Interviews// David Braben, Industry Veteran

Posted 29 Aug 2008 16:19 by
David Braben
David Braben
I hate writing introductions for people who need no introductions, but here goes.

David Braben: industry legend, founder of Frontier Games, creator of Elite, keen sailor. When I was at the bar at a games conference recently a Rare developer (who will go unnamed) said that when he spoke to Braben he had to stop himself blabbing “You're the reason I got into games!” 'Nuff said.

I caught up with him recently to discuss everything from the company's recent WiiWare game, Lost Winds, to the future of the entire industry and where games are heading.

SPOnG: Thanks for sitting down with me. How's life at Frontier at the moment?

David Braben: It's very good! We've just had Lost Winds, we're working on The Outsider and a number of other projects as well.

SPOnG: “A number of other projects”... care to elaborate?

David Braben: (Grins) No, not yet.

SPOnG: How have you felt about the feedback from Lost Winds? It's been pretty positive...

David Braben: It has, yes. 'Very good' is the answer. Very pleased. The whole process has been really enjoyable. We did the prototype in a week, and four months' development. So, very, very small team. Very exciting. Very focused.

SPOnG: Was that refreshing, in today's big budget climate?

David Braben: Very refreshing.

SPOnG: Was that part of the appeal in doing a WiiWare title? What motivated it?

David Braben: We have a 'game of the week' process, which is no longer a game of the week, but it's an internal forum within the company where people criticise each other's ideas; propose their own; pull them apart; suggest merging ideas. It's a really interesting social thing – an occasional bit of "No, that's rubbish, this would make it OK".

Lost Winds is the first game to have gone through this game of the week process, where David Walsh (our managing director) likened it to dipping a leg of lamb into a stream of piranhas. I think the imagery is nice, but I think what is also very positive about it is it means that you think about the issues, because you have a lot of people thinking about it – “Oh, I'd play that”. You can also judge how popular something is going to be, because if something gets a lot of interest, you know a lot of people are going to be interested in it, whereas if they just go “Unhh, yeah, maybe”, then you know it's not going to command many people's attention.

SPOnG: It sounds like you have quite a flat structure to your company...

David Braben: Well, that is entirely informal. Anyone can post, anyone can rant. The whole point is it's not supposed to be a company-structured thing. When you're working on a project, especially a longer project, it's great to be able to comment on either other people's projects. Some of the comments aren't necessarily even on Frontier games, they might be on, “Hey, isn't this game rubbish?” or you'll say “Wouldn't it have been good if they'd done this on it?”

SPOnG: How's The Outsider coming along?

David Braben: Very well. We're not making any announcements at the moment, because I don't want to over-announce it, but yes, very pleased so far.

SPOnG: Can you say anything about when it'll be coming out?

David Braben: Not yet.
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