E3 '07 Q&A: EALA on Spielberg's PQRS, LMNO

Studio chief Neil Young talks about collaborating with the famed filmmaker on his two upcoming Wii and 360/PS3 games.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif.--This week, Electronic Arts revealed it was working with famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg on two projects: A Wii puzzle game code-named "PQRS," and "LMNO," an action-adventure game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The collaborations mark Spielberg's return to gaming eight years after he sold DreamWorks Interactive, the fledgling arm of movie studio DreamWorks SKG, which was itself sold to Viacom in 2005.

Spielberg and EALA VP Louis Castle.

After being bought by EA, DreamWorks Interactive was rechristened EA Los Angeles, and has developed such games as the Command & Conquer 3 and Medal of Honor series. In late 2005, EA and Spielberg inked a deal to develop three next-gen games at EALA under the director's supervision. To find out about the first two projects coming out of the agreement, GameSpot caught up with Neil Young, EALA's general manager and vice president.

GameSpot: So let's start with the Wii game, code-named "PQRS." How long have you been developing that?

Neil Young: Well, we started development of it after E3 of last year. Do you remember those images of E3 of last year of Steven playing Wii Sports with Mr. Miyamoto? Well, basically it happened just after that photo. We were walking down the steps from the Nintendo Wii booth, and Steven literally said, "That machine is awesome, I want to make something for that, and I have this idea." So a week or so later, we sat down and started brainstorming around ideas.

GS: So what's the extent of his involvement now?

NY: He comes into the studio most weeks and works on that project with [EALA vice president] Louis Castle and myself. Then he works on the other project with [LMNO producer] Doug Church and myself. He's very directly involved.

GS: So how will the use of the Wii Remote in PQRS differ from other puzzle games?

NY: Basically, the game is centered around blocks, and there's sort of an underlying physics simulation that's running on the machine. It's a sort of realistic physics which allows for making structures based on the blocks. So now imagine being able to interact with those blocks with the remote, as sort of classic building block. Now apply video game-ness to that: Some blocks explode, some have point values, some vanish, some turn into creatures, some combine after a chemical reaction happens. So you've got the basis for a very very interesting parlor game that can run from one end of the spectrum--something that feels like Jenga--to the other end of the spectrum: a complex psychics machine that resembles a Rube Goldberg machine.

On top of that, we've introduced characters which can animate and move and have vestigial social behavior animated with them. And that can create interesting situations--be it solving the puzzle, or keeping the structure intact. You can play single-player and you can play cooperatively. There's a little editor which allows you to take all the blocks and characters in the game and create your own game.

GS: So you can create your own characters? Will that be via the Mii functionality?

NY: Well, you can't create your own characters, but you can use the characters we created in the software. And you'll be able to create your own levels.

GS: That sounds very fascinating. Do we have a release window for PQRS at this time?

NY: The only thing that we've said is that we'll release the game during [EA's] current fiscal year, and our fiscal year ends at the end of March [2008]. It's exclusive to the Wii, and we're going to demo it at our press conference at E3.

Spielberg and LMNO producer Doug Church.

GS: So tell us about LMNO, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game you've been working on.

NY: OK, well, just to clarify, that's a code name.

GS: Yeah, I can't believe people thought that was real.

NY: Yeah, the story there is every time we came up with a code name at EA, people ask what it meant. They'd speculate that it meant that or this or that, so we just picked the middle four letters of the alphabet to prevent that. Then, when the next game came along, it was easy--we just picked the next four letters.

GS: So you said that you started development on LMNO first. When did that start?

NY: It started around 15 months ago.

GS: So how is this going to differ from other spy action games? It has some pretty familiar elements in it.

NY: Well, the real focus in the game is between the player and the non-player "partner." It's an action-adventure game that is set against the backdrop of a contemporary, epic story. It will show world-changing events through the eyes of a series of a very small number of people who are intimately connected. And that's really the profile of a lot of Steven's films. So that actually is a perfect construct for us to explore how we move people emotionally in games, and that's really the kind of challenge that we're going after.

But what we're thinking about is the non-player character is more of a peer. That will add a new level of complexity to the puzzles in the game. We think that's a very important relationship level to reach to connect emotionally to the character.

GS: Now you mention the "relationship" with the female character in LMNO. I've heard that her abilities will change as depending how the player treats her. That's led some people to refer to this as the "high-maintenance girlfriend game."

NY: [Laughs] No, no. It's not like having a high-maintenance girlfriend in the game. It's having a really capable partner. The things you experience in the game, both the way you play and the way it plays out, are extremely dependent on her.

GS: Now these games sound really interesting. But just early this week, EA CEO John Riccitello said that the game industry is "boring people to death" by pumping out boring sequels that just dilute franchises. However, he also said the industry is alienating the mainstream players by "making games that are harder and harder to play." Now if that's the sentiment of the head of your company, how will these games strike a balance between interesting without being overly complex?

