Ninja Theory's Tameem Antoniades will be presenting Enslaved to the Eurogamer Expo 2010 audience on Sunday, 3rd October at 1pm, and for Antoniades his task is a challenging one: convince buyers to take a risk on a new IP at the busiest time of year. Thankfully, he's got quality on his side, not to mention Andy Serkis and Alex Garland: top-tier Hollywood talent that helped build Enslaved from bottom to top. What's more, he's got an exciting session planned where he'll offer a rare glimpse behind the scenes at footage that would otherwise be condemned to the vaults.
Here we sit Antoniades down for a chat about Enslaved and what he'll be showing at the Eurogamer Expo 2010. And if you haven't already, check out our review of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
Eurogamer: How are things at Ninja Theory - tense, stressed?
Tameem Antoniades: No it's pretty relaxed actually. We're still working on the DLC for Enslaved. There was a leak and it's Pigsy. That's going to be wrapped up in the next few weeks.
Eurogamer: Pigsy is the slightly overweight friend of Monkey and Trip?
Tameem Antoniades: Yeah, "the slightly overweight" would be a kind way to put it.
Eurogamer: So we're gong to find out a bit more about Pigsy?
Tameem Antoniades: Yes, but I probably shouldn't talk about it!
Eurogamer: Is there any more DLC planned?
Tameem Antoniades: No.
Eurogamer: You've gone for the title Enslaved - have you ever been enslaved, Tameem?
Tameem Antoniades: Well, yes. Part of being a game developer... Actually not so much now but in the past you are Enslaved - to your deadlines. You sleep under your desk: that's something I had to do years ago when I was working at my previous company. But myself in a sexual way? No.
Eurogamer: What's it like being on the road to release? Is it sad, is it thrilling, is it everything all at once?
Tameem Antoniades: It's hard to describe: it's strange. When you're working on a game, every day feels like a constant battle to make things work, make things the best you possibly can. Then you show it to people and it's strange to get an outside perspective, because you've been so close to it for so long.
The sad thing is that, in a way, everyone that's actually be involved in creating this game will never get to appreciate it, because when you play your own game all you can see are development processes. All these things go through your mind: the difficulties of development, the things you could have done, you should have done. It's a whole mixed bag of feelings. You never get to enjoy it for what it is.
Eurogamer: Have there been any tears shed over the course of development?
Tameem Antoniades: No, actually. We made most of the mistakes we had to make during Heavenly Sword because that was our first big game. We went into this game much more battle-hardened, knowing what we're good at, what we're not good at. We were prepared, whereas nothing can prepare you for a console that, in the first instance, didn't exist - the PlayStation 3 - and then started changing all the way through development. Building the technology from absolute scratch not knowing what a next-generation game should be: we were taking so many huge hurdles.
Eurogamer: It must be weird now hearing people start to talk about the next next-generation.
Tameem Antoniades: I haven't really heard anything on the grapevine from other developers. The thing that matters to us is the next big leap in core gamer consoles.
Eurogamer: So you're not interested in something like Kinect or Move for the time being - not even far down the line?
Tameem Antoniades: I'd be interested to try them out and see.
Eurogamer: Try them at the Eurogamer Expo!
Tameem Antoniades: Yeah, I'll do that. But we haven't actually got dev kits or anything like that. At the moment, no, I don't have particular interest in that area, not until I see what they can do.
Eurogamer: I always like asking people if back at concept stage when you were sat down, fleshing out the ideas for a game called Enslaved, if there were any wild ideas pitched that got everybody excited until they realised it was utterly outrageous and couldn't be done. Did that happen on Enslaved?
Tameem Antoniades: There was an idea that we ditched that was bizarre. When Monkey gets onto a robot that Trip has scanned: when he punches this mech in a particular point Trip has identified, we then go inside the nervous system of the mech in first-person, going through all its muscles and bones and structures and you play this weird mini-game where you've got to press buttons at the right time to crack its bones [laughs] and disable it. You see all the bones crack and you're going through all these wires in a Tron-like world.
I was convinced it was going to be the coolest thing ever, and we implemented a prototype and no matter what we did I just couldn't convince anyone it was cool. Couldn't convince the publisher. And then very quickly I went, "Yeah, you're right - it's not as cool as it was in my head."
But that's what you do in games - try out different things - and sometimes they're outlandish and they work really well, in which case they become stand-out features, and sometimes they just fall flat. And that one, unfortunately, fell flat.
Eurogamer: The demo's out, the forums are chattering - what's the reaction been like so far and are you looking forward to showing it off at the Eurogamer Expo?
Tameem Antoniades: I read up on a lot of the comments on different forums. The reaction from a lot of people is that it seems overly simplistic and linear, which I accept, because it is a tutorial level of the game. The reason the demo's linear is because you're on a slave ship that flies and you can't get off - you can't really get any more linear than that.
