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Thursday, July 08, 2004

THE SECOND LIFE OF HARVEY SMITH, PART IV

... continued from yesterday.

Harvey on Second Life, and Harvey on Harvey...

Hamlet Linden: Let's discuss the potential as a game development medium for a MUSH like Second Life. What do you see as SL's strengths, in that regard? And what about its possible shortcomings?

Harvey Smith: The best thing here is the community and the creative empowerment. If this were my environment, I would lobby for a much smoother interface and a better physics model. But otherwise I love this place. Very innovative and cool.

HL: So how was your experience as a developer, judging the entries in the game competition?

HS: It was totally fun... I loved getting tours. People [put] so much work into it, and each one was full of cool ideas. Each time I would look at one, I'd think, "this one deserves to win", then I'd see another one that had some other cool aspect.

And I kept coming back to the board game Deus Via, trying to master it, having fun playing it. The Demolition Derby had TONS of effort put into it, the Mah Jong was super cool in multiplayer mode, and Mysterious Journey had the most unique flavor. So, hey, tough decisions...

I have a couple of thoughts about the future, of course... I think something like SL on something like the Gameboy will eventually be the biggest game in the world.

HL: Why so?

HS: Well, if you could put your computer on [a] console in your pocket, why wouldn't you? Portable is better. Imagine a sleek, ergonomic device... sexy to even look at, much less touch. Just fun to hold, like the IPod. Sometimes I just stroke my IPod... MY PRECIOUS.

OK, not that bad.

But anyway, if I could have the exact same great game experience either on a couch, holding a controller, at a PC desk or "wherever" with a cool hand held, i'd go with the latter. And Second Life is just more in line with human existence than most "trolls and rocket launchers" games... in MMO environments, you [can] have it all.

HL: Finally, let's talk about what you're doing now, game-wise, and what you hope to do in games.

HS: After a decade, I want to guide my own studio. Increasingly, I am into team culture and creative direction. So, along with some really talented allies, I am going to start a game studio in Austin, Texas. I am moving into the final stages of discussion with a couple of potential publishing partners. The games I want to work on will, as always, feature rich ecologies and lots of tools that support player improvisation.

And of course, I believe in the power of narrative. I still get this fascination from exploration. "An announcement" might be months off. I'm prepared to slog through all of the talks, and to crash and burn if necessary. There are no guarantees.

But it's going really well. I've written three 20 page creative pitches, all of which I love. Well, I want to work on original IP... it's what my team specializes in. That and we want to use middleware.

HL: So what kind of themes, artistically, are you dying to express in the games you totally control from concept on up?

HS: Well, games are always a consensual artistic business effort. (God, what a mouthful.) But I am into ecologies that allow for emergence as a key feature, plus I like exploring gloomy, exotic locations. I like self expression, as a player, more than just about anything.

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