Harvey Elliot, Head of EA Bright Light
The inescapable buzzword doing its waspy thing at the moment in the games industry is 'casual'. That, if many very people in gaming are to be believed, is where the future is if the industry is to expand.
Right on the front line of that movement is EA's Bright Light studio. It looks after what is probably the franchise with the broadest appeal of recent times - Harry Potter – and is edging closer to the release of Zubo
, a very promising character-based game with rhythm elements that's... you know, for the kids. If Bright Light is to be believed, it may well be for everyone else, too.
I sat down for a chat with Harvey Elliot, head of the Bright Light studio, to discuss two of EA's key properties. Below you'll find part one of that interview, zooming in on Zubo
. Keep your eye on SPOnG for part two, which gets to the cultural behemoth that is Harry Potter
First up, could you just tell us a little bit about your background in the games industry?
Sure! I'm going to work backwards, because it's easier for me to remember. I can just change my age to match!
I've been heading up the EA Bright Light studio for 18 months, and prior to that I was running two of the franchises we had in the UK studios. So, one is Harry Potter
, and the other one is Zubo
– or, it's now known as Zubo
, it's had numerous names over the years. And then prior to that I was... I joined EA about five years ago, five and a half? Six...? Six and a half! No, five and a half, I've gone too far! So, for EA I've published Goblet of Fire
on Harry Potter
, Order of the Phoenix
on Harry Potter
, we're just finishing Monopoly
, obviously, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
is in its end phases from the game development standpoint, and Burnout 3: Takedown
, which is probably the first one I did for EA.
Then, prior to EA I headed up Acclaim's Cheltenham studio, that was when there was an Acclaim, and that was about seven years I was there. And that was all sorts of games, including Extreme G III
, the Crazy Taxi
games - we did the first game for PlayStation 2 and GameCube - and a whole host of other games that I think I've blanked from my memory...
Looking at the studio more broadly for a moment, could you explain the thinking behind the re-branding of the studio to EA Bright Light?
Yeah, it was quite interesting. We used to be the UK studio, the group of people that are here and certainly the group I joined. And, I guess about three years ago, we bought Criterion Games, and obviously they had Burnout
, and I'd worked with them on the Burnout
franchise and we'd just started development of Black
But, it was around February last year, we moved everyone to this building together. So, it was only really at that point we brought Criterion Games and the UK studio into one place, and that became the UK studio. And then we went through the labels restructuring when we divided into the four groups and Criterion's products very much sit in the games side of our business, and the products we were making, or that I was responsible for, which were what is now called Zubo
and the Harry Potter
games, were more on the casual side, so the label split just drifted us gently apart again, and it happened that the things I was working on was the UK studio of old, more or less, and the games products were the Criterion Studio's.
Once the label split happened, we just thought, 'we don't really want to be known as “the UK studio that's not got Criterion in it any more”'... and we figured – a new label, new name. And then we made one up (grins). And then we made up a logo, and then we made lots of other things that look like that logo go around, and then it sticks, and we're all sat sipping tea right now from a Bright Light mug. And that's it, there comes the name!
Names are such an interesting thing. It's funny, Zubo
(had) another name before that, it was called Podo Blip
, (that) was it's working title for a long, long time, and we were trying to do some clearances or something on the name, and we had to change it to Zubo
. At the time you think, 'it's so odd, we know it as Podo
,' but, of course, nobody else knew it as that - it was just us. After a little while you forget that it was Podo
or Podo Blip
, and you remember it as Zubo
I think it's the same with Bright Light. I think there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when I forget actually not having a name. I mean, the UK studio was just 'the UK studio', which is as generic a name as you can get. So, we wanted an identity and we made one up.
Actually, that was the answer you needed! 'I asked Harvey about the name, and he said “we made one up”'!