10 questions for Deadpool’s game director Sean Miller

1. What game that you’ve played in the past has had the biggest effect on the way you make games today? 

I’d have to say Half-Life. It was a game that told a story and engaged me in a way that made me feel part of the story. The idea of a collaborative environment where you’re working together with so many different disciplines, and trying to harness the creativity that comes from every aspect of game development, is something that’s really important to me.

2. We’ve had motion control, 3D and cameras… what will be the next big innovation in games?

I think the level of interactivity with the experience is that next horizon. Breaking out of a single controller interface – the incorporation of motion and external devices, and being able to access your world and the experience, whether it’s your handheld device or PC. [The next innovation] is going to be extending that universe outside of the initial platform.

3. What have been the high and low points of your career so far?  

The game that brought me into the industry was probably one of the highest points: I worked at Oddworld Inhabitants, and the experience of being part of a team that was really trying to push the envelope in terms of quality and experience was exciting. The craftsmanship and artistry I got to be a part of there was exciting. And, quite honestly, Deadpool has been one of those high points, because I’m getting to just really have a lot of fun. We get to play in a universe that I’ve loved for a long time. There are opportunities for a character like him, because he’s so wacky and zany. I think the period right before I got into the industry was probably the lowest point in my career. You get faced with the reality that as a commercial artist you have to make a lot of compromises, and you do struggle with that. Right before I broke through, I was kind of questioning whether that was what I wanted to do and whether I’d be able to do it. I didn’t think that I could. Ultimately, it was just a very scary time.

4. Which matters more to you, review scores or sales?

The thing that matters most to me is the user experience. I know that’s kind of a sideways answer to the question, but I want the user to have a good time and get something beyond just button-mashing. I want them to emotionally connect with it one way or another. So if the people playing the games and buying the games are enjoying it, that’s the thing that matters most.

5. If you had one golden rule of game design what would it be?

It’s creating an experience going beyond any one element. I think it’s easy to get tied up in making the greatest animation ever, the most innovative design or this crazy great code mechanic that’s pristine. It’s when all these things come together and make something bigger, that’s where, for me, the magic happens. So I really encourage people to think beyond their piece of the puzzle. We’re all fans of games – we all have an idea of what we want to experience. I try to push for that kind of [collaboration].

6. If you were to sign a star developer from any team, who would it be and why?

I’d have to go back to the roots of the game that really affected me and say Gabe Newell. He’s been responsible for achieving that level of transcending experience in more cases.

7. If you weren’t a games developer, what would you be doing instead?

If I weren’t developing games, I’d probably be teaching. I enjoy sharing knowledge and encouraging people.

8. What’s your top tip for somebody who wants to pursue a career in games?

I tell people who want to get into the industry to really harness their passion and to work beyond it. When you’re a passionate person, you can be very tense to share ideas and get judged on them. When you’re breaking in there are more nos than there are yeses, and you have to persevere beyond that – but you also have to listen to the reasons why people are making one choice or another. So being open to critique but not blindly open to it. I think part of the creativity is understanding, ‘Okay, this is the perception of what I’m doing: now I’ll make changes to change that perception,’ not necessarily erasing every piece of feedback. You have to process it. Just harness your passion.

9. You’ve got unlimited time, an unlimited team and an unlimited budget. What game do you make? 

I would love to make an open-ended adventure game where you can explore worlds and create new player experiences dynamically. I love science fiction and fantasy, so I’d like to create a world where [the two genres] come a little closer together.

10. What do you think it will take for games to be accepted as part of mainstream culture? 

I think games are a part of mainstream culture. I think they became so with the advent of social and casual games. In general it’s just opened up a whole broad audience. My wife, five years ago, was not a gamer. She didn’t even like games, and now she’s playing them. Getting away from some of the elitism and things being too niche – [such as] where a particular controller set is too twitchy for the regular person at home to handle. When that’s happening, you compartmentalise your audience. [You need] a game that can reach a broader audience and that people can connect with. So breaking down the control barrier, that’s where motion controllers have helped. They’ve given a new way of [interacting with an interface] that just opened up the experience to a whole new set of audiences.