The interview took place this week during X06, which takes place in Barcelona.
When did your plans for this announcement start?
The Halo movie was the catalyst that actually made this all happen. Because we’re working on that we’ve been spending a lot of time with Bungie and Microsoft, talking about the movie. But after hours we found ourselves still talking about bringing games and movies together, as a completely separate thing to Halo. We were really talking about the future of interactive entertainment.
What exactly is it you’re working on?
It’s not a game, it’s not a movie, it’s a combination of the two. It won’t be like a traditional game experience, but it also won’t be like watching a DVD where you passively sit back and let it all happen in front of you. It’s going to be an interactive experience, so it’s not just about the characters, the plot and the storyline - and Bungie are obviously helping us a lot with this in the Halo series - but it’s about the technology we use to implement it. The most interesting thing about this for me has been working closely with Microsoft Game Studios and the guys at Bungie to start thinking about the kind of technical system we’re going to create to make this happen.
How will it differ from a traditional movie?
Movies rely on certain things that are actually counter-intuitive to games. Movies rely on a build-up of momentum and a narrative pacing, a process of characterization and a creation of tension. It’s up to the filmmaker to control those elements closely if the film is to be engaging. The interesting part of this will be continuing to do that if the experience is interactive and thus some control is taken from the director and given to the person having the experience.
Could you give us a concrete example of how this could work?
I don’t really want to do that right now! We’ve talked about it for so long and we’ve got some really interesting ideas, but I don’t want to reveal them until we’re ready to release the content. I know how to make films. There is a structure and a technique, and I’m going to continue to make films because I love doing it. What intrigues me with this is that it offers a new and totally unique way of telling a story. We have so many ideas for stories and this particular medium is possibly a much better way of telling this stories. I’m not going to make these to tie in with films. We’ll either make a film or one of these new experiences.
Will it be along the lines of letting the viewer choose an action for the characters?
That’s some of what we’ve discussed. The trick is for the director to retain a level of control. You can’t just let the player take control of that because then it loses the essence of what makes a movie an emotionally engaging experience. I will say that I think what we’ll end up doing is very different to the kind of things people are thinking of at the moment.
You’re drawing on the Halo universe for the first of your projects. Why Halo?
Because we’re taking a huge step to create this new interactive experience we thought it would be easier, and cooler, to use a universe that already existed. I’m Bungie’s biggest fan and the Halo universe is so compelling and well-designed we thought it would be a perfect place to start. What we’re talking about here is a new way of telling a story, but it’s not related to the Halo film at all.
You’ve also formed a new development studio called WingNut Interactive. Are you already working on games and which platforms are you developing for?
I think it would be a mistake to think of it as a traditional games studio. It’s more of a partnership between us - and when I say us I mean myself, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, who as a team write scripts, develop our stories and produce our films - and Microsoft Game Studios. I’m not thinking about having specific games in development or constraining them to particular platforms. It’s more about exploring how we can create an interactive movie-style story along with the technology Microsoft has with the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. I think we can take that style of storytelling - which is very different from storytelling in games - and make it more interactive. At the moment it’s just myself, Fran and Phillipa sitting down with Microsoft and working out what we need to do to make our desires reality.
What did your involvement with Ubisoft’s King Kong teach you about the games industry?
Well I can’t claim much authorship of the game because I helped with it but I was still working on the film at the time. At the end of the day it is a videogame and it’s certainly not the same kind of thing that I’m talking about now. This is about a new way of telling stories, and the fun is going to be how we figure out that mechanism.
A big thanks to both XCN and Peter Jackson for making this interview possible!