But the game then opens up and you've got Trip involved and you get new mechanics and it gets tougher and more complicated and puzzles come in and combat developers. It's always tricky with a demo because you don't know whether you should be giving people a tutorial level to ease them in to the set-up or whether you should give them something in the middle of the game - throw them into it.
I thought doing the tutorial was the right thing: it sets up the story, it sets up the basics. On the other hand, a lot of people that maybe aren't so analytical of the minute, just enjoy that it makes you feel like you're in this rollercoaster ride, on this slave ship trying to escape. It's gone both ways.
If you want a single-player action-adventure, there's not much actually out there to choose from.
Eurogamer: It's a tough quarter for a new IP to shine, this.
Tameem Antoniades: How many new IPs are being launched this fall, this autumn? There's Vanquish that's coming around, there's us. I struggle to think of any others. This is a general malaise that's hitting triple-A games, that the publishers are now so risk-averse that the chances of any new IP coming out are slim.
It's like those turtles that crawl out of the sand and then get picked up by seagulls on their way to the sea and then only a handful make it into the sea and then they get eaten by sharks. You're lucky if one or two survive. I feel that's kind of what it's like to be releasing Enslaved in the run up to Christmas.
Eurogamer: You're presenting Enslaved at the Eurogamer Expo 2010! What are you going to talk about, what treats have you got in store?
Tameem Antoniades: I get annoyed when I got to a presentation about a game and they just show the game. Well, you can buy the game and check it out. What I would really like to do is show as much of the behind-the-scenes material as I possibly can - stuff that you would never get to see.
There's so much stuff we create that's never meant to be seen. I want to show some of the original concepts, some of the CG trailers we created at the beginning, artistic style tests, sound work - all of that stuff. I think it's fun, I think it's interesting. You just don't get a chance to see that very often, even in Making Of videos you don't really see what the raw material is behind it. That's what I want to show.
Eurogamer: Are you nervous about speaking at such a prestigious event?
Tameem Antoniades: Eurogamer is a prestigious event! And Eurogamer has some of the most passionate fans that I've seen on any website, so I'm bringing my umbrella just in case there's any rotten tomatoes or cabbages coming along that way. No, I am actually really excited to be talking. I don't feel that comfortable trying to pimp the game, and this gives me an opportunity to show cool stuff the team's done without blatantly pimping the game.
More on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Truffle in paradise.
Face-off: Face-Off: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Complete analysis of Ninja Theory's Unreal adventure.
Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
More footage from the full game.
Eurogamer: Is Andy Serkis coming down?
Tameem Antoniades: I don't know. I haven't heard. He's been very elusive of late. I know he's been shooting Rise of the Apes in Vancouver up until recently and he's only just come back to his family. I'll ask him, but I'll understand if he says no.
Eurogamer: What do you do to mark the release of a game - do you get all the team into the office and sit around refreshing websites for scores?
Tameem Antoniades: It's strangely anti-climactic. If you have a movie coming out you have this release, a premiere. You invite all the stars and everyone's there and it's all a big celebration and people watch it and even if it's a terrible movie people will clap and you can feel good about it. Whereas we release Enslaved out to the wild and you don't see... These games can sell over a million. Easily. Some of these games are selling four or five million. I'd like to see four or five million people in one place just to see what that looks like and feels like, you know. It's actually incredible how big and to how many people it gets. But the only evidence you really see of that is blog posts, reviews, forums, chatter. It's weird.
We're all going to go down to the pub. Day of release we're going to hit the pub and we're all going to get smashed out of our faces and we'll try and arrange a little all-inclusive trip for the team and do something more than that later on. But yeah, there's no film stars, no hungry paparazzi, nothing like that.
Eurogamer: But you've got stars! Why couldn't you do something like that?
Tameem Antoniades: It's just a bit cheesy, isn't it? What's everybody going to do - get on the red carpet and come into a cinema and someone's going to play the game? Or are we going to take turns? You can't force the glamour on a medium it doesn't really fit.
Eurogamer: What's next for Monkey and Trip?
Tameem Antoniades: We'll let the game come out, we'll see how it does. If it does OK, if it actually looks like it's got legs, we'll start thinking about what's next. The thinking from the beginning was not to assume there would be a sequel, just to put everything into this game. It's a new IP so let's not plan for a sequel because the chances are we'll only disappoint ourselves. So we mentally prepared for that - we've not planned for a sequel. But if it gains some traction, I'd like to see something happen.
We've also announced a new project that I can't say too much about, Devil May Cry, and we've moved some team members over to that.
Eurogamer: Would an Enslaved sequel wait until DMC was out of the door?
Tameem Antoniades: No, we've been growing into two teams for the last year. We've got capacity to do two games.
Enslaved will be released for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 8th October.