Dave Perry explains Top Secret
Paul sits down with Dave Perry to discuss 'Top Secret', the ambitious community-developed racing MMO title currently boasting a development team in excess of 20,000 people...
'Top Secret' is a fascinating idea, what are your hopes for it long term? Is it the first of a long line of such ventures?
The whole idea of this game is to expose talent that's out there. Some developers think I'm crazy, that I'd be better off using professionals. However, I spend a lot of time with students, last night (for example) I spent the entire evening with them, teaching, but it always turns into a two-way thing. Where they inspire me, and I try to show them that they do already have the skills needed. If only a small room of them can impress me, can you imagine 20,000 or 100,000? Lets face it, if this works, the next team will be 1,000,000 people. That could change everything as we understand it, meaning the game could ship with an unprecedented amount of insanely high quality content (try to compete with that when you only have today's 30-70 person teams!)
While indie game development has embraced the idea of development teams spread globally, communicating via the internet, for a major publisher to create a game in such a way is a bold move, what inspired the idea and do you think the gaming community will embrace the project?
It's the future of business (in my opinion), you don't hire people based on if they're willing to move to your town, you hire them based on skill. You use ALL technologies to bridge the gaps. For example, the other day three of us were editing a single spreadsheet live on Google Spreadsheets. I've been using Microsoft Excel for years, and it's always been a lonely (and often boring) experience, but when you see the other people working away on the same document, it's really refreshing.
Interestingly these kinds of technologies (Wiki's are another example) don't even require us to be in the same country! Skype means phone and chat communication (even with video) is pretty much free. It's just the way things change, and I'm a major believer in moving with the times. If you don't like moving with the times, then look at the savings of not having to run a big headquarters office (been there done that, in the past I've spent a million bucks on custom office layouts, and $50,000+ a month rent). That seemed smart back then, but I'm not convinced that's how to be competitive going forward. I'm a professional consultant now, and I certainly don't advise pouring cash into a fancy building when starting out.
As unofficial 'modding' has become part of PC game culture over the last decade do you see projects like this where the gaming community get more involved in the initial game development themselves as the next natural step?
Modders are simply stunning. You have no idea the pain they will go through to do what they want. No matter how horrible the tools you give them (if any), they always find a way to not only make new content, but sometimes they even IMPROVE the game! I'm amazed by them, I was a programmer for many years, but my technical strength was never to reverse-engineer the work of others, I see it as a special skill. At this point there's enough experts out there to make it clear that modding will NEVER go away. So why not help these guys out? They are smart, passionate and extremely talented. I love the idea of them getting to dive into something big and challenging, but at the same time, welcoming them with open arms.
How much of the finished game will actually be created from participants ideas?
I've had a few people say, "Ah, I get it, you just want us to make a free game for you?" It couldn't be farther from the truth. I've already got a fully funded team, they will do everything that our online team don't do. They will also fix any problems, like if 3D models come in kinda funky or broken, they will just do whatever is needed to turn them into final game assets, they also will do all programming. We can't know what will work and what won't, but I want to be sure this game ships, so I have full technical support. I also will have a full team of people monitoring the forums (managing all these people will be a pretty decent task).
To answer your question, my hope is that 100% of the game ideas, and a major percentage of game assets will be made (or at least submitted) by the participants.
Has the central idea and gameplay framework already been decided upon?
Yes, we have an MMO engine, so we're starting day-one with the ability to drive servers, connect people, sell items, display 3D objects and worlds, make an interface, register, patch, etc. So consider we start with an engine that's an empty shell. The GREAT news is we don't wait 2 years to get the tech working. So I think we will have this puppy done in a year. The genre I chose is Racing. The reason being that everyone has played a racing game, we all have opinions, and I think the genre could use some new ideas. Will they come up with new ideas? I'm betting yes.Next