Jade Raymond - Fun & Serious 2018 Interview

We talk to the Pioneer Award recipient Jade Raymond in Bilbao. Having left EA Motive behind Raymond shares some hints about her current top secret project, looks at current game design, and looks back at games such as Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell, and Star Wars.

Audio transcription

"We are at Fun & Serious Game Festival 2018 in Bilbao and we have the great pleasure to be with Pioneer Award, Jade Raymond. Thank you for joining us and congratulations on your award.
Thank you so much, I'm so excited to be here. Great to see you again too."

"Great to see you again. You don't have like a speech like we attended in 2013 in Barcelona, which was about your vision, about VR, but you're sharing some topics with the audience later today, if I'm correct. What are you sharing with the audience here?
There's a couple of main things that I wanted to talk about. One is the future of action adventure games. I mean, that's what I've focused on in my career most of the time and I think it's really fascinating all this dialogue about, you know, single player game being dead or is narrative dead and what does narrative mean? And so I have some, you know, I'm very passionate about the topic. I have some opinions on where things need to go and that's actually stuff I've been working, thinking about for a while now. So I want to share some of those perspectives."

"And also, I have this thing called the network engagement model, which is just a kind of a new model for how thinking about designing games in terms of not just thinking of creators and players, but thinking about all the different roles now that are part of the gaming ecosystem. You know, how do you design a game for a viewer, for a streamer, for content creators? Like, how do you think of creating a brand or a game as an ecosystem for engagement? So I'm going to talk a little bit about that too. Just a little bit. Wow, that looks like very deep to talk just a little bit. So first of all, you mentioned single player games. Of course, they're far from that. We now see that it's been proved by games such as, of course, God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 this year. They're going to be Spider-Man, of course."

"So how do you think that changed in the past, perhaps, couple of years? It was really, there was that discussion on whether they were going to survive, so to say. So how do you think that changed? Just by, is it a matter of talent? Is it a matter of designing them for the new type of players to enjoy single player? What was the key to their survival? Well, I mean, I think it really needs a big dedication of big companies to make those games now. So I don't think it's a matter of them being dead. I mean, it's a matter of a big investment and that type of game going a little bit more towards the big blockbuster movie approach, right? Where you spend seven years on a Red Dead and tons of people working on it, and you spend these huge talented teams to get them out the door. So I'm really excited that people are still making bets. But I think the sort of part that we need to resolve or that I'm excited to resolve is how do we democratize that type of game making as well, right? Can't that live on different scales? Or how do more people tell stories? Or how do more people enjoy their own story?
So I think those are the questions that I have in terms of what's next."

"And of course, you're an expert in terms of teams and scaling now that you mentioned that.
So you've been working with two companies that have been using several studios to produce one game instead of just a single studio. So do you think that approach is going to expand onto other AAA publishers in the future, having several satellite studios working on the same big AAA project? Yeah, and I think it's a trend not only for the big AAA projects, but also even indie projects, right? I think it's becoming more and more common to collaborate with people wherever they are. If you have an artist who's really passionate, who happens to live in Bilbao, you collaborate at a distance and people, the tools are there. But I think also the way that we work together, we're getting used to running projects across different time zones and across different places. Back then in Barcelona in 2013, you shared that vision about how you envisioned VR games. You wanted these games to kind of, for example, be an astronaut in space, trying to survive, trying to get the resources and living in space. And you had several ideas on potential beautiful VR games. Did you see any of these ideas realized in any of the VR games that had launched as of late? Well, I think some of the things I was talking about in Spain was VR, but also AR, but also location-based games and also just wearables and how all of those things are coming together. And I think a lot of people have experimented in those different areas, but we haven't yet seen something kind of at scale. I think the closest thing at scale starting to tie those things in has been kind of Pokemon Go, right? Which everyone started playing and it's a different way to play in a location-based kind of AR with sensors. It knows whether it's raining and people are playing all over the world. I think that's the thing that we've seen at scale."

"But I think some of the things I was talking about in Barcelona was, I think we will eventually end up in the internet of experiences. I think that all of these things will come together, whether some people call it the metaverse or some people call it whatever you call it. I think what's interesting is we've seen a real shift in how people absorb information. When I was younger, you go to a library and you did your research in books. Then there's Wikipedia and you just sit there and you do the research. But if you look at kids, they go to YouTube and they watch videos. That's how they learn the thing, right? No matter what topic, it's like almost the search engine is YouTube. Then I think even more powerful than that is if you experience it."

"It's a whole other level. Instead of, let's say, looking in a textbook about math for the laws of magnetism, I could actually go in a VR room and experiment with them and see. I think that's the future promise when all these things tie together. I think we're starting to see different examples poking through of how that stuff comes together, but it's still maybe further in the future than everyone thought. In gaming, I guess for all that to happen, it involves both multi-platform, multi-device and games being designed to work on multiple technologies and be accessible from different places and devices. What's your take on traditional generations and platforms and the traditional model we've been seeing so far? The traditional model on consoles versus, let's say, mobile versus maybe the new streaming tech that's coming in. I do think there's probably some experiences where you're doing a competitive multiplayer game and there are certain things that you can't change. The speed of light is a constant. If you're playing streamed and you're far away from the servers, you can't get across that. That being said, I do think streaming for many experiences opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities for innovation, new types of games."

