An Epic EA Sports Trip

Heading to the Great White North today: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. That is where they make the EA mobile game The Simpson’s Tapped Out. Going to talk to their Dev Director about mobile development. A bit of irony on my McDonald’s bag at the airport this morning. It said I could win an “epic” EA Sports trip. I hope it is. IMAG0140

FIEA Team Presentations 2011

Today I had the pleasure to sit in on the Team Presentations at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA). FIEA is a masters degree program from the University of Central Florida in game development. Several former-EA employees left just over five years now in order to form the school. Each year the students break off into teams and pitch a game project, then build it to what we call at EA a “First Playable Demo”. This is very similar to the Green Light Process we use for games. At the end of the presentation, a few people from the game industry and the faculty go off in a room and decide which games will continue on and get made and which ones will stop there.

First off, I have to say all the games were impressive. The level by which the games were built was great for the six weeks they took building them. The tools and engines that students have now in order to get started is great. I wish they had these types of schools back when I was trying to break into the game industry.

Two of the games, I thought had good presentations and first-playables. For me, they were a shoe in. The other three I thought had good concepts, but their presentation or the execution of their demo, just didn’t get across to me that they were going to be able to make what they wanted to make. I was instructed to treat this as if they were coming to me and wanted money to make the game. Did I have enough confidence that they would end up making money on their concept?

In the end, we chose 3 games to move forward. The two I thought were good and one that I thought wasn’t quite ready, but the other members of the panel thought it was. I had a great time and think it’s a great program that they have down at FIEA. It is really getting the students that “real world” feel to the game industry.

Next Gen?

I participated in the transition from the PS2/Xbox generation of consoles to the PS3/Xbox 360 generation we are in right now. It was a very tough transition for us. We pretty much threw out the old Madden engine and created a new one from scratch. There were some systems that stayed, but the whole art pipeline was completely changed, which included the animation system. The game play for modern 3D games are pretty much animation driven.

It is now 5 years since Xbox 360 debuted and there is no next generation of consoles in sight. However, there has been a lot of movement in mobile gaming. I remember when the nGage came out and everyone laughed. Now it seems they were just a little ahead of its time. The amount of games that are coming to the iPhone is staggering.

Now I’ve read this rumor on Gamespot that Apple might be planning TV-based gaming through their Apple TV product. Could Apple try and force their way into the space that has been pretty much dominated by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft? We’ll see, but it’s an intriguing thought.

Of coarse, our philosophy at EA is to build games for any platform. However, it does make it very difficult when the hardware is vastly different from one another.

Happy New Year

Hope everyone had a save New Years Eve celebration. 2010 is history and here comes 2011. We are busy working on Madden & NCAA at Tiburon. We are most of the way through Production and are about two months away from declaring Alpha on both products. We usually build up and build up and when we get back from holiday break, it’s a big sprint towards the finish line. I equate it to riding a roller-coaster. From August to December, you are clicking up the hill and then once you hit January you are sliding down all the way until ship.

January 2011 also marks my 13th anniversary in the game industry. Back in January 1998, I joined Atomic games. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new tab / drop-down at the top of the page. This is a series of pages that talk about each game that I’ve made over the years. I’ve only completed Close Combat 3 through Section 8, but I will be putting new ones up Madden Ultimate Team and Madden NFL 11 soon. Each page contains and paragraph talking about what I worked on, the text blurb from the back of each box, screen shots, and if there was a PC demo available, there’s a link to it. For me, its always nice to go back and look over the old stuff and reminisce. If you have any question on what it was like to work on any the games I worked on, drop me a line.