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Braben: "It would be mad for us not to work on Elite IV"

Fri 18 Sep 2009 3:24pm GMT / 11:24am EDT / 8:24am PDT
Development

But the game won't come out until happy it's going to be "that different thing", says veteran designer

David Braben has spoken out about development of Elite IV saying that expectations are huge for the title, but it won't come out until he's "happy that it's going to be that different thing".

When quizzed about the title at this week's GamesIndustry.biz organised BAFTA event A Life in Videogames, Braben admitted "it would be mad for us not to work on it".

However, he added that the game wouldn't come out until he was happy it was going to be a "different" type of experience. Earlier in the session he spoke about how important is was for developers to take chances with new types of games, pointing to mould-breaking titles such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims as examples that such risks can pay off.

Frontier is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the original Elite, released for the BBC Micro. In conjunction, a series of events are planned, including a Twitter and forum Q&A session detailed on the game's official site.

As well as discussing the iPhone, and why he believes some developers are abusing the opportunities the format offers them, Braben went on to elaborate on how he sees the videogame medium in comparison to films, TV and other creative industries today.

In many ways, he said, "we're seen as the pipsqueak - we're the poor relation". While videogames have gained a lot of acceptance, there are still groups of people - and sometimes influential ones such as MPs - that have very little experience of the format.

"We're still quite an amateurish industry," he said, adding that this is a good thing as the industry is working very hard to do things better.

"But it's changing so rapidly I think we're a moving target. We've had the recent launch of GTA 4, which by some metrics is the biggest entertainment event of all time, so in a financial sense we've arrived."

Games though are still treated by some as products to sneer at - much as commercially successful films often aren't considered as valid as more artistic offerings, Braben said.

"Games are still in that mindset. We really need to start creating games that appeal across that wider audience. The very fact that we're at BAFTA is a fantastic sign. To say we're arrived clearly isn't true, but we're arriving.

"All games really are is an interactive medium. We're watching our visual entertainment through the same device - you watch films using the Blu-ray player on your PS3, or streamed through your Xbox 360. There's the deal Microsoft has announced with Sky. It's a convergence of the media," he continued.

"All the games are doing is showing an interactive part to it, whether that interactive part is quite small or quite large. Some games recently have had very long cutscenes - I'm thinking of the latest Metal Gear - which is great, that's fine. It's a creative use of a medium, there's no harm in it.

"Some films have experimented with pressing a button to determine which ending you get. It's not a game, but it's interactive," he said.

"As we move forward we're producing things which aren't necessarily games, that are getting us wider appeal. A lot of the games on Wii are as much toys as they are games. Rollercoaster Tycoon probably isn't a game, it's a toy, given the way that most people play it. The same with The Sims. People spend all of their time creating wonderful parks and rollercoasters - they're not doing it as a challenge other than their own creative ability.

"They're not doing it to achieve a score or to beat someone else like in the dictionary definition of games. They're doing it because they love the process of doing it. It's a bit like someone gardening to make a beautiful garden," he concluded.

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