At last week's Nordic Game event in Malmo, Sweden, Capcom's business development director Adam Boyes took part in a panel discussing the art of pitching a game to publishers. In part one of this exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, he continues where he left off, offering advice to developers and revealing what exactly Capcom looks for from third-party development teams.
There's some really talented groups in this part of the world. We're enamoured with it, it's kind of uncanny. Avalanche, Starbreeze, Grin, DICE, IO Interactive, Massive, they're all doing some really cool stuff. I'm from Vancouver and we have 70 plus developers doing great stuff but not on a par with these guys. Especially with their own technology too. These guys are either confident in their abilities or crazy to all have their own engines. They're confident and they want to play by their own rules, I like that.
For me it's really about helping, helping the community and helping the developer. There needs to be more honesty in this industry, there's always this secrecy where the publisher is a big castle on the hill and the drawbridge opens for a little developer to walk in and get eaten up.
The best pitchers are usually not the guys that are making the game. They're usually the producer or the designer and they are not always the most charismatic people. If the best person to pitch that game is the junior animator or the janitor, then go for it. We're in a weird situation – if you look at the movie industry how much time do you get to pitch a movie idea with a director? You have about ten minutes to pitch a USD 100 million project. With games you can get an hour which is much longer, but you need to be concise with your vision.
You need to be smart about what you bring top the table. I call it publisher porn. Basically cool movies and fancy stuff that will help sell your idea. But also being very passionate about what your idea is and standing behind it. When the publisher starts poking and prodding your ideas make sure you have a point of view. I like it when developers push back and be assertive. Don't bow down and say "yes master, whatever you want." Look to all the big guys out there – BioWare, Insomniac, all these huge developers – they didn't get there by doing any old project that came their way. They chose their battles, they chose their projects and they stuck with them. Sometimes that attitude might put you out of business, but if you whore yourself you'll get buried.
We're the most successful publisher for launching new IP and taking chances with things that are outside of the box. Look at Okami, Viewtiful Joe, Zak & Wiki. A lot of what we do is kind of reinventing genres. We're doing it right now in the downloadable space with Plunder and another game we're going to be announcing shortly at Leipzig which is going back to the basics. So what we're looking for is not the typical stuff.
We're usually not looking for contemporary urban settings or World War II fighting games. If one of those comes along we might consider it but we're all about mechanics as a company. Really great, solid game design and fantastic mechanics, which I believe is the Japanese way. Even with Dark Void, the game we're doing with Crimson Skies' team Airtight Studios, the mechanics were so essential to nail down. And Bionic Commando too – get the mechanics down and then build the world. If developers come along and talk about how it's got a gun from this game and a element from that other game – it's not different. It needs to have elements that have that X-plus-one factor. It's needs to blow people away especially as it has Capcom's name behind it. That's a big deal.
You can teach technology or you can licence it, but you can't teach design. It's the same with production skills – production is one of the weakest areas in our industry. Both developers and publishers need really great production skills. We have partners that can always help so if a developer comes with a great idea and great mechanic we can always help in other areas. We worked with Certain Affinity who spun off from Bungie and those guys did all the online design for Halo so we can talk with them about consulting with online feature sets. When it comes to tech we licensed Unreal for Dark Void but then we've also got proprietary engines for a lot of stuff out of Japan. As the publisher we can worry about that, the developer can concentrate on the core ideas and mechanics behind the game.
Adam Boyes is business development director for Capcom USA. Interview by Matt Martin.