NY: Well I think that John was throwing down a gauntlet to the industry and stating a position inside the company that we need to make fresh and accessible games. For core gamers, I think we have a responsibility to underline and double-bold the word "fresh" and not be imitative. For older audiences, I think we need to think about building something that's accessible. I think these two products are perfect examples of both.

Discussion

39 comments
wayfast
wayfast

"Studio chief Neil Young" hehehe

Proman84
Proman84

"Spielberg was the creator of the Medal of Honor series? Where the fook did you hear/read that?" It is a VERY WELL KNOWN fact. You can check the game's credits if you don't believe me. He created it with DreamWorks Interactive.

SpazH3d
SpazH3d

Spielberg was the creator of the Medal of Honor series? Where the fook did you hear/read that?

gamer_girl15
gamer_girl15

Movies and games don't usually mix well. Let's hope Spielberg is a good of a game maker as a director.

Proman84
Proman84

"im not to happy about this it waz his game that destroyed video games back then" You have no idea what you are talking about. First of all, Spielberg himself had nothing to do with "E.T." the game. This is fantastic news especially considering that Spielberg was the creator of the "Medal of Honor" series among other things.

flashsc85
flashsc85

im not to happy about this it waz his game that destroyed video games back then

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

let's hope he makes games that are as good as the movies..

sa33ood
sa33ood

I'm going to cry. :'( I sooo want to meet Steven Spielberg... I respect him as a human and as a director and as a REAL IDOL. :')

MrSickVisionz
MrSickVisionz

Did everyone miss the part that said the studio developing these also developed Command and Conquer 3 and Medal of Honor series? Those aren't crap titles by a long shot. And don't act like spielberg blows ass @ combining something entertaining with something thats critically acclaimed and basically loved by the general public... and makes crazy $$$.

jesus_knight
jesus_knight

i hope his games are good enough, making games is very different than making movies

DouglasBuffone
DouglasBuffone

Pqrs was a really good game, I am going to watch this closely

GreenGoblin2099
GreenGoblin2099

PQRS = Tetris Attack I doubt the other one turns out being good tbh... it's been said many times before.

s0njas0n
s0njas0n

pqrs is the best game ever... ok, just wanted to say that... now, what is it? :P

Pete5506
Pete5506

video would be nice, true

dmn_link
dmn_link

I want to see a video of them T_T

dukerav
dukerav

I am much more intrigued by these two games now that we know a little bit about these two Spielberg games.

eztarg8
eztarg8

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

-Twilight-
-Twilight-

Both LMNO and PQRS sound interesting enough. I can't say I'm anticipating these games, because we still don't know much at all, but I will be highly anticipating GameSpot's first hands-on or preview of either games. Spielberg is an amazing director and with him as involved as it seems, his skills are likely to be reflected in the games one way or another. On top of that, they're original titles. This is nothing but good news for gamers and the industry.

dwmorrow
dwmorrow

Both these games sound very interesting. Plus Spielberg isn't just putting his name on them; he sounds genuinely involved and that's intriguing as well. I don't own a 360, but I'll definitely be keeping tabs on "PQRS" for the Wii.

Taegre
Taegre

Already can't wait to get my hands on another Stephen Speilberg game. I miss playing The Dig like I miss my first pet (PC incompatibilities with old games are a cruel, cruel way to end a game's life)

gahaz
gahaz

So, should i start caring now? I am sick and tired of the game hype-machine starting before there is anything to see.

Agreb91
Agreb91

I am interested to see how this turns out.

linkzero
linkzero

Famous people get to do everything, including having their ideas come to fruition for consoles. :(

JaMeS4418
JaMeS4418

I'm still skeptical about games from speilberg

DrCLos
DrCLos

Sounds like they are taking the abilities of each console seriously to give us a unique gaming experience. I definitely look forward to more news on these games

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I am not sure about the puzzle game for the Wii but the LMNO sounds like it is going to have a story that I will greatly enjoy.

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

Spielberg is one of the coolest directors alive. it only makes sense that the games related with him will be as good as his movies

enteyager25
enteyager25

I would like to think that someone as genius as Spielberg would not get or stay involved with a bad product, however there is On the Lot with his name stamped all over it. However i'm still looking forward to both...cautiously.

Darth_SJ
Darth_SJ

What will they do after TUVW ?

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

I think both games sound very interesting, and since my hero is Steven Spielberg, I'll probably buy both once I get myself a Wii.

Poltergeist13
Poltergeist13

Can't wait to see more on LMNO, sounds interesting. I think it's cool such a visionary filmmaker is working on a game. I hardly doubt Spielberg would put his name on something that was poop.

Nharia12
Nharia12

This Wii game now sounds interesting since they went in-depth with the description of it. And since you can design your own levels, I hope that means you can swap them out like you do miis with other players.

SyluxElite
SyluxElite

Both sound intesting and the Wii DOES need more puzzelers. :D

JSharpe_187
JSharpe_187

interesting, the Wii inspired a genius