"Also, another really exciting trend is accessibility. I think everyone's talking about Fortnite and cross-platform and the way a whole bunch of new generation and new people are playing because you can play anywhere and you can play mobile, cross-play with anything else.
I think streaming, it opens up even the next level of that. How all of a sudden anyone who's viewing can all of a sudden be a player and what does that mean for the type of gaming experiences? I think those are some other really, really exciting things right now to explore."

"That sounds like the future. Let me ask you a bit about the past. Of course, a couple of games or franchises that are close to your heart are Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell.
How did you see those franchises evolving? Of course, Splinter Cell fans are asking for a new entry for a couple of years now. How did you see those franchises evolving in the past years where you haven't been related to them anymore? The Splinter Cell that I worked on is the last Splinter Cell that ships. That hasn't been evolving. Assassin's Creed, it's interesting because it feels like the baby and then the baby grew up and went to college and you're like, oh, well, maybe they decided to become a lawyer instead of a doctor or something."

"You're like, okay, well, it took on, Assassin's Creed became way bigger than anyone on the original team thought it would ever be. We were hoping we would get three games and now there's been, I think, 20 or more. I think in terms of the evolution, obviously, it's become a lot more RPG focused. You asked earlier about single player games and what does it mean and what does a success mean? I think it's all about engagement. I think when you have a story, a story has a beginning, middle and end. When the story is done, the engagement is hard to continue. I think the solution to that is the RPG systems. That's where you get the longer term engagement and the more ways to interact with the world. So Assassin's has become a lot more RPG like and that's very interesting to me because when we first made it, it was an action game. It was much more of a pure open world action game. So that's been interesting. And I think also it's become a little bit more about the user choice and the systemic stuff. So those are good things that are in line with, it's about players expressing themselves. Yeah, especially the last game is very about choice. And what about Splinter Cell? Of course, as a gamer, how would you like that potential new entry to be? How would you love to play Splinter Cell now?
Oh God, that's a good question. You know what? There's a design that we actually had and worked on that we would have wanted to make. But since I'm not at Ubisoft anymore, I can't talk about it."

"I don't know who wants to share that concept. All right, let's try with the Star Wars. I don't know if you're going to answer me. But how was it? It's funny because we had Amy Hennig this year at Game Lab in Barcelona and she just left the project recently and she said it was really sad for her because it was taking an amazing shape and it was looking and playing great. So to you personally, how was it to work close to Star Wars?
I mean, Star Wars is an amazing franchise. It's really, I think, you know, it's one of the only franchises where if you think of, I think when you think of an action adventure game, it starts a lot with a player fantasy. You know, who are you going to be and what do you get to do as that character? And you think of Star Wars, there's so many great player fantasies, right? We've seen obviously the Star Wars, you know, pilot being played out as a player fantasy and obviously the Jedi we've seen in different games. But there's so many others like there's the scoundrel, there's the, you know, the bounty hunter, there's all of these different archetypes that are pretty exciting from a gameplay perspective, all exist within Star Wars as things that you could create games around and live out. So yeah, it was really fun franchise to work with. All right."

"What can you tell us about the future? What can you tell us about what you're doing now, what you are about to do next? Of course, that would be the main question now, but I don't know if you can disclose anything on that. Unfortunately, what I'm doing next is top secret, highly secretive. But it's, you know, basically, there are so many interesting opportunities in terms of what is happening in the game industry. We talked about a few during this interview."

"And so maybe if you dig into some of the things I've said, you might be able to find some hits.
Scalability, how to work together.
Would you like to take a more managing role or a more creative role?
That you've been taking both, of course. So what would you choose now?
You know, I really like working with the teams and pioneering and doing new things. I mean, that's why I'm also especially touched to get the Pioneer Award. But I like working with small creative teams and setting really high objectives and really ambitious ways that we want to change gaming. And that's ultimately what I care about and want to do. All right. That can be a hit as well. Okay. Closing one. This year at Fun & Serious, women in gaming is a big topic. We have the pleasure to have many women interviewed. We just had Brenda Romero before you. So how would you say women in games are right now compared to when you started in the industry?
One of the things that I'm really happy about is that women are becoming more and more visible in the game industry. And that's one of the changes that I've seen, especially this last year. More women talking, more women being visible, more recognition of the work that's being done by women that I think has been there for a long time. There are quite a few women who have been in the industry like me 20 years or more, but just were less visible before. And so I think that's really exciting because I want to encourage more young women to join the industry."

"And I think the only way that you can do that is by being out there showing that it's a great industry to join, showing that women can have success. And then other women will think, okay, maybe I love games. Why not try and get a career in games? Because I've loved my career. I think it's the most exciting industry to be in. And I want to share that enthusiasm and attract more women. What would be your piece of advice to those young women that, same as you, want to now join the industry? They have the talent, they have the willing, but perhaps you have one piece of advice for them to have it easier? Well, my advice for women is the same as my advice for anyone."

"My advice is really to be honest with yourself about what you're passionate about. If you're passionate about programming, great. If you're passionate about being an artist, if you're passionate about audio design or writing, the great thing about the video game industry is all of those different skill sets are involved in making a game. And I think you're really going to be successful if you follow your passion because that's when you're going to do your best work."

"So that's a piece of advice for men as well, of course. Of course. Thank you so much for attending.
Thank you."





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