An Interview With Simon Jeffery - E3 2002 Page One
Interview by Andrew "telarium" Langley, Sarah "invisibelle" McKeever, Jake Rodkin
When Simon says "Talk," you talk.
Mixnmojo had the privilege of stealing the illustrious Simon Jeffery, president of LucasArts, for a brief interview during E3. Tom Sarris, LucasArts PR pooh-bah and managers of all things press, was there to protect Simon from us and politely kick us out when our time was up.
Simon opened the interview by asking us to go easy on him, so Sarah began with the most difficult, pressing question she could think of.
Sarah McKeever: What's Mike Stemmle working on?
[Simon Jeffery chuckles]
Simon Jeffery: Mike Stemmle is working on actually a couple of different concepts. I think it's safe to say that what he's working on is going to be a revisit of one of our classics, which probably isn't going to be the only thing that's coming back. But I can't say anymore.
Andrew Langley: Okay. So when you first became president of the company a couple of years ago, what kind of goals did you set that you wanted to see happen?
Simon: Like we talked about last year, one of the biggest ones was to return to quality games and return to our more original products. Rather than the pretty much 100% Star Wars output which we've seen in the past few years, we're aiming to do the 50/50 thing. I saw that very amusing illustration on your website.
[Tom Sarris laughs]
Andrew: Which one was that?
Simon: The scales.
Jake Rodkin: Oh yeah.
Tom Sarris: I forwarded the link to Simon. I said, "You gotta love the Mojo guys." I don't know who did the caricature, but it was funny.
Simon: So yeah, we're really happy with the quality of games we're putting out. And pretty much 50% of what we do is not Star Wars-related.
Sarah: You said something last night along the lines of how you wanted every Star Wars game to be an event. Does that mean you're making fewer Star Wars games, or are they going to be more quality, more special?
Simon: Very much so.
Sarah: Okay, I wasn't sure that's what you were implying.
Simon: It's a real focus on every Star Wars game because there's been so much Star Wars product now, and we're talking about a few years ago when everything we did was Star Wars. A lot of gamers thought the games released didn't feel special. And I don't want to say anything bad about Star Trek, but when you look at what happened with Star Trek quality and gaming, it just became this cluttered, confused mess because no one knew what was what.
So we really wanted to put a lot of attention on making sure there were less Star Wars games, and with every one we do, people look forward to it and get a lot out of it.
Andrew: Was that the main reason you decided to start doing more original games, or was it just something that you guys at the company wanted to start exploring more?
Simon: We wanted to get back to our heritage. When LucasArts started 20 years ago, we weren't doing Star Wars games.
Sarah: Because if you're outsourcing Star Wars games and keeping the original stuff in house--
Simon: More and more, we are.
Sarah: Is that because that's what you like to do, or--
Simon: Yeah. People like John Knoles (Or is it Knolls? -Ed.) have been doing nothing but Star Wars games for 12 years or something. I mean, people want to do new stuff, fun stuff, and original stuff. So yeah.
Andrew: Speaking of outsourcing, was there any hesitation about outsourcing Star Wars and Indiana Jones? Because I know Lucasfilm is very protective of what they do with those stories and things like that.
Simon: Well, we spent a great deal of time looking at partnering with the best developers we could find. So with Bioware or Raven, we felt very comfortable because we're in control of the story itself anyway. That's controlled by LucasArts rather than the developer. We felt very comfortable with the quality development and our maintaining the property.
Andrew: Also, you guys have got a good mix of things like action and adventure, but I think a lot of the fans would like to know if you guys are still interested in doing the "pure" adventure games like Monkey Island again or--
Simon: I think it's... point and click graphic adventure?
Jake: Well, even more like Grim Fandango where you run around--
Simon: Well, Full Throttle  will have a bit of that. Full Throttle is going to be an interesting combination of action and storytelling adventure. I guess in some ways the original Full Throttle did as well, but the action was much more basic in those days. But yeah, we're going to be doing that and Mike Stemmle is looking at new ways of evolving the graphic adventure. Again, it's part of our heritage and it's something we're not going to give up on.
Andrew: And what about a new Monkey Island game? Are you guys interested in doing that still?
Simon: At some point in the future, there will undoubtedly be more Monkey Island games. No doubt about that.
Andrew: What about the Planet Moon title? The humorous action game?
Simon: Because we only signed that project a few months ago, it's not ready to show at this E3. The game is going to be shifting in probably fall next year, so next E3 will be the big unveiling of that game.
Jake: Are we going to see anything from Mike Stemmle at E3 next year
Simon: Very likely.
Andrew: And since, like you said last night, it's the 20th anniversary of LucasArts, are you guys thinking about doing anything special for the fans?
Sarah: Yeah, anything special at all? Something more than that logo out there?
Tom: Well we're thinking of a key ring.
Simon: No, we're going to be doing a bunch of stuff on the website throughout the year. We're going to be kicking it off with the company itself. Actually we've got a company meeting and then we're taking everybody in the company out to a big park for a day. And then we'll start in the summer doing stuff on the website and talking about, "Hey, it's cool we've been making games for 20 years."
Tom: There are some things in PR that we're also doing.