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Pixar's Andrew Dayton

The leading studio's tech director looks at the similarities between games and films

Among some of the interesting speakers delivering talks at next week's Develop Conference in Brighton is Andrew Dayton, technical director at Pixar.

Here, he talks about the similarities between the worlds of games and animation movies, the challenges of story and technology, and why he feels that Pixar and Blizzard are two companies cast from the same mould. First of all, how do you view the videogames space, through the eyes of somebody working for a company like Pixar?
Andrew Dayton

I honestly see, as the years progress, games are becoming very close to film in the sense that the cost of some of these big games surpass how much a film costs - and also the technology being used... there are times when we, in the film industry, look at some of the techniques that the games industry is using to see if we can utilise it for our processes.

But personally I see a lot of these games becoming epic franchises that are as big, if not larger, than some of the film franchises. You ask many people if they know Shrek or Toy Story, and they will. But at the same time you ask a lot of kids or younger adults if they know World of Warcraft, or Diablo... and they're just as popular.

Typologically-speaking I think we all pretty much swim in the same pool, but we all have different specialities. For film our thing is that we have to get super-detailed, hi-res final renders; on the games side it's the same sort of desire, but they're having to do it on the fly, to create them in real-time.

I think that's where the convergence is between the two worlds, but everything is pretty much analogous - you have to have a good story, a good art department, good artists that are executing these things.

Because the competition is stiff in both worlds - for Pixar, we have tonnes of competition, from all the different studios. Everyone is trying to out-do each other, and it's the same thing with games - each game company has to come up with the latest, greatest game with bells and whistles... on top of having a great story. You mention story there - that's one of the things that many people would point to as needing to evolve, as creators attempt to embed a wider range of emotions into games.
Andrew Dayton

Absolutely - there will always be a special place in my heart for the first-person shooters where you just go in there and blow other people up. But as I've gotten older I've started to gravitate towards games that are more story-heavy.

Some of the companies that I have a lot of respect for are companies like Bioware - you play Mass Effect or Dragon Age, and those are games that are completely immersive. With a movie you're walking away from a two-hour experience at most - with these games you're walking away with 60-100 hours of immersive gameplay.

I actually think it's harder for game companies - on top of a great story, you have to make it immersive and you have to make it seem like you're not on rails, that you're not just playing the game and following a linear progression - like a film.

You have to have choices, and I think that complexity is where games succeed or fail.

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