, and most people are idiots. Most people buy only what they're familiar with, so game companies manufactor the same crap over and over and over again because people will just keep buying it.

      One of the most original console games recently was Katamari Damancy, and it still didn't sell as well as Final Fantasy 12, "It Plays the Game For You". That's just sad - more people are willing to buy Version 12 of the same game, but not something tr
    • I mostly agree, there are a few diamonds in the rough though. Back in 98 there was Ocarina of Time for the N64. That was in my opinion THE game, the game all other games would be compared to, what other games strived to equal but failed. Until 2006 when Oblivion came out, now its THE game, the new Zelda.

      My point is not that Zelda/Oblivion are awesome and everything else sucks, hear me out. My point is there are 8 years between these two filled with nothing but mediocre, play through once and pawn them
      • The thing about gaming is that it isn't just for geeks anymore. Madden and NCAA games come out because they sell very well. Folks that are into football, basketball or other major sports like to play with better rosters, more control, etc. The guys who play Madden might be wondering what the big deal is about Oblivion - after all it is the fourth TES game.

    • and then nobody wants to take their chances on a game that is less likely to sell (i.e. isn't really mainstream) so they release pretty much ONLY first person shooters.

      I agree. Also Please invest in my startup: EggsByMail.com

      Oh wait, it is not 1998 anymore. From where I am sitting games nowadays are sports games, MMOs (or other similar, open-ended games like GTA, Tony Hawk), and 1st person shooters is probably last on the lather rinse repeat cycle nowadays (but not absent from the list).

      I agree th
    • Try looking at the NintendoDS. Lots of innovative games there, especially ones that use the stylus/touch screen.

      It's a fairly low-cost platform to develop for; much lower than one of the SUPER 3D OMG consoles. As result you do see more wacky games and risks taken, especially if you don't mind importing some of the wackier DS games from Japan.

      (DS carts aren't region-locked; you can pop any DS game into any DS regardless of country of origin...)
      • I pretty much agree. The DS is a pretty good platform, but then again it's Nintendo, and Nintendo tends to focus on gameplay (perhaps the only company that really does), and much less on bling-bling effects.

        Moon-buggy is an awesome game by the way.
    • "Games, as they are now, are generally horrible. It's a lot like Hollywood nowadays, not just because of movie frenchise games, but also because it costs millions of dollars to just make a game, and then nobody wants to take their chances on a game that is less likely to sell (i.e. isn't really mainstream) so they release pretty much ONLY first person shooters."

      I sometimes wish I had a time machine. I'd love to pop back about 15 years and take a look at both Hollywood and the video game market and see if t
      • Oh, you don't need a time machine for that. I can't speak for Hollywood but with games you can take any of the old ones, even the classics, compare them to modern games and in most cases you'll notice just how far we've come. Not just in terms of graphics and such but gameplay ideas have matured, new ones were invented, games these days just play a whole lot better than they did back then.

        Would Adventure of Link have been remembered as the worst non-CDi Zelda if it had implemented a better save and restart
      • As someone who grew up in the 80s, all I can pretty much say is this: the best thing that ever happened was that they ended. Born in Poland, growing up in America, I went through martial law, reganomics, the horrible music/fashion/movies of that time. Even cartoons were crap - the 80s WB and HB cartoons were awful, just look at Tom and Jerry... appaling.

        As far as movies go, we can use IMDB to look back. At the 1982 Oscars (celebrating the movies of 1981) we see: best movie - Chariots of Fire [imdb.com]. When's the las
    • Play some multiplayer games. Then you're playing against/with people, not against the work of coding teams. The dynamics of teamwork and communication are much more fun than save/attempt puzzle/reload/attempt puzzle/etc. Start a guild, start some beef, take over some digital territory, blow up someone's ship in EVE, i find all these things infinitely more fun than playing single-client games.
    • ### Games, as they are now, are generally horrible.

      Well, no. There are games that are horrible, but there is a easy solution: Don't play or buy the horrible ones. Psychonauts, Fahrenheit, Dreamfall, Advent Rising, Geometry Wars, Katamari Damacy, Shadow of the Collosus, NewSuperMarioBros, etc., there are plenty of very good or even great games around that aren't yet another first person shooter or FIFA, there is even a new Sensibble Soccer around if you want a different kind of soccer. The core problem is mo
  • He invented the machine that goes "BING!", right?
  • by andrewman327 (635952) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:05AM (#15605246) Homepage Journal
    "The best grads will have 'published' at least one project to public acclaim, such as 10,000+ downloads..."


