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INTERVIEW: Michael De Graaf sounds off on post-merger Firemonkeys

INTERVIEW: Michael De Graaf sounds off on post-merger Firemonkeys

EA hosted a Need for Speed: Most Wanted preview event in Sydney this week, bringing in talent from Criterion and Firemonkeys.

Hosted at a modest studio in Surry Hills, the event had the sublime racing game available via multiplayer, and had the simultaneous smartphone and tablet version from Melbourne studio Firemonkeys available to check out as well. MCV took the opportunit to speak to Michael De Graff from Firemonkeys about the merger between Iron Monkey and Firemint.

What was the greatest challenge in getting the latest game onto tablets and smartphones?

The great thing for us is just how rapidly the hardware is improving. With the extra performance that we’re getting out of the devices now, we’ve got a whole lot more to play with. Because of that, we’re really able to hit that new level of graphical quality. It’s always been our goal (particularly with the cars) to push towards realism and get as close as we actually can to realistic cars.

So Rob Murray was just invited onto the stage when the iPhone 5 was announced. How was that for the team?

Oh, that was really exciting for us, to be involved in that presentation.

Was it as huge a deal for the team in Melbourne as it seems like it would’ve been?

Well, whenever there’s an opportunity to work on something like this, we’re always really thrilled to be involved. Both studios, before we became Firemonkeys, had been involved in these sorts of presentations to different degrees, but I think this is the first time we’ve actually had someone from the studio giving an on-screen presentation, and we were the only third party developer to do that.

It’s a testament to what the Real Racing team are doing – the game looks amazing.

Do the NFS team and Real Racing share resources and talent?

Yeah, there are two separate teams, and the code bases are actually different and have come along different evolutions. But we do tend to bounce our ideas of each other a lot. There’s a lot of expertise amongst the two teams, so there’s a lot of crossover there, particularly when it comes to getting the best out of the devices.

There’s a lot of knowledge that we’re able to share, especially with things like input. It’s great to work together on this stuff, since both teams have such a long track record of developing racing games on iOS.

Have there been any major changes since the merge?

Even before EA acquired Firemint, both studios had always kept a close eye on what the other was doing. It was a natural part also of being part of the Melbourne games development community and working on similar sorts of titles. We’re always really aware of what each other is doing and have a lot of mutual respect.

When Firemint was acquired, it was really exciting to be able to physically move into the same space and start working together properly. It seemed like the perfect fit for the two studios.

Is this the first tablet and smartphone game to have leaderboards go cross-platform to their console counterparts?

I couldn’t say that definitely, since we had something like it with Mass Effect: Infiltrator. The galaxy at war stuff. You could collect intel which you could then use to boost your galactic readiness rating on the console version.

Thank you for your time!


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