As I entered the interview room, the upcoming Football Manager 2011 was the last thing on Sports Interactive MD Miles Jacobson's mind. Instead he was talking excitedly to a PR about how he's become totally addicted to Valkyria Chronicles 2 on the PSP. In fact, the studio director said to me that the amount of time he's spending on the game is, "the biggest risk to FM coming out before Christmas."
Of course, the premier football management sim is more than on track for its 5th November release date, and the studio has just launched two flavours of demos for PC and Mac fans to try out. In Part One one of this mammoth interview Miles discusses the roadmap for future titles, what the plans are for the Asian market, and why creativity in the UK industry is stronger than ever.
SPOnG: This must have been brought up in countless interviews since Sports Interactive became a SEGA studio, but you must be really excited about being partners with them judging by how much you're talking about them. You sound like a massive fan!
Yeah! Well I mean, it was one of the reasons we signed with them in the first place. When we left Eidos all those years ago and first signed with SEGA, I think people forget it was a time when the Dreamcast had just ended. SEGA was looking to reinvent itself completely.
We had offers from pretty much everyone, but after that meeting with SEGA's European team, I went back and gave Oliver and Paul (Collier, Sports Interactive founders) a call saying that I knew where we were going to go. They asked why and I said "because we've got a chance to be a part of rebuilding SEGA."
The idea was that SEGA was eager to have us on board, and so we automatically become the number one priority game for them. They have to break Football Manager
. And that sort of support was exactly what we needed, because switching brands it's a pretty big deal. SEGA was very supportive though, they literally went and picked out every member of our team that we wanted to help build Football Manager
When SEGA mooted the idea of SI becoming a part of their company... well, we had turned down a lot of offers to buy out the studio over the years. We weren't interested. We were an independent studio, it was all fine. But something with SEGA clicked.
But after having a chat with the people at the very top of the company, you start to think of the extra benefit they would bring. As an example, a lot of publisher-owned studios have internal rivalries against one other. With us, if Creative Assembly are working on something and they think we can help out, I'll get a phone call and we'll meet up.
If there's any code that they want they can take it too. There's no charging for it. On the other hand, the motion capture data and the original animations that we used in FM 2009
were from Virtua Striker
. I went over to Japan for a couple of meetings and had dinner with someone who was heavily involved in the Virtua Striker
team. We exchanged their mocap data for our database, because it turns out they wanted it for a project but were too scared to ask.
So, the idea of the tech-sharing side of things is really exciting. As well as the fact that the games made internally by SEGA, or SEGA-published IP – there have been some pretty damn good games. Creative Assembly, Yakuza
, Virtua Tennis
... Erm... there's some stuff I know of that I'm not allowed to talk about (laughs), Valkyria Chronicles
There's some phenomenal stuff coming out of there, and being part of that creative group is very special. We don't talk that often, but when we do talk...
SPOnG: It's magical?
Yeah, it's great! I'm really excited about seeing the other games that are here. We're probably in the busiest time on our dev schedule and I've got some issues with my back that I probably shouldn't be doing any work at all, but I'm here as much to do the interviews as I am to see some Yakuza 4