    10,000? So one link on /. can make a person one of the "best grads."


    Overall a great interview. I like where it talks about the need for business acumen in software development. It seems that there are certainly developers who are missing this.

  • by FatSean (18753) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:10AM (#15605286) Homepage Journal
    If the DMCA had been arround in the early 1980's...would IBM still hold a monopoly on the PC BIOS? Think of all we would have missed out on. Apple probably would have folded up for lack of users if the Mac clones industry didn't happen...although they'd like you to forget that
    • My gut reaction was, since EA had one of the first copy-protection schemes to require specialised software to break it -- remember "Art's Backup" in Di-Sector, fellow Commies? -- and since such software had to be coded by reverse-engineering the protection, they pretty well have to be aware of reverse engineering nowadays!

    • If the DMCA had been arround in the early 1980's...would IBM still hold a monopoly on the PC BIOS? Think of all we would have missed out on. Apple probably would have folded up for lack of users if the Mac clones industry didn't happen...although they'd like you to forget that

      People bought clones instead of Apple hardware, not in addition to it. Clones didn't help Apple.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        what good is a computer without software? the clones increased the user base, allowing for more companies to enter into the software market for apple. Remember apple being the king of "desktop publishing"? Did it get there by hardware alone?
        • I'm sorry, but you're misremembering the whole clone brouhaha. It was intended for the clone manufacturers to expand the base of Mac system owners, but in reality their sales came solely from existing Mac OS owners. Since Apple made almost all of its revenue through hardware sales, it was disastrous financially for Apple. Umax and Power Computing were selling to mid-level clients for a marginally better price than the equivalent Power Mac 8600. If you bought a clone, you were already in the market for a Mac
      • Not to mention that the clones were licensees of the MacOS and Apple hardware. Even had the DMCA existed, there wouldn't have been any violations to speak of.
    • I'm not sure. which part of the DMCA would clean room reverse engineering the PC BIOS violate? It's not part of a copy protection system after all.
  • my question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:14AM (#15605311)
    Chief Creative Officer, huh? I guess my question is exactly how much "creativity" is involved with incrementing a number with each new game release?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Tons. I, for example, work for a major game company that I can't mention, in the position of CCO.

      Do you know how hard I worked to come up with the idea of switching from Arabic to Roman numerals for the continuation of our flagship franchise?

      Hrmph, I thought not.
    • The creativity stems from figuring out which game developer they feel like purchasing, bleeding dry then discarding next like the financial vampires they are.
    • Well his parents must've been pretty creative to name him after a Batman sound-effect.

      I wonder if his older brother is called "Flash"...
  • What are your thoughts on the MMOG market? Do you agree with Brian Farrell's recent assertion that there's only room for one big MMOG at any given time? (I.e. World of Warcraft as of now.) **Note to reader: interview took place prior to the announcement of the Mythic acquisition. Nope. I think that "virtual worlding" will soon be a rite of passage for all teenagers with access to the internet. Does this mean that Warhammer Online will not be canceled?
  • Funny guy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerteNO@SPAMdrunksnipers.com> on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:19AM (#15605350) Homepage
    The trick to finishing any creative project on schedule is to ship whatever is done by a given date. This is what advertising agencies usually do with the commercials they create. Of course, no one remembers that it was on time after it fails miserably.
    And ofcourse all your customers are happy with half completed games.

    We reverse-engineered the electronics in a "clean room" environment, because Sega wouldn't give us licensee terms that we could live with.
    And yet they set up terms others can't live with. Haven't they learned anything?!.

