Monday, January 31, 2005

Official Interview for the launch of Capitalism 2

Interviewed by Mohamed Awad August 29th, 2002

Andy Grimbal was kind enough to answer the following questions for us regarding their company Enlight Software, and many other things in this lengthy 3-page interview. Read on to find out more!

Can you please introduce yourself (name and position)?
I am Andy Grimbal, and my role in Enlight Software is to assist in game design and content research. I am a "Game Designer", but my role is really to complement Trevor [founder of Enlight] and help bring to fruit his vision.

Can you tell us a bit about Enlight Software's history?
Enlight Software was founded by Trevor Chan in 1993, with a goal of creating games that are not only entertaining, but of equal importance, enlightening.Enlight's first product, Capitalism, received accolades as the best business simulation game ever created. Enlight's second title was Capitalism Plus, the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to the original. Following the success of the Capitalism series, Enlight ventured into the real-time strategy game arena with its release of Seven Kingdoms. Enlight then released Seven Kingdoms: Ancient Adversaries, and in 1999 Enlight released Seven Kingdoms II.In 2000, Enlight launched Virtual U, which is a simulation game of university. Recently, Enlight has produced Capitalism 2, the latest addition to the award-winning Capitalism series released by UBI Soft in December 2001.In 2002, Enlight is poised to continue its success by releasing Hotel Giant, an extremely detailed 3D simulation of a hotel, which takes realistic business simulation to a new frontier. Also planned for release is Virtual U version 2.0, which offers significant enhancement over its predecessor.When Enlight was first founded, how many people were working there? And nowadays, how many staff members are on a full-time contract?In the beginning there were only 10 members. Nowadays we are 24 full-time in-office [members]. There are additional freelancers that collaborate on the games, but they are not full-time personnel.Trevor Chan has made quite a reputation for himself, how does it feel like working with him? What do you think makes him special?Working with Trevor has been a tremendous experience. I have to admit it was not easy working here at first; I have been used to working in companies where the "boss" always had the right answer and expected you to act accordingly, so when I started in Enlight, I was not used to the degree of freedom and open-mindedness that is expected here. Here we are encouraged (sometimes forced, even!) to contribute to game ideas, challenge the status quo, and push ourselves to create better, more entertaining games. We also have a schedule dotted with deadlines. As long as you can stick to the schedule, working here is relatively stress-free, which is always a good thing.Trevor is special simply because he has the ability and talent to design games, write code, finance the business and still find the time to talk to everyone about individual issues. How he juggles his time is impressive. I wish I could do the same! Overall, I consider it a privilege to work with Trevor.Most developers are located in North America and some are in Europe; did you ever feel that your unique location in Asia worked against you or your products?Before anything, I'd like to stress that Japan is another game development powerhouse, also located in Asia. Living in such a connected world nowadays, distances are negligent. That being said, I don't see the location as either beneficial or deterring. I think there are good and bad circumstances no matter what part of the world you develop games, so you just adapt to the deterrents and capitalize on the benefits

Are there any benefits from being located in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has amazing infrastructure. Due to Hong Kong's proximity and cultural influence from Japan, we also get all those wacky Japanese games that would never reach the European or North American markets (due to marketing purposes), so if there is anything beneficial to working from Hong Kong, it's that the games market here truly caters to all tastes. We can literally just walk to any game store and purchase any game released anywhere in the world, something that cannot be said for the European, North American or even Japanese markets. And believe me, there are a plethora of fantastically crazy games out here!

Can you give us a quick run-down of your previous products?
You may refer to the Enlight software history. There we briefly describe our products.Unlike many developers, Enlight seems to be switching publishers quite often. Is there a specific reason for that?Basically when we design a game, we are always looking for unique subject matter. This means that a publisher may be very excited about one concept, but at the same time feel "leery" about other game concepts from us. Selling a game idea about a humans-battling-monsters RTS is one thing; telling that same publisher that an economic simulation about capitalism is another. Not that any of them are bad - The Seven Kingdoms series had garnered high ratings from the specialized press, while Capitalism fared equally well with game critics. We believed in our games, the press praised them, and the game players enjoyed them as well, but to the same publishers it may seem as too big a risk.

When you are developing your games, what language do you develop them first in before work starts on other localized versions?
We do all our game design in English.

Your most recent product is Hotel Giant; can you give us some information about this title?
You can visit the website, at hotel.jowood.de to find out more. But what better way for you to get the feel of the game than to actually play it? Send me your mailing address and I will send you a complimentary copy. =) Oh, and it's already on sale! [A demo is also available - Ed.]

What is Enlight Software working on now?
We are currently working on Restaurant Tycoon, a restaurant/cooking sim that is shaping up quite nicely. Concurrently, we are in pre-production on two other games, both very exciting titles, but still in the embryonic stage. All I can say for now is that these games will be a radical departure from the business simulation/RTS games we have been developing through the years. More details soon!

Any plans on developing products for any of the three consoles?
Yes. At least one of the three planned titles will make its way to the TV.Some believe that the PC is a dying platform. Do you feel that way?Absolutely not! First off, the PC has consistently been the most powerful of all game "machines". Just compare games such as GTA3 on the PS2 against the PC counterpart, and you can notice the graphical differences. And with such a huge user base, the PC has much more users than all console users combined - how do you kill such a huge user base? Or even ignore them?Many game genres simply do not lend themselves for console play - at least not yet. Take something like Age of Empires. Can you imagine "click-dragging" using the analog stick of a console controller in the thick of battle?This can all change in the future, with HDTV and mouse/keyboard control being introduced for consoles (for games such as Final Fantasy Online), but let's not forget that the PC also has the same room and potential to grow and mature.Finally, the vast majority of games are developed using PCs, so in the future, even if consoles do win the "game wars", the PC will still play a pivotal role as the development tool of choice, so I don't see how the PC will effectively "die". What I see is a convergence between the home theater, the console and the PC, as they all are becoming increasingly more and more ubiquitous.

What were some of the most recent games you played?
Oh my... It may be easier to state what games I haven't played! For research, we always play oodles of games - to see why they work, where they fail, what new technologies are being employed. All this in an effort to deliver better games to players.When I'm not playing games for research and development purposes, if I'm on a PC, I'll play racing sims (with a steering wheel, of course!), first-person shooters or play simulation and strategy games, that tend to be better on a PC due to the higher resolutions and a more flexible and intuitive interface that comprises the mouse and keyboard.On the console, I go more for action/arcade and platform type games, because the console simply lends itself better to these types of games. The games that have taken most of my free time this past month have been Maximo on the PS2 and Colin McRae Rally 2 on the PC (can't wait for CMR3!)

Are there any specific titles that are popular among Enlight Software members? Do you guys ever play some games on your LAN?
Well, Diablo II's popularity finally waned. It has been replaced by Winning Eleven 6 (PS2), where with the multi-tap you can always see eight Enlight members screaming at each other (not during office hours, of course!)Other members are busy playing MMORPGs unique to Asia, as well as more "conventional" PC titles such as Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege, and Warcraft III.

In closing, would you like to add anything?
Nah. I think I've blabbed enough already!Thank you very much Andy for this opportunity and on behalf of CanadianGamer.ca and its readers I would like to sincerely wish you and your team the best of luck.