Eurogamer: Where was it really successful and where could it have done better?
Karl Hilton: It did OK in most places. It was most successful in Europe, really. It did OK in the US. It did very well on Nintendo platforms in the US. Then on some of the other platforms, never huge.
The thing to watch out with something like TimeSplitters is it was a bit of a game of its time, but it was quite British. It had a sense of humour to it. These days it's difficult because the cost of developing the big budget games is so much now you need to have a broad market. You need to be trying to sell everywhere.
So you've got to avoid making something that's too niche, that doesn't work, but at the same time you can't make something bland and generic because there are plenty of those. It's getting that character and personality into a game, but not disenfranchising a whole set of people who might otherwise buy it.
Eurogamer: If a publisher asked you to make a new TimeSplitters game would you sacrifice some of the Britishness in order to give it a better chance to appeal to a wider market?
Karl Hilton: I don't think it's about sacrificing the Britishness. It's about working out with a publisher what's the characteristic and personality of the game. Every good game should have a personality. When you play it you should feel from the way it plays and the way it looks what it is you're playing, otherwise you can get a very mediocre product.
It's just about working closely with a publisher, saying, "Well, what direction do you want and what direction do we want? OK, why is that different? Why is that going to be better than any of these other games that are out there?"
Once you've got that, that's when you get the confidence in a publisher, because they will invest the money you need them to to make a triple-A game, and we'll have the knowledge that we're making something that's different enough that it's not going to be just another me-too FPS.
What that is? You can have a lot of discussions about that exactly.
Eurogamer: Good luck with finding a publisher. I'm sure your fans would react to a new TimeSplitters positively.
Karl Hilton: Yeah. TS had a very high profile within the industry, among press and game developers and publishers. That's great. And certainly within our team there's phenomenal enthusiasm for it and we'd love to do another one. But everyone realises it's a hard commercial climate out there, so you've got to do something that's commercial but still has integrity. That's the balance you're going to have to find.
But yeah, we'd love to do it. We don't want to get self-indulgent with it. We want to produce something that speaks to a lot of people and a lot of people play. That's the best thing: when you make a game and it sells a lot of units, not from a financial view, but because it's great to see your product out there that people are enjoying it and playing it.
When you get the feedback on the forums that people are staying up and playing this thing, that's the pay off. I still get people coming up to me these days and going, "Oh, I loved GoldenEye. I played it for hours." That's really great.
Eurogamer: Do you look back at GoldenEye fondly?
Karl Hilton: Oh yeah. I had a fantastic time. I had a great time making that game. I still get comments now from people. They ask what you do and you get talking about it and they find out you did GoldenEye and then it's like, "Yeah, I spent weeks playing that. Fantastic." That's a real lovely pay-off to have, that they gave that much of their own personal time to play something you made.
Eurogamer: Do you hoard all the letters?
Karl Hilton: No.
Eurogamer: You don't have someone to deal with all your letters telling you how amazing GoldenEye was, like a rock star?
Karl Hilton: It's not quite that many these days.
Eurogamer: Back in the day I bet you received a lot of stuff.
Karl Hilton: Yeah. Turning up at parties, people would ask you to sign their boxers, which was quite surreal. I did that a few times.
Karl Hilton: You're only as good as your last game. I love GoldenEye. It was a great experience and it's really nice when people say how much they enjoyed it. But ultimately it's in the past. I don't ever want to trade on it. It's something I've done that I'm proud of and I don't mind talking about it to anyone who wants to listen, but in terms of what we're doing these days it's relevant in the sense that it was a first-person console shooter and it set a few things up that are still used today, which is nice to see, but ultimately, if you load it up now and you play it it's like, oh god, is it really like this?
Eurogamer: That's unfair though. It's over 10 years old.
Karl Hilton: That's the thing with games, isn't it? You can watch a film that's 20 years old and go, ah, that was great, but you look at a game that's 20 years old and it's often not quite what you remembered it to be.