    I think our industry's greatest challenge is to transition from technology-based to creativity-based experiences. In other words, we should all become like Miyamoto! Easier said than done.
    Uhm.. EA doesn't really have a track record for both technology-based or creativity-based experiences. I think they'll have a long road ahead of them.
    Oh and ofcourse publishers should grant the creators of creativity-based experiences some slack, otherwise it won't work ofcourse. how does this go along with "it compiles, ship it" mentality from the first citation?
    • Grrr... no <q> tag
      • You know, there is a Preview button. Perhaps you should get in the habit of clicking it before you click the Submit button. Then you would know there is no <q> tag (also, since when has there ever been a <q> tag in html?) and would realize that you should use the <i>, <em>, or <blockquote> tag, or even a combination of them. How novel.
        • also, since when has there ever been a tag in html?

          At least since 1998, when HTML 4.0 was released? It's still in XHTML 1.0.

          • I stand corrected. However, the <q> tag simply renders quotation marks before and after the enclosed text ( http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/text.html# h-9.2.2 [w3.org]), and is therefore more or less useless, unless you're using it for proper quotation of another language (still not sure if it's really even useful then, as some browsers probably won't handle that properly). If someone else can point out its usefulness, by all means, do so. I'd like to know.
            • However, the <q> tag simply renders quotation marks before and after the enclosed text (http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/text.html # h-9.2.2), and is therefore more or less useless, unless you're using it for proper quotation of another language (still not sure if it's really even useful then, as some browsers probably won't handle that properly). If someone else can point out its usefulness, by all means, do so. I'd like to know.

              Not useless if you intend to include the quotation inside an el

    • >>Oh and ofcourse publishers should grant the creators of creativity-based experiences some slack, otherwise it won't work ofcourse. how does this go along with "it compiles, ship it" mentality from the first citation? I believe his point was that shipping on time is trivial - you just shove it out the door on the due date - but does not result in good games. In essence he didn't answer the question. His response is acknowledging that it's hard to ship good games on time, but he doesn't say whether
  • The more rabid supporters of the DMCA are the primary reason why the more moderate supporters of "liberal, but strong" IP laws (more law enforcement, less preemptive legislation) get drowned out. When they get called out on issues like the BIOS, they almost never respond. "La dee fucking da" and all that jazz. IP law sometimes doesn't work. Sometimes the market is actually expanded by the rabid competition that weak IP law can create. Necessity is the mother of all invention and there is actually a point wh
  • Genesis (Score:2, Informative)

    by Threni (635302)
    ---
    EA's biggest risk was preparing to launch a lineup of games for the Sega Genesis without a license. We reverse-engineered the electronics in a "clean room" environment, because Sega wouldn't give us licensee terms that we could live with. If this had not worked, and the games hadn't sold, (Sega agreed to license terms the evening before our public introduction of games), EA would probably have gone the way of early computer game leaders like Broderbund and Sierra. It was truly a "bet the company" decisio
    • Wait, does this explain why both those companies used those funny-shaped cartridges?
    • EA would probably have gone the way of early computer game leaders like Broderbund and Sierra

      The funny thing is, EA ate and shat out one of those two companies and they now own a stake in the other one (Broderbund was bought by Ubisoft, which EA now owns 19.99% a stake in). EA going the way of sierra is like saying "EA died and bought themselves out".
  • by saboola (655522) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:44AM (#15605501)
    I read Interview with Bing! 2006 and Interview with Bing! 2007 seems to be just a rehashing of the same ideas as the prior just with updated information. Ever since EA has gotten exclusivity to the Interview with Bing! license the whole series has gone down hill.
  • What a challenge! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Miguelzinho (840643) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:57AM (#15605590)
    Our industry's biggest business challenge is to figure out how to convince consumers to pay "fair value" for the increased quality we are delivering. We need to monetize our "excess hours" of satisfied play. Our best games are unbelievably cheap on a per hour basis, compared to, say $1.00 per hour for paperback books, and $5-10 an hour for movies and DVD's.

    Translating: Our industry's biggest business challenge is to figure out how to rise our prices, so getting exclusive use of trademarks like NBA, FIFA, NFL, NHL makes us the only one, and we can put the price we want. We will buy more and more small and good game studios to! Well, if you want a game, you will need to buy from us, this is our industry's biggest business challenge.
  • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Monday June 26, 2006 @11:12AM (#15605691)
    Our industry's biggest business challenge is to figure out how to convince consumers to pay "fair value" for the increased quality we are delivering. We need to monetize our "excess hours" of satisfied play. Our best games are unbelievably cheap on a per hour basis, compared to, say $1.00 per hour for paperback books, and $5-10 an hour for movies and DVD's.

