WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Jerry Pritchard, and I'm the associate producer for Warner Bros. Games.
WP: With a franchise like Watchmen, why a downloadable content game? Usually you hear about downloadable content and you think arcade games or a nice expansion pack, but so far, on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, there still hasn't been anything new or standalone that is a really high-quality title that could compare with a retail title. Why not make Watchmen a retail title? What went into the thought process to make it a downloadable title?
JP: Well, there are a couple of points there. Our first point was quality. We really wanted to aim for something that was going to be high-end quality, and to do that, we really focused our efforts on the telling of the tale of our specific two characters in the game. The other point of that is the timelines involved. We really wanted to release our high-quality game with this amazing movie that's coming out by Zack Snyder. The way we did that is we went the downloadable route, offering bites of the game in chunks. That way, we could really focus our efforts on making the highest quality polish that we could. In addition to that, we really worked in a high-end, triple-A, next-gen-looking game into the cost of a low-budget title, and we feel that our game is going to be one of the groundbreaker Xbox Live or PSN downloadable titles that will let people realize that you can do next-gen-looking stuff and not be a cheap arcade game.
WP: How does the development process differ? You mentioned the big ones, money and time, but when you first came on, you had to worry about getting a game ready for release that's going to be a downloadable title. What was going through your head, as a producer?
JP: Well, my first job is to make sure that we're putting out what we need to be putting out. Going back to the quality angle, we really looked at this game and thought, "We really want to make a full retail release, but it's just not in our timeline to make that work." We could either put out a low-quality game with lots of features, or we could batten down the hatches and really go for a limited scope and a limited character set but also make the quality just completely off the charts.
WP: Let's talk a bit about consumer expectations. When it comes to standalone titles that are downloadable, the sweet spot for consumers seems to be $10-15, and they expect about five hours of solid gameplay out of that. We've seen a few titles try and scratch the $20 barrier, but once you do that, people start thinking that they could get a budget release for $20-30, and that's a full title. How does the pricing aspect come into play when you're looking at producing a game and doing your sales projections?
JP: Again, it comes down to what's available on the market now and the titles that we go up against, but we really, really wanted to release a full title, a full release at a full price, but focusing on our quality aspects and our goals, we narrowed it down and were able to cut costs by introducing our episodic gameplay elements. Also, with the release of the movie, we're able to really pull in the high-quality look of the movie assets into the game and make the whole thing look really nice. I think we're delivering a high-end, triple-A, next-gen-looking game that's going to feature anywhere from eight to 12 hours of gameplay, which is a very, very great value for the size and cost of the game, but we're shooting to make this a very awesome, downloadable, cheap game.
WP: You mentioned "episodic" a few times. We saw that this first release has six chapters in it. Is this going to be a standalone title, or does the use of "episodic" in your description indicate that you're already working on follow-up releases?
JP: (laughs) This is a trick question! Well, the way our story folds out is similar to the graphic novel. The graphic novel is told in chapters. We're telling the same sort of story and the same style of storytelling that the graphic novel does by releasing it in episodes. Each episode is going to basically be a sort of standalone story line. In episode one, it's specifically about Rorschach and Night Owl, and we explore more in-depth of the Watchmen characters in each episode. So you'll get a little bit of a taste of something here, you'll get a little bit of a taste of something there, but in the end, it's all going to roll out into this big story line.
WP: Looking at gameplay, there's a lot of focus on melee combat, and you've got a few Quick Time Events. Why the choice to limit the use of weapons — no projectile weapons, no guns. Is that something that's tied into the environment itself, or is that a gameplay decision?
JP: A little bit of both, really. We wanted to focus our efforts on quality, and what we did was looked at the aspect of introducing projectile weapons, guns and the like, and decided that it's not what Watchmen's about. Watchmen's about delivering justice through the use of your fists, and that comes across very keenly in the graphic novel, and we wanted to explore that specifically. While guns and stuff are cool, we really didn't want to go into those gameplay mechanics.
WP: Character designs in the game are based on the character designs from the movie rather than the graphic novel. Given the rabid fan base of Watchmen, how did you come about that decision to go with the movie designs rather than the graphic novel designs?
JP: Again, it's just all about quality. The movie looks fantastic, and (laughs) we really wanted to steal some of that quality from the movie into the game. In working with the filmmakers and the graphic novel people as well as DC [Comics], we kind of all just decided to use the updated looks for the characters and costumes and really go that route.
PR: I can add to that. The game is based on the movie, not the graphic novel, and the movie is based on the novel, so we are working with the filmmakers directly. It's one of those things. It's not that the graphic novel is not quality.
WP: Going back briefly to the DLC, after the rise of PSN and XBLA, we're seeing a lot more DLC games also hitting the PC. So far, there have been very few developers targeting the Mac with downloadable games. Is there any reason why you guys aren't looking for a Mac OS release for Watchmen?
JP: I really don't have that information. I only know the SKUs that we release for are lead SKUs, and quality concerns aside, we really wanted to focus our efforts on the three primary platforms that we're releasing for.
WP: When we were playing the game earlier, you had mentioned that before you started working on it, you were fairly new to the Watchmen universe. Now that you've been involved with the game, have read the graphic novel, seen the movie, how has your appreciation of the characters changed from when you started to where you are now?
JP: Well, when I first heard of the Watchmen, I wondered, "Who are these characters? What are they?" I wasn't familiar with them or their story, or even their history, but after coming on board and sort of learning about the Watchmen universe, I discovered how deep these characters are, how very intriguing they can be, and really why the Watchmen is one of the best graphic novels of all time.
WP: I'm a gamer who maybe hasn't read the graphic novel. What would you say? Check out the game first and then see the movie? Or should I read the graphic novel, check out the movie and then play the game?
JP: The latter. I would read the novel first, check out the movie, and then play the game. Tell your friends. (laughs)
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
JP: Working on the game has been a real joy for me, and I really appreciate the opportunity to work with the Watchmen license.
WP: Favorite character?
WBIE's Watchmen: The End is Nigh, developed by Deadline Games, will be released on Xbox Live Arcade and PC on March 4, and on PlayStation Network on March 5, 2009.
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