September 23, 1999

3DO INTERVIEW

Trip Hawkins Talks 3DO & Gaming


Click To Enlarge Image The games industry can be tough at times. Trip Hawkins should know. He built Electronic Arts from nothing to become the largest gaming company in the world. Several years ago he left Electronic Arts to form the 3DO company. 3DO designed a console architecture which was developed by Panasonic. Unfortunately the system lacked software support and coupled with a high price ($US700) the system died soon after the Playstation's and Saturn's launch. After another failed hardware bid with M2, Trip Hawkins decided that 3DO was better off as a software company. Once again Trip is aiming to create a major software company, and the games so far have proven themselves as world class titles. I thought it would be nice to have a chat to one of the most powerful men in the gaming industry.

Was starting the 3DO compay as exciting as the early days at Electronic Arts?
Yes. I was 28 when I started EA so it was all adrenaline, all the time. 3DO was fascinating because it had such a noble mission of advancing the entire industry and so many people shared that goal. And the strategic partnerships were both interesting and entertaining.

Obviously the original 3DO console didn't succeed as you anticipated. What can you attribute it's failure to?
We were ahead of our time. We were pioneers in the advanced use of CD-ROM, but it was not cheap enough yet and the hardware cost killed us. Also, it turns out in hindsight that in this business because of the front-end investments and risks that are required it is very hard to orchestrate a "federation" of licensees because there is no way to get the mutual trust level to be as high as it is within divisions of the same company. Sony's success proved these points.

Your second attempt at hardware, M2, failed to materialise when Matsushita decided not to produce the system. Just how good was M2. Would it have been comparable to the Dreamcast in performance?
Yes, although we felt it was very important to include DVD movie capability.

3DO has had a bumpy ride since creation several years ago. Where do you see the company now in the gaming industry?
3DO has become the fastest growing public game software company. My mission is still the same as ever: to make the games that turn people into lifelong gamers. I already built the biggest game company, now I want to build the best one.

And in 10 years time?
I hope to make gaming even more important to our mainstream society and to reach well over 100 million customers in that timeframe. I hope to make games that mean as much to our customers as their favorite movies and books.

What are your thoughts on technology in regards to gaming and gameplay?
My mission at 3DO is to turn people into lifelong gamers. That's why I have been making games for over 25 years. That's also why I have on occasion in the past made forays into the hardware side of the business when I felt it needed to be moved forward in the interest of gamers.

Sony and others have done a great job moving the hardware to where it is now. It's very exciting to see the capabilities of these systems getting where they are. The medium is the message, after all. I have always felt that great games need to be simple, hot and deep. That's how I built EA and EA Sports in particular.

And that's the same philosophy with 3DO's game brands like Army Men, BattleTanx, Heroes of Might and Magic, and High Heat Baseball.

Can you explain a little about your major 3DO games titles?
Click To Enlarge Image I've received letters from 80 year old men saying that Heroes of Might and Magic is keeping them alive and they hope to live long enough to play the next one. I got a letter from a grandmother who plays Heroes of Might and Magic with her kids over the Internet and with her 6 year old grandson. I've played BattleTanx at the same time with my 4 year old son, my wife, and my 72 year old father. That's like 4 completely different customers being together enjoying the same experience at different levels.

Click To Enlarge Image Army Men is a best-seller because people are emotionally enthralled with the idea that some of their favorite toys have come to life in a way that lets their imagination run wild. Our new lines, Army Men: Sarge's Heroes and Army Men: Air Attack, add new dimensions to this fantasy world. The first is a terrific character adventure action game with a great story. The second is a charming helicopter action game.

High Heat Baseball 2000 is widely considered to be the best baseball game ever made. What matters most to me about it is the authenticity. It is the first and only baseball game ever made that is really accurate in how the game of baseball works. So when you play it it just feels right. If you notice the pitcher has poor control of his breaking ball, and you take a few pitches and get ahead in the count, and you guess fastball and turn on it and pull a drive to left that curves left but hits the foul pole for a home run, you will know that you are doing it right and it is the real thing. The other games make me feel like a monkey pressing buttons.

We look forward to improving these games every year as well as making new ones, and satisfying not only the existing gaming audience but bringing new people to it. Gaming is good for people and I love helping people discover that.

At the moment Heroes of Might and Magic III is being developed for the Dreamcast. What is the current status of the title and how does UbiSoft come into the deal?
We licensed Heroes III to UbiSoft for Dreamcast, and they are using our design and assets to develop the DreamCast version which they will publish themselves. Heroes over the last 2 years has been the # 1 ranked game among all PC games in the consumer ratings of Computer Gaming World. It has won numerous awards and 5-star ratings.

Click To Enlarge ImageWhen did Ubisoft begin to develop the title on the Dreamcast?
Development on Heroes III began in June 99.

Will you be keeping a close eye on the title during development?
Yes.

Would you like to see any other 3DO games ported to the Dreamcast?
Army Men, High Heat Baseball, and BattleTanx are great brands that would do well on any platform.

What were you thought of the Dreamcast launch last week in America?
It is always exciting to see new gaming technology, hot-looking new games, excited customers, and major media writing about the gaming industry.

Which Dreamcast game has impressed you the most so far (released or upcoming)?
The NFL football game, NFL2K. It is very impressive looking and I am a big football fan.

What are your thoughts on the PSX2? Were you impressed with the unveiling in Japan recently?
Sony is shrewdly supporting DVD with PlayStation 2 and I think that will be a key to success for them. Also, the machine is an awesome computing engine with a great vision as to the future of gaming. And they have a solid Internet strategy as well. More importantly, they are Sony and they have the brand, the financial resources, and the commitment to pull it off.

And Dolphin?
We're looking forward to learning more about it. I think it will be a big plus for Nintendo to move to a DVD format, and oddly enough Panasonic will market this machine, so it is shades of M2. Better late than never! ;)

What is you opinion of violence in computer/video games? If you had a choice to put extra blood in a game, would you do it?
The Columbine shootings are a terrible tragedy and representative of a great social problem that deeply concerns me. But the real cause of Columbine is bad parenting, lack of gun control, and human nature. Gaming is good in the same way that reading is good. Various kinds of books are written but it is only in the worst societies that they engage in censorship or book burning demonstrations. People now generally recognize the huge social benefit of reading as a general medium. Both scientists and psychologists have proven in the last 20 years that interactive play is even more effective than reading at brain development, and video games are the most efficient medium for interactive play. It is only a matter of time before society puts gaming on the same plateau as reading. I don't play ultraviolent games and as a designer it is not my preference to go for exploitative elements like that. At the same time, these are games, they are pretend fantasies, and most customers know that. We have a rating system to protect parents and I strongly urge parents to regulate what media, of all kinds, their kids are using. As a parent, I think video games are a small issue compared to the dangers of TV and the Internet. I can guarantee you that my kids will never have TV or the Internet in their bedrooms, but they can play video games in there if I have approved of the specific games.

Finally, what is your favourite food?
As a native Californian I have to go with avocados and artichokes.

Thank you very much for you time....
David Warner ~ Dreamcast Australia


3DO can be found at : http://www.3do.com

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did in conducting it. If you have any comments or questions E-mail me at : phantom@winshop.com.au