    Die in a fire you ass! Fine, as soon as gaming PCs/consoles are as cheap as the equipment needed to read a book you use that as a valid comparison. And as far as "excess hours", cut-n-paste level grinding and mindless drudgery does NOT count per-hour the same as watching a movie. Fucktard. I think we found one of the reasons EA sucks so hard.
    • Our best games are unbelievably cheap on a per hour basis, compared to, say $1.00 per hour for paperback books, and $5-10 an hour for movies and DVD's.

      Your average game seems to take about 15-30 hours to complete. Let's call it 30, to be charitable. They cost about fifty bucks MSRP. That's $1.60 an hour.

      I can read your average novel in about six hours - and I mean read it, not skim, and a book I've never read before, to boot. A paperback is eight bucks today. That's $1.33 an hour. I admit though, I'm

      • You missed the point that the parent made - you can't just buy a videogame and play it. For a computer game, you need an appropriate computer, monitor, keyboard, speakers/headphones, and so on. For a console game, you need the console, controller, memory card, and monitor/television.

        For a novel, you just need the book itself. And a light - I hear the sun works nicely.
        • You missed the point that the parent made - you can't just buy a videogame and play it. For a computer game, you need an appropriate computer, monitor, keyboard, speakers/headphones, and so on. For a console game, you need the console, controller, memory card, and monitor/television.

          This is a salient point when it comes to console games, since [today] game consoles [out of the box] only play games. Well, a couple of them are DVD players, too. Whoop de doo. Oh, and I guess Xbox360 has MCE now? Which only

  • ...its not a name its a sound effect!
  • was it just me that read that as bling gordon? like flash gordon only with 50% more whores
  • by game (62990)
    Another proof that a single well picked buzzword like "cross-functional" can win you the game any time. I must have lost contact with mainstream or this one just is picking up steam, though.
  • There is something deeply suspect about a company that has movers and shakers named "Bing" and "Trip."
  • The trick to finishing any creative project on schedule is to ship whatever is done by a given date.

    Thus providing a boatload of overpriced, hype marketed, half-done crap to your consumers, forcing large patch downloads, huge amounts of frustration and company image degradation. This really lets customers know how much you value them.

    It is because of numbskull thinking such as this that I admire Blizzard above all other game developers. Their philosophy: "We'll ship it when it's done."

    Damn straight.

    T

    • Careful there... I can think of at least one other company that has that philosophy. It's taken a decade, and Duke Nukem Forever still isn't "done." ;)
  • I heard this guy speak at a conference. I was amazingly underwhelmed. He visibly seemed to have no interest in being there, and did not prepare. It was like having a discussion with a troubled teenager about the importance of compound interest and dividends for their 401k.

    I felt he was a total jackass, and I know several people who work (worked) for EA (go EA Tiburon) and there's a lot of bad things to say about EA. This guy's demeanor and appearance backed it up. He somewhat reminded me of the stereotype o
  • The trick to finishing any creative project on schedule is to ship whatever is done by a given date.

    Funny how he forgot to mention exploitation of labor as one of their "tricks." Not too terribly long ago, you could almost compare them to any sweatshop in China and find parallels. How'd that class-action a couple years back work out for ya, EA?

    I admit, I don't know if the situation's improved for EA programmers since the lawsuit was settled. This is pure speculation on my part, but given their corpor

    • (This is ea_spouse.) The situation has improved, but not because of Bing. It can be attributed to a few things -- a lot of people, even at EALA, are praising Neil Young for it and he certainly has had his part -- but through a series of, cough, recent events, I have been hearing that things are much, much better at the Los Angeles studio at least. Tremors of Bad Things still persistently emanate from EA Tiberon. Not to so overtly plug, but there are some stories over at Gamewatch.org even pretty recently.

      My
  • Our best games are unbelievably cheap on a per hour basis, compared to, say $1.00 per hour for paperback books, and $5-10 an hour for movies and DVD's. ...Because they pad their games with mind numbing chores. Half life episode 1 has a $5.00/1hour ratio. That's on par with a Movie. I would much rather play less of a better game than visa versa; it's a waste of time otherwise.

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