Brendan McNamara interview: creating LA Noire and destroying Team Bondi
OPM Do you still own Depth Analysis, which has the rights to MotionScan?
BM Yeah, and there are other investors involved as well. We’re using the tech on some new things, such as eyes, hair, skin shaders – all that kind of stuff, which makes it more flexible. There are surprising things happening with the tech that you don’t even expect, because you’re just focused on making videogames. There are other people who are using it for pre-visualisation in films.
OPM Would you like to see MotionScan used in more games? Are you disappointed when you see traditional ways of doing facial animation?
BM I have been sort of disappointed in the past six months. I always knew there was going to be this period where our tech was new and ‘wow’, but people have established pipelines and ways of working, and they don’t want to change that.
But I think the main reason is that folks don’t want real people in games, which is kind of fundamental to this process – if you don’t want to use an actor in the game, there’s no point. Some people believe they can make a better-constructed human being than you can with a real person. I don’t believe that: I think it’s a Frankenstein approach.
OPM What do you feel is LA Noire’s main achievement?
BM I think it’s elevated the artform a little, in terms of the holistic approach – the believability of the city, the cars, the advertising, all that kind of stuff. Rockstar has always done that kind of game, but it’s always been a pastiche in the past – now you’re there, taken back in time. It’s also been a mainstream hit for a game that isn’t about shooting and blowing stuff up – it’s a game about interrogating people and trying to find out if they’re lying. I can’t think of any other mainstream game this year like that.
OPM Do you have a new project?
BM We’re actively working on two new things at the moment, but we won’t be announcing anything quite yet. However, I think if you liked LA Noire, you’ll like [the next] one better. [McNamara's next project is reported to be The Whore Of The Orient.]
OPM Are you going to bite off more than you can chew next time?
BM I’m sure we will, but we’ll continue on the basis of working with people who want to work with us. [We’ll] learn lessons from what people liked and what they didn’t about LA Noire. Some people hate it – think it’s a non-game – but it resonated with people. The critical response has been pretty amazing.
OPM Is it triple-A again?
BM Oh yeah – although I’ve been trying to convince my team to do an iPhone game! It’s something that appeals to me, probably, rather than them. Although I think most games now are connected to the iPhone and iPad in some way, so when you’re pitching stuff, you’ve got to bring in those components.
It’s kind of like tent pole [titles] in cinema – some things come out once a year that everyone gets excited about. Rockstar does that every year – hopefully soon with Max Payne and GTA V. As long as people still want to be entertained at that level, we’ll keep trying. All you’ve got to hope when you write or make something is that it’s going to resonate with an audience, and luckily the past two times [with The Getaway and LA Noire] it has, which is good. Three out of three wouldn’t be too bad…