10 questions for Army Of Two: Devil’s Cartel producer Greg Rizzer – Ikaruga, Tim Schafer and why you’ve got to get the controls right
1 What game that you’ve played in the past has had the biggest effect on the way you make games today?
I actually grew up playing vertical shooters. Comparing those to the games we make today, if you look at [Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel] what we’re trying to do is very simple: kill together to earn Overkill, then Overkill to trigger massive destruction. So for me I’d go back to the old vertical shooters like Ikaruga where you gather energy to launch more energy back. Or going way back, remember Metal Slug? It’s a shooter with two guys who have bazookas. Yeah, I’ll say Metal Slug!
2 We’ve had motion control, 3D, cameras… what do you think will be the next big innovation for games?
I think the next big thing will be from games like Skyrim that have tons of user-created content [on PC]. So I think games are ultimately going to allow gamers to tell their own story through so much content. I see games where one player’s experience is going to be completely different to another’s. Look at the amazing things that have been done with Minecraft.
3 What have been the high and low points of your career so far?
I think the highs would be back in the PlayStation 2 glory days when, like, everybody in the world was playing PS2 games. The sales were phenomenal, there wasn’t as much bootlegging as there is now, rentals weren’t killing the margins, the prices were right on games. To me, that was when console gaming was at such a great point. The lows – that’s hard to say. This industry’s always changing and evolving, and for me there really haven’t been any lows – let’s just say there have been little dips. Everyone has their dips. Right now we can say honestly that the industry’s in a tough transition period. I’d say it’s an interesting time for the industry, because I still want to make this kind of game: the big blockbuster, HD, sitting-on-your-couch shooter. I hope, and continue to hope, that games like this will have a mindshare with the public.
4 Which matters more to you, review scores or sales?
It’s always a great question, and especially where we are with the industry. We’ve been in this industry a long time now and it’s great that everybody’s so meticulous about what these scores are. But if you look at the film industry, some of the biggest-grossing films haven’t really scored very well. From a design perspective, and from my own experience, you absolutely want to get the highest score possible. You want to make a game that your peers will be like, “Oh man, he made a 95% game!”
5 If you had to make one golden rule of game design what would it be?
Don’t mess [with] the controller. Don’t overcomplicate it. The number one [frustration] for me is when I pick up a game and the controls [are convoluted]. I’m not going to mention any names, but like a certain survival horror game. I’ve never understood why they made their controls so complicated. If you’re always thinking about the controller, you’re not thinking about what’s on-screen.
6 If you were to sign a star developer from any team, who would it be and why?
Well, I’m a huge Tim Schafer fan. I’ve been following [Kickstarter project] Double Fine Adventure and his work before that. I like games that let me see things I’ve never seen before.
7 If you weren’t a games developer, what would you be doing instead?
Well, everything I did before getting into the industry: I worked at a Sunglass Hut, I worked at a record store, hotels, I played guitar in a band, but I realised – of course – that made no money. If I could be anything else, I’d be working at a golf course. I want to be a marshal and tell people their pace of play is too slow.
8 What’s your top tip for someone who wants a career in the games industry?
Number one is to really have your knowledge of games down. A lot of people want to be in the industry, but I’ve found that people who stick around are really hardcore gamers. Have a broad knowledge base, not just [about] one genre but multiple genres. It’s important to understand what works well in one genre, and what works well in another. Even racing games, for example, if you’re working on a shooter.
9 You’ve got unlimited time, an unlimited team and an unlimited budget. What game do you make?
I love shooters, so with those resources what I’d do is somehow make a game like Borderlands 2 even better. It’s the purest, simplest thing: here’s a gun, here’s some guys, shoot the guys, a piñata of stuff falls out. It hits on every single thing in my brain that makes me happy as a gamer. But I also think it’d be important to make a game that brings back other genres. I really think it’s important that our industry starts to figure out how to do that. I’m actually hoping Assassins’ Creed 3 does really well, because it’s not a shooter. We need more games like that on the market.
10 What do you think it will take for games to be accepted as part of mainstream culture?
I certainly think that if we’re not there we’re incredibly close… When people ask what I do and I say I work at EA, everyone says, “Oh yeah, I know EA!” How we can get further is by having a lot more positive games, just as much as I make mature-themed games, we need more games that anyone can just pick up and play. Let’s go back to something like Mario on SNES.