Looking for the stories behind the numbers
A few years ago, a group of three journalists from Japan’s Famitsu group of videogame magazines visited the offices. They wanted to talk to us about how we worked, so we gathered in a meeting room for a discussion over coffee and some expensive, only-when-you-have-guests biscuits. It turned out that we had many things in common, and the conversation involved plenty of agreement and nodding of heads. Then came the question: “How many people work in-house at “Seven,” we said. Our guests looked at each other and burst into laughter. Famitsu’s teams are used to working in offices stuffed with banks of editorial, planning and design staff, and to these people the concept of production being handled by such a comparatively small group seemed outlandish to the point of hilarity.
We were reminded of the Famitsu meeting this month – albeit in the context of something with ambitions of a far dizzier magnitude – when we visited Hello Games in Guildford to talk about No Man’s Sky. It’s a game whose credentials have been questioned repeatedly since its announcement because it’s being produced by just four people. Who are they, these creators of cartoony motorbiking romp Joe Danger, to be building such a preposterously far-reaching project? Our report this issue goes in search of some answers.
About 20 miles south of Hello Games’ HQ we find the offices of Creative Assembly and a more familiar sight: desk upon desk stacked with computer systems lined up to feed the greedy beast that is traditional triple-A game development. Despite the glaring disparity in team size, though, there are parallels between No Man’s Sky and what is happening here on cover game Alien: Isolation. Both titles clearly involve space settings, but it’s the obsessive attention to detail that marks the productions as relatives.
Ultimately, raw numbers can count for a great deal, but attitude is more important. The approach Creative Assembly is taking in resurrecting one of entertainment’s most powerful properties feels like the right one, and it appears to be bearing some delicious fruit, as our in-depth story illustrates.