12 years ago Martin Hollis, the man who made the original GoldenEye 007, left UK powerhouse Rare 18 months into development of Perfect Dark to travel the States. It was a decision that rose more than a few eyebrows.
After consulting on the development of Nintendo's GameCube console, Hollis returned to the UK to start Cambridge developer Zoonami. In the decade since he's made a handful of games, including Zendoku, Go! Puzzle and most recently WiiWare title Bonsai Barber. Now, with big budgets and millions of sales a distant memory, Hollis looks towards a new decade and new opportunities.
Here, in an interview conducted at the GameCity festival in Nottingham, Hollis tells Eurogamer why he needs a break, reveals his plan to invent a brand new videogame genre, and considers what he might have done in another life.
Eurogamer: What are you up to right now?
Martin Hollis: I'm trying to work out what I want to do next. I'm recharging my batteries. I'm keeping my eyes open for new feelings, new kinds of game. I hope I'm not being too ambitious, but it's my aspiration to produce something that is genuinely new.
I've got quite a few things in mind, but I'm going to have to choose between them. It's too many things to talk about something in particular now.
Eurogamer: Where does this desire this come from?
Martin Hollis: It's a good question. I've been making games for so long that I'm no longer interested in the pure and simple goal, which should be respected, of just making a good game.
I'm more interested doing that and trying to push the field. Increasingly I feel the games that get made are typically from a fairly narrow set of possibilities, and I feel there's an incredible range of possible games that could be made.
Most people aren't really exploring that, and that's what really excites me. The Wild West – no one's even there yet. The real blue ocean of game design is what excites me most.
Eurogamer: Are you talking about inventing a brand new game genre?
Martin Hollis: I'm thinking of new genres, yes. Exactly. Bonsai Barber was really cool and I loved to make it, but I've learnt some good lessons from that, and I wouldn't sit down to make another hairdressing game or another barbering game, because it doesn't feel like something that can be grown into a genre.
It's an interesting direction and it's certainly new and original, but it doesn't feel to me like something that can be grown into a genre. I want something where I've got a 10-year plan, where it's something where I feel I can really push for a long time on a big challenge in a new direction.
Eurogamer: Are you in a position to do that? In this economy, that's a privileged position to be in.
Martin Hollis: I'm not going to put my aspiration second. I'm going to wait until I feel I've found the thing I want to do. I'm not taking a hurried approach to it at all, really. It may be a year before I've got a project to talk about, or it may be longer. I don't know.
It is quite a privileged position, and I accept that. I am taking it seriously, but I'm not in a rush.
Eurogamer: Are you burnt out?
Martin Hollis: There are two meanings of burn out. I do need to recharge my batteries. Bonsai Barber was very hard.
Martin Hollis: Because it was so new and that is tough work. We all have very high aspirations and meeting those was very difficult. We set high aspirations for ourselves and that's very difficult.
Eurogamer: Do you still enjoy making games?
Martin Hollis: Yeah I do. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it at all. There's no reason to carry on if that was missing. But I'm insisting on making projects for the last 10 years, really, I'm interested in.