Q&A: Cookin' Chili with Deadline CEO Chris Mottes
Head of Danish developer that created Chili Con Carnage and Total Overdose gives European perspective on the industry in a candid interview.
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Gamers who played the south-of-the-border-themed Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico or have seen clips of the PlayStation Portable game Chili Con Carnage would probably be surprised to find that the games weren't made in North America. The games are clearly steered toward a North American audience, but both were created by Copenhagen, Denmark-based Deadline Games.
Deadline may be a relatively new kid on the block in the industry, but it has clearly already carved out a niche--games full of humor and over-the-top action. GameSpot News had a chance to talk with the company's CEO Chris Mottes to get his perspective on the industry as an up-and-coming developer just as Chili Con Carnage hit stores. Among the topics we cover are the problems with shooters on the Wii, which first-party company is the easiest to work with, and the trials of being a new game developer.
GameSpot: We first met at the D.I.C.E. Summit. What did you hope to get out of the event?
Chris Mottes: To be honest, I've never been to D.I.C.E. before, so I was kind of hoping that it would be a place where people that really have some sort of experience and influence in the industry were here and I could talk to them about different projects and network with them. And then, of course, to get the insights of some of the people that were speaking.
And the AIAS Awards were great fun; I think it's a fantastic thing for our industry that we have something like that. Movies do great because they promoted themselves, and we've got to do the same, and I think it's good for us.
GS: I remember you yelling at Jay Mohr from the top balcony. He actually heard you from all the way in the back, I was impressed.
CM: There were a lot of people that were talking and being really quite rude and disrespectful of the whole thing, talking so loud. So I just asked him to speak up!
GS: Chili Con Carnage just came out for the PlayStation Portable. Tell us how it differs from Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico.
CM: Total Overdose was our first console product, and we were trying to do everything. We got some things that were really, really good in there like the action, the over-the-top stuff, and the vibrancy of the art.
And then we did some things that were a little less lucky. For Chili Con Carnage, we just really honed down the things that were really good and took into account the fact that it has to be on the PSP, so the controls are a little bit different and so on--just trying to get the controls to work just on the PSP. So it's very much the full-on, head-on action I think you know from Total Overdose. We believe we're going to have the highest kill rate of any PSP game ever! We're aiming for a good hundred kills per second!
GS: That would get Washington's attention.
CM: But seriously, a lot of action all the time--you don't stop, you're stringing combos together, you know what I mean. One of the things you can do in the game is actually string a combo from the beginning of a level all the way to the end. Nonstop. And you can do all the wall-walking, and the shooting, and driving the tractors and cars, and running over the enemy, and there are plenty of big explosions [laughs].
GS: At D.I.C.E. we were talking about the Wii and how much fun it is. Do you guys have plans to hit that console? It's taken off pretty well.
CM: I probably shouldn't admit this, but I was a little taken aback by how good the Wii was when it came out. I wasn't prepared for that, and at home this is becoming a problem for me because my daughter, who is five-years-old, won't let me play my games anymore.
But as for Deadline Games--I'm not sure whether we are the right developer for the Wii right now. I'd like to see how action games are going to do on the Wii. Holding my arms out in front of me and walking around through all the levels--personally, I'd get very tired and so on. I like how the Wii works, [the motion-sensitivity is] fantastic, but carrying a six-shooter and always having to move [as you would in a shooter]--I'm a little in doubt. But it's a fantastic machine.
GS: Do you think that some developers force shooters onto the platform, like Call of Duty 3 or Far Cry?
CM: I don't think it's the developers forcing that; I think that's a publishing thing. They're trying to squeeze every dime out of a franchise, and that's their job, and that's cool--I think that's great. And maybe they can show us that there's a market for it there, and people really want to do that.
GS: You've developed for the PlayStation 2, PSP, and PC. Have you guys done a next-gen game yet?
CM: We are not big enough to have done that yet, but we're working on a couple of games on next-gen systems now.
GS: And have you found the development process that much different from the last generation?
CM: I'm not a techie, so all I know for a fact is it's more expensive because I pay the bills [laughs]. But our guys are really good at what they do--they just need the time and the resources and we'll get there. We were a little too focused on trying to sell projects rather than developing them for a little while there, and that kind of set back the development time a little, so we're back on track now.
What we've done is we've gone out...we're on the Danish stock market now, so we pitched in some money, and we're doing our own funding of our projects from the start. So that gives us some time to just concentrate on developing and not worry about who's interested in buying at this point, so that's helping us.
GS: As an up-and-coming developer, how are the big first-party companies...how are they helping you out? And who's helping you out the best? I want to put you on the spot!
CM: I think that one has to admit that Microsoft is definitely the company that has that part of it down pat at the moment. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony gets their stuff together. I mean, we're small-fry for them anyway, so they probably don't give a damn at this point--they just need to get their console out and their own games out. Microsoft is more welcoming, shall we put it that way, at the moment. But you know, I'm sure Sony will come kick my butt soon and give me a word or two.
GS: As a European developer, do you feel like there are three markets? Do you think there's a North American market, a European market, and an Asian market?
CM: I definitely think there's a split between the Western hemisphere and the East for 90 percent of the games, but there are some that work for both markets. Yes, there is a difference between Europe and North America, but personally, we've always seen the North American market as the lead market for us. All our projects so far are based in Mexico and have drugs and violence...but no sex. It's for North America! [laughs]
GS: Are you making fun of us Americanos?
CM: I'm kidding. In Europe, we play American games a lot, but it's more difficult to sell a very "European kind of title" in the US. It becomes a niche title.
GS: Your games seem to be ripped right out of the cineplex. Do you guys watch a lot of movies and say, "Hey, we want to make a game like that"?
CM: I come from the movie business--I ran a TV station before Deadline Games, then I had a film and television development production company. So I have always had a focus on good, solid character development, story, and cinematography, and so on. Of course gameplay is also very central to us, and there are certain kinds of movies that are made for games. Does that answer the question?
GS: Sort of. Give us some influences.
CM: Well, I mean, of course Robert Rodriguez is very big in our little world. Total Overdose and Chili Con Carnage are both influenced by his films. And you can't get around Tarantino--he's definitely a big influence on the things we do. We like that kind of over-the-top, gory action with crazy characters. We're big fans of Tarantino, and we like quality action.
GS: And can we assume that your next game is going to be a quality action title?
CM: I would almost guarantee it.
GS: Tell us what little you can about the project.
CM: It's a game that is set in an environment similar to Total Overdose, although the project is very different. We're actually, I have to say, not doing Total Overdose 2, which a lot of people seem to still assume, because unfortunately Eidos pulled out of that, and you know, once bitten, twice shy. So, the next project is an action game, and it's going to be based on some really cool things that happened in the real world.
GS: We look forward to it. Thanks, Chris.