Interviews// Starhawk: Havard Bovin, Senior Producer

Posted 13 May 2011 17:14 by
SPOnG: What does it mean to you guys in helping to establish Lightbox? Warhawk was a collaboration between Sony Santa Monica and Incognito. Was Starhawk too big a project for you to simply develop under the same circumstances?

Havard Bovin: We wanted to do something after Warhawk with these guys, and the creative and key technical people behind Warhawk wanted to start their own studio. We don?t like to see our talent leave, obviously, but if they are going to leave then we think it?s in our best interests to help them out and partner up with them. And who knows what will happen down the line as a result of that?

As a result of the Sony and Lightbox partnership, we have a number of games in the pipeline. We expect it to be a long and fruitful relationship and hopefully it?ll continue to be as strong as it is now. What it means for us is that -- when you have people who want to start their own studio, it?s a shame to let another publisher take that same talent that you worked so hard to grow within your studio.

Because of the old relationship we had with these guys, it?s unlike a normal publisher-developer relationship in that there is so much trust, so much sharing. It?s a great marriage right now, in terms of working together and making sure the game?s going to be exactly what we need. Our efforts are really helping them build the game and financing them, as well as providing assistance with the God of War team. The art directors there helped out a lot. It?s such a spiderweb of togetherness right now, it kind of brings a tear to my eye.

SPOnG: Those guys must be quite valuable to you. Warhawk came out early in the PS3?s life, and the netcode was quite sophisticated at the time, helping to bring PSN to the fore. You must consider these guys to be your equivalent to Microsoft?s Bungie or something.

Havard Bovin: Well don?t tell Dylan (Jobe, president of Lightbox) that, geez (laughs)! I don?t know. I think that as a studio they have a long way to go in terms of being one of the world class developers out there. I don?t think we could consider anybody world class until we release a world class game.

Of course, we stand behind them completely 100%, and because they?re a startup they?re able to go out and take risks - from a gameplay standpoint and in lots of other ways. Because of the backing that they have, they get a little bit of that leeway. We have release dates in mind, but I?m not entirely sure when we may launch. We?re thinking 2012, for sure - there has to be a major disaster for us to miss that.

But as a publisher working with the studio, it?s in nobody?s best interests to rush this and release a lacklustre product. We have been working on it at the most of our capacity since 2007, right after Warhawk. We did a bunch of expansions, but while we were doing that we had Starhawk in the incubator. It?s had many incarnations.

SPOnG: You guys must be looking after the Warhawk servers still then, and keeping it ticking over?

Havard Bovin: Yeah, we?re keeping an eye on the servers and making sure nothing?s completely off with the balance of the gameplay, and stuff like that. Obviously our thoughts have been with Starhawk for a while, but we actually did some Warhawk tournaments last Summer. I wouldn?t be surprised if we did something similar for Starhawk?s launch. We really want to engage Warhawk players because they?re a very dedicated bunch, and Warhawk is still one of the most popular games online.

I think we were given some slack in a lot of people?s minds because we were so fresh in the console scene back then. I mean, we didn?t even have Quick Match at launch for Warhawk. I worked in the PC field for a while before joining Sony in 2006 and I remember thinking, ?What? Why haven?t you guys figured this out yet?? We were doing the same sort of stuff Warhawk was doing back in 1998!

But, things have come an incredibly long way since 2007, and we?ve players all those features that they need like calendars and party systems. You name it, and we?ll definitely have all of that for Starhawk at launch.

SPOnG: Warhawk was a multiplayer only game when it was released. You?re changing tack with Starhawk in including a separate single-player campaign. There are games like Brink, that try to bridge those two modes together with mixed results. Do you think there needs to be a distinction between the two modes for a full-disc game?

Havard Bovin: It probably depends on the game, but for me and the game we?re doing here, I would think so. There are a lot of gamers who love multiplayer, but because of the great experiences you can get from downloadable content - or even free-to-play games - it?s important that you give them a very robust experience from the outset. If I?m going to ask you to go into a store and give me $60, we better be delivering a variety of experiences that they can keep digging into and satisfy them with.

We do that through the solo campaign. I think a lot of people like hearing a story being told. It?s interesting how storytelling has come such a long way over the last few years. These days you can play BioShock or something like that and get a wonderful experience from a single-player standpoint. So gamers deserve and demand more now, and they should because they?re paying a lot of money.

When you?re up against free-to-play games and downloadable stuff that are cheaper than your product, then you better be bringing a game that shows off the system that they spent all their money on for one thing, and you better give them something that they can continue to explore and discover new things. We?ll do that with the solo and co-op modes.
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