Q&A with Jez San of Argonaut
We speak with Argonaut founder Jez San about his company's current games and next-generation development.
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British developer Argonaut has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Much of its early success can be attributed to the codeveloped SNES game StarFox. The Super FX Chip enabled the game to be the first 3D SNES game, and boosted Argonaut's popularity immeasurably. Since then, they have developed such hits as Croc, and are currently developing, among others, Alien Resurrection, Aladdin, and Disney's Emperors New Groove. PlayStation 2 development is also underway and plans for other systems such as the Dolphin and the Xbox are being made. The company already has plans for several next-generation games to be developed by its current PS teams. GameSpot spoke with Argonaut's founder, Jez San, about its current wealth of development titles, as well what he thinks of the next-generation consoles.
GameSpot: We'd like to start by asking you about Alien Resurrection. How is the development on the PlayStation game progressing? When will it be ready for release?
Jez San: It's finished and is being submitted to Sony in days, so expect it to be out sometime in September.
GS: There has been some speculation on a possible conversion of this game to the Dreamcast. What are your thoughts on this? Will it happen at some point?
JS: We'd love to do it on the DC as well as perhaps the PS2 and beyond, but we're not sure if the demand is there from gamers or, in fact, from Fox, our publisher.
GS: You've already developed Red Dog for the Dreamcast. Do you intend to develop more for the Dreamcast further into its life? What's the status of Croc 2 for the DC?
JS: We developed Red Dog for the DC, but we're not working on any other DC games at this time. And no, we do not intend to develop more for the DC, as there is little or no publisher interest in doing so. Even the staunch DC supporters have stopped. As a developer, we know the machine intimately and would love to continue, but without publisher support, the format is doomed.
Croc 2 isn't being developed on the DC, sorry. It was canned because there was discussion as to how economic it would be to produce a PC port versus a new game engine. We are a cross platform company, but we are not developing any more Dreamcast games. [The primary reason is] because of how dismally the system has done, and particularly how badly our game Red Dog was marketed by Sega. We are 100 percent focused on the currently successful formats such as the PC, the PS2, and soon, the Xbox and the Dolphin.
GS: One title of yours that must be nearing release now is Aladdin on the PlayStation. Can you please tell us how, and why, Argonaut went for this franchise?
JS: We've always loved the movie, so when Disney approached the many developers out there for the right to develop the game, we jumped at the chance. We must've done a great job, as they later hired us to do Emperor's New Groove as well!
GS: Yes, Disney's Emperor's New Groove on the PlayStation is looking great too. How closely will the game be based on the movie? What are some gameplay features?
JS: The game accurately portrays the movie, but naturally we've been artistic in our interpretation, exaggerating some elements of the movie that would make great game scenarios. For example, witness the roller coaster, which plays a tiny part in the movie, but which we loved and made a big part of the game.
GS: Moving on now, can you speak further on Argonaut's plans in relation to the Nintendo Dolphin and the Microsoft Xbox? Will you be supporting both platforms with some of your lasting franchises such as Croc and Buck Bumble?
JS: Yes, we intend to fully support both the Xbox and the Dolphin to our best abilities, just as we supported the DC and currently support the PS2.
GS: What type of game is your first PS2 project? Is it an original concept or is it based on an existing franchise? What are some of the exciting aspects of this game that will keep us intrigued while we wait for further information?
JS: We have several games under development for PS2, but our first is an unusual form of driving game signed up to a major toy company. The second will be a character game. More news, when we can say more.
GS: We certainly look forward to that news. Perhaps your most critically acclaimed game is StarFox. Is there any chance that you will revive the game once again for the Dolphin?
JS: StarFox was based heavily on our previous game, StarGlider, and yes, of course we intend to bring that back to fans after so many years of absence. But Nintendo owns the StarFox name, and we own the StarGlider name. Incidentally, we only developed the original StarFox on SNES with Super FX chip; we didn't do the N64 port, which was done in-house at Nintendo, but I know which one I prefer to play.
GS: Jez San, thank you for your time.
JS: My pleasure.