--Jasmine Spearing, Marketing Associate
Please tell us a little about your background and some of the games that you helped create in the past.
I’ve been kicking around in the industry for about 19 years, I started off as a magazine editor for games. I launched several publications, including PC Gamer magazine, Next Generation magazine, Gamespot, Video Game Spot, and I launched what eventually became G4’s Extended Play. Then I went over to launch IGN PC.
After that I went into the development side, first in communications working for a company called Microforte in Australia. Then directly into development as a senior producer for a company called Digital Eclipse.
Later I served as the Creative Director for Backbone Entertainment and kind of went from there. I spent 6 years as a Creative Director for Digital Eclipse and Backbone, then moved to Ubisoft, after that.
Finally ended up at EA and was only there for about a year before I came here to Avatar Reality. Through the years, I’ve worked on a lot of games for just about every single platform.
What is it that you are doing here? What’s your job and what are you working on?
I’m working on a little bit of everything all the time, basically trying to make things better for the user. I work very closely with Glenn, and as users get frustrated about things or think of great new ideas, I’m kind of quietly in the background trying to prioritize what we’re working on and respond to user problems while at the same time pushing us towards our goals of being a great place for users to come and engage in game play.
Right now we’re still pushing towards our goals of fidelity and massive numbers of players being able to be in one place without breaking the system. I also focus on usability. These steps have to be taken one at a time. That’s what I spend a lot of my time working on: things like movement and interface.
But lately we’ve been working to roll out the system capabilities to provide gameplay elements that developers can put into their cities.
What is your vision for Blue Mars in general, and for games?
Right now Blue Mars is, for me, an incredible place to walk around and see things, but it’s still relatively empty. It’s still not a great place to go and do lots of things yet.
The really the big thing for me is the unbelievable creativity that I see in the developers right now and their ability to establish visual presences and visual worlds. I want to take that creativity and I want them to be able to apply it to build interactive situations. In short, building their own games, and sort of the definition a game is really loose and I don’t want to define that. I want developers to be able to make their own definition.
So it’s basically establishing interactivity in a way that a developer can build whatever they want to, whether that interactivity is simply people being able to work together towards a project or whether it is a full-on game as we’ve come to know them through classic box games.
I want them to be able to do it all. But we’ve got to start small and we’ve got to make sure that devs are able to understand what it is. We can’t just dump in a ton of features that no one knows how to use.
So we want to start with dynamic objects and we want to start with intelligent bots and other things that allow devs to put things in their experience that their visitors can interact with and can trigger other events and other messages and basically create the gaming experience, however they visualize it.
What games are we working on that will be available soon, and do you have a timeline?
Very, very soon we will be releasing some basic game objects into the world that seem simple on their face, but are really important to us and our developers.
When I came here there were already games available, and from those examples, developers can see how those games like the golf game are made. But they are really highly complex structures, they are not the kind of thing that you can go in and use those in your own world to easily build something entertaining.
So, I’m working a team inside Avatar to go completely the opposite route. We are creating unbelievably simple games objects that allow you to interact with them over a long period of time, by a single user, by multiple users. Then we will put these in the SDK and show developers how they work so that developers can use their creativity and artistic ability to apply those objects in a wide variety of different situations.
And our goal now is to keep slowly introducing new game objects in a way that developers can see exactly what we did and then find a multitude of uses for those objects. That’s really how we see rolling it out, and letting them build games from that.
What kinds of things need to be finished before we could have a first-person shooter game like Crysis? People talk about that a lot. What do we need to do to make that possible?
For me, I don’t see our platform as a place for first-person shooters. Straight out, I think that’s not what Blue Mars is about, so that’s not a goal that I’m aiming for, even long term. I’m more interested in a more traditional massively multiplayer experience.
Our system is really, really good at bringing a lot of people together, but the kind of update rate that is necessary for a first person shooter is just not something that is going to happen overnight.
What’s more important to me in the short to medium term, is to make sure that users are able to find interesting things to do together and find interesting things to do on their own, but not to have them running around and detecting whether or not something happens within a millisecond (as you have to do with a FPS).
Whether something happens within a second is more interesting and more feasible, there are a billion things that can be done for games within that. Trying to shave it down to the millisecond to open up first person shooters, that’s not important to me.
Are any developers creating games for Blue Mars right now? I’ve heard rumours of maybe a race car game. Have you heard about developers working on games to bring in?
I’m not trying to be unhelpful there, but every developer who talks to me and asks me for help and that I interact with, that game is their baby. It’s something that is important to them and they want to roll it out in their own time.
I want people to be comfortable to come to me and talk to me and get help from me. I’m always available for those sort of things and I want them to know that I’m not going to talk about their game with anybody else. As part of this, I really hope that more people feel comfortable coming to me and asking me for advice on what’s the best way to get this game rolled out, how can you help me do this., I won’t have talk to anybody else about that.
So what’s the most common request you have as far as games go, what do people always ask you for?
Right now, it’s interface. Everybody wants everything done immediately, and man I get that, because I am a hard core gamer. I did not come from a business background. I came from a game reviewer background, and I want it done too. I’m tired of dealing with the issues as well but there are often technical problems that are standing in our way from getting things completed.
There are a lot of things that people want related to the gameplay experience, and I completely get that. But I think a lot of it is just generalized, and a lot of it is going to be up to the developers.
Users just want something to do, and that is a huge demand on our side to make sure that we are putting the tools in the developers’ hands to make that happen. That, to me, says there is a demand for this out here, and we want to make sure the developers are able to satisfy the demands that are out there.
That means developers need the ability to satisfy user demand, and so far we haven’t been able to live up to that. We have to get on that, that’s the big concern right now.
Is there anything else that you’d like people to know about Blue Mars?
Yeah there is a ton, but mostly, that there is a team within Blue Mars that is absolutely dedicated to nothing else but getting gameplay into Blue Mars and that team has been, for the most part, invisible because this is not a quick thing.
There are so many things in Blue Mars that had to be built, and structures that had to be put in place before we could even get to the point where we could talk about simple objects and making those accessible to people. It was much easier to build games, kind of as showcase pieces, than it was to make things available to developers in a simple way so they could build games.
So I want people to know that this is a priority for us, and I was hired solely for the reason that we want developers to be able to build games in this world and improve the user experience. We are working on it, and we’re super excited about it as well. This is my vision for Blue Mars, my personal vision. I can’t wait to see what people are going to do!