D.I.C.E. 07: Event kicks off on a serious note

Keynote address precedes long night of food and drink as Sony exec Yair Landau lays out his vision of the future of entertainment; new SOE spy MMO game teased in presentation.

LAS VEGAS--Traditionally, the annual D.I.C.E. Summit has started on a light, ethereal, and slightly inebriated note--the first day is reserved for a full round of golf for game industry movers and shakers with time on their hands, followed by many, many rounds of drinks in the Green Valley Ranch's Whiskey Bar or out by the hotel's pool and cabana complex. The serious fun of presentations and panels typically starts Thursday morning, often to the sudden shock of bleary-eyed attendees.

But this year was different. Bowing to numerous requests for a keynote address to launch the confab--one that brings game industry CEOs, development studio heads, sundry talent agents, assorted members of the press, and wannabes anxious to rub shoulders with the firmly accomplished--AIAS president Joseph Olin relented and added a keynote address, with its attendant touch of gravitas, to the opening day's agenda.

Sony execs attending the keynote address: (from left) SOE president John Smedley, SOE SVP and COO Russell Shanks, and SCE worldwide studios president Phil Harrison.

His pick to deliver the keynote address: accomplished Sony executive Yair Landau, whose long list of divisions that fall under his authority includes those that specialize in animation, motion capture, computer graphics, games, and mobile content. It was Landau's four-year effort as a newbie biz-dev guy on the Sony lot, he reminded attendees tonight, that brought Marvel and Sony together in the financial windfall known as Spider-Man.

Surprisingly, the inaugural effort paid off. Olin delivered the warm bodies, and Landau delivered the big ideas.

Landau's casual, 40-minute presentation was a mild-mannered call to arms for the industry. He heralded the rapidly maturing convergence of technologies (animation, CG, live-action, and mo-cap), but also a crossover and mingling of talent. That was Landau's big idea for the night: that the next generational leap in digitial entertainment would be one driven by personalities, not pixels.

Sony Pictures Entertainment boss Yair Landau.

His general concept is that the future of content development, from concept to execution to story and franchise extension, will work best when the silos that separate the CG artist, traditional animator, game coder, and live-action director are broken down and the talents are free to work together.

Given Landau's point of view--and as vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and president of Sony Pictures Digital--he is not only reporting from the trenches, but driving policy.

Landau used the upcoming Sony Pictures feature Ghost Rider as an example of a project that combined all the specialties of SPE, one he hopes will be a critical and commercial success. But Landau sees such a blend of techniques as just the beginning. Such films (or games) can only get better when the individual skill sets start to interweave and cross over from their native turf.

"The key to convergence is taking a creative application and applying it broadly to a medium. [It] extends the story experience to a broader audience... What's different still, and hasn't started to cross over, is the talent," Landau said. "But that's where it's going."

But for all his talk of the future, Landau still has the aura of a traditionalist.

"The fundamental aspect is that entertainment is a community experience," Landau said.

And he knows the final product doesn't come from just anywhere. "Underlying it [is a] good idea and a lot of creative people pushing it."

One surprise Landau had on the gaming front was a first look at a project that SOE's studio in Seattle has been working on. Following on his ideas of moving film genres into games--he previously credited Saving Private Ryan with spawning the Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Company of Heroes franchises--Landau showed off the trailer for the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.

Immediately after the trailer, Landau said one of SOE's next projects would involve the world of international espionage--an MMO game where players would wear tuxedos instead of tunics. Though Landau said the game is running on live servers in Seattle, the clip he showed demonstrated what he hopes the game will eventually look like.

Codenamed "Vista"--a dig at Microsoft's new operating system because SOE had pushed the project back a year--the clip showed a third-person shooter with spies engaged in firearms and hand-to-hand combat. The game featured all the Bond trademarks--femmes fatales, exotic sports cars, and an exotic locale in Prague--and will be both cooperative and player-versus-player. Landau did not mention any release date, platform, or any other details.

[For a different take on D.I.C.E. 2007, take a look at the GameSpot News Blog, containing interviews with Myst Online's Rand Miller and Lord British himself, NCsoft exec producer Richard Garriott.]

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Discussion

39 comments
SMD2181
SMD2181

? is will it really be fun to play or just be like every other online game

Runningflame570
Runningflame570

That dig at Microsoft was pretty great, as for the Spy MMO I think it could end up being really awesome or really bad, I don't see much of a middleground there.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

An innovative idea...from Sony. I don't play MMOs, but this one sounds promising.

DrCLos
DrCLos

That MMO game sounds pretty cool. I gotta give it up to Sony for that idea. Very unique indeed.

Ackad
Ackad

lol yea i agree with Comthitnuong.

ssalex333
ssalex333

i liked saving private ryan but now officially tired of call of duty after the first game. didnt even play 2, or 3. lets hope they stop making them ha

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

lol codename Vista...thats developer humor for ya still the game sounds nice...I want a tuxedo

internationaal
internationaal

"That was Landau's big idea for the night: that the next generational leap in digitial entertainment would be one driven by personalities, not pixels." I thought they were always saying how much better, performance and graphics wise, the PS3 was...

Paul_TheGreat
Paul_TheGreat

SOE should let one of Sony's first-party dev make that MMO game.

Lepuke
Lepuke

I cant help but cringe seeing John Smedley in the picture above... what a piece of crap.

irishscott99
irishscott99

Beesond, the idea is to develop new titles and franchises not simply stick with the same old same old... I for one am getting tired of sequels... come on FFXIII... "OMG 13!!!!" dear lord change it up a bit

mismajor99
mismajor99

EQ1 was great, all they need to do is go back to their roots, and this also relates to their attitude with their console as well.

puppiemaster
puppiemaster

1 sure way of making Sony based gaming much better is lowering the PS3 price by over £100

Beesond
Beesond

WHo cares I want FFXIII, and MGS4, FEED MEEEE!!!!!

Chirico_Cuvie
Chirico_Cuvie

If SOE is doing it, then Bond online should be called "An MMO is Not Enough". They lost all credibility with EQ2 and SW:G.

UntoldDreams
UntoldDreams

For you children too silly to acknowledge it. You really do "want" your execs to be level headed like this guy. This guy is pushing to make things better at Sony and haters can't even acknowledge this simple fact.

KingKongofDeath
KingKongofDeath

A spy MMO sounds really interesting. I don't trust SOE to pull it off though.

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

Cool, hope it blends well with games.Macacd, i didn't know we already knew about Sony's new MMO, damn, guys like u dont read text before commenting.

FallenAngel
FallenAngel

That's the problem with Sony these days. More long winded bravado, less actual work on producing quality games. No wonder they're going down to so fast and so hard.

Doolum
Doolum

Some nice talks there.

epormada
epormada

Everyone at Sony should be so busy making games that they don't have time to give long winded speaches!

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

A man who obviously likes the sound of his own voice !

Dolacide
Dolacide

To much of anyone thing can get old after awhile.

Manatassi
Manatassi

Hmm not exactly the best choice to do the Keynote speech.

damariofan
damariofan

this is an early article, but very nice

chamber303
chamber303

leave it to SONY and they do wonders.

psychic_zebra
psychic_zebra

I'll grant that what he said was pretty much just common sense, but sometimes people in the industry need to be reminded of the seemingly obvious things. In any case, it's good to know that such things are actually discussed inside the industry.

SaitouZero
SaitouZero

The spy MMO sounds interesting but I'm a little worried since all the SOE MMOs have sucked. Speaking of MMOs, when is Square-Enix gonna show off the next Final Fantasy Online?

macacd
macacd

Nothing we didn't already know.