Little has been heard of Team Bondi since its dismemberment, but that changed recently when some of the team members resurfaced after opening up their own company, Intuitive Game Studios. Alex Carlyle, the L.A. Noire design lead and AAA industry veteran, teamed up with a few ex-Team Bondi and ex-Kennedy Miller Mitchell (Whore of the Orient) folks to open up his own studio.
As a huge fan of L.A. Noire, I grabbed the opportunity to speak to Alex before he announced his next big project.
Pixel Enemy: Congratulations on setting up your new studio. Going from working on AAA games to opening up your own indie studio must be a whole new experience. What kind of challenges have you encountered thus far?
Alex Carlyle: When starting a new venture, funding can often the biggest hurdle, though there are many other challenges. When working for large studios or with world-class publishers, the tendency is to have a focused role with responsibility in a particular area, for example, I used to lead a design team. As an independent, I have to wear many different hats. Marketing, PR and finance are all areas of the business that used to be the domain of other colleagues, and even whole departments in the past, but are now disciplines I have to be involved in or assume responsibility for.
Along with the challenges comes the opportunity to learn and improve skills that you otherwise wouldn’t, and so I can say with certainty that so far, it has been a great experience.
PE: I recently reported that in 2013 alone, the gaming industry lost more than 3,112 jobs and we’re not even into the third quarter of the year yet. Speaking from your experience with Team Bondi and KMM, would you be able to shed some light on this from an industry professional’s perspective?
AC: That’s a complex issue. We are entering a new console shift, and this can result in first party organizations diverting their efforts and finances to either launching new hardware or new products to showcase in order to take advantage of a shift in the market. When that happens, there is less money being spent on third party development, so you can see a contraction in the industry.
There are other regional factors at play, too. Most recently in Australia, the value of the Dollar has made it expensive to develop games here, which has definitely contributed to the local contraction that we have seen.
It can be easier to resist these pressures when you are very small, and so for the time being Intuitive Game Studios is going to remain small and agile to give ourselves the best chance of surviving.
PE: You’ve spoken about the challenges faced by game studios in Australia before, and that you’d like to see more game studios in the country. Do you think the environment in Australia is friendly enough for budding entrepreneurs or well-established game companies to consider opening offices over there?
AC: Yes, I believe it is. There have been several issues facing potential businesses opening in Australia; the recently high value of the Australian dollar made us uncompetitive in relation to other countries, driving the cost of developing projects up. The industry is also relatively small, making it difficult to source experienced talent. However, there are some great developers here, of which Intuitive is proud to stand alongside. There are also a lot of graduates eager for a chance to prove themselves and the more that business grows, the more people will be tempted to relocate here, or overseas Australians with experience will be tempted to return home, so I believe the outlook is optimistic.
PE: We recently saw some leaked gameplay footage from Whore of the Orient, and I must say that it didn’t impress us, or anyone else for that matter. What state was the game in?
AC: As you say, the footage was ‘leaked.’ I think it was clear from the content that it was not intended for public consumption so it was a shame that someone felt the need to break the non-disclosure agreement and release an incomplete representation of the game. Choosing to ignore confidentially agreements in this manner only harms development teams, projects and the industry.
PE: Rockstar have hinted on numerous occasions that L.A. Noire has the potential of becoming a franchise for them. If invited towork on a sequel with Rockstar, would you take up the opportunity?
AC: I don’t know what the plans of Rockstar are for the future of L.A. Noire.
PE: Now that the roll-out of next-gen consoles and games is only a few months away, and the world has seen both systems and their offerings up-close, a lot of developers have shared their reservations about the new systems. Do you have any?
AC: I’m excited about the future. We have a new company, developing our own original ideas and there is a new slate of machines available to make the most of. The future of game development is bright, and it is certainly the time for independent game devs to shine.
PE: Does Intuitive have any immediate plans to cater to next-gen consoles?
AC: We are certainly looking at all the consoles opportunities, including the new “next-gen” options. We aren’t immediately looking to release anything on either the PS4 or the Xbox One, but I would like to think we will be moving in that direction fairly soon. For us, it would have to be because the game makes sense for the platform. That is our main motivation, so as soon as we have something that we believe suits those platforms, is when we will make that move.
PE: Last but not least, when should we expect to hear about your upcoming projects? As a huge fan of L.A. Noire, I must say that I can’t wait to see what you guys are bringing out. How far are we from seeing anything substantial?
AC: It is still early days for us. There is a lot involved in starting a new company and taking those first steps towards being an independent developer. If all goes according to plan, then we should be making some announcements towards the end of the year.