Interview with Simon Jeffery

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Simon Jeffery, President of LucasArts Entertainment Company has very kindly agreed to let us ask him a few questions. Mr. Jeffery has been the president of LucasArts since former president Jack Sorenson left in January.

Since he has only been the president for such a short time, we were greatly interested in learning more about how Simon Jeffery's appointment would change the future of LucasArts Entertainment Company, as well as giving us a chance to learn a little more about the president. :) We were fortunate enough that he agreed to do the interview, and that we can share his responses with the LucasArts community.

-The Mixnmojo Team

1. First off, please tell us a little about yourself

Well, I've been in the gaming industry for nearly 14 years, starting at EA Europe in its formative months. I'm a marine biologist by education, but wanted to work in this industry since I first typed a BASIC version of Panic into my humble Sinclair ZX81.

When EA set up in Europe, I knew it was my time... I worked at EA for about 6 years, then worked for Virgin through the fun years of 7th Guest, Aladdin and Command & Conquer. I finally fulfilled my career ambition and came to work at LucasArts over two years ago.

2. How did you become involved with LucasArts? What were you doing prior to joining the company?

When I was at Virgin in England, we distributed LucasArts product for a few years.

I was involved in pitching for the LucasArts business in '94 (we were working on TIE Fighter) and I got to know Jack Sorensen, Mary Bihr, and a number of other LucasArts people at that time. From that point onward I knew that one day, somehow, I had to work at LucasArts!

When the opportunity arose in '98, of course I jumped at it.

3. What projects are LucasArts currently working on and are there any which are still in the planning phase of development?

We have many, many projects in the pipeline right now. Some are nearing completion (such as Escape from Monkey Island, Obi Wan, Battle for Naboo and Starfighter.) Others are a year or more away (such as Star Wars Online), and still more are in the early stages of development. These, I cannot talk about - other than to say that we will be more open with our communication going forward, and will be making some pretty cool announcements over the next few months.

I think that both Star Wars fans and LucasArts original-title fans will be happy with the direction we are taking the Company.

4. What is LucasArts' primary concern when creating a game?

A couple of years ago, it was our main aim to support the upcoming Star Wars: Episode I movie as strongly as possible - to help George Lucas tell his story to a new generation, and to help expand that new universe inorder to fulfill the insatiable desires of the Star Wars fans.

We have now come full circle in many respects, and our primary concern now is making games that we think our customers and followers will enjoy. We're building games that we, the people at LucasArts want to play. Just like the good ol' days...

5. Many LEC fans are looking extremely fowards to adventure games, specifically sequels such as Monkey Island 4, currently in production, or Grim Fandango 2.

Does LucasArts plan to work on more adventure games and will there be more original adventure rather than sequels? Or will LEC focus primarily on the Star Wars genre?

We're greatly looking forward to Escape From Monkey Island. LucasArts will continue to make original story games, but we are looking into how the graphic adventure market can evolve.

We certainly won't be making so many Star Wars games in the future. It'll take us a couple of years to get to this stage, but I would say that it's our aim to have a 50/50 balance of Star Wars games vs original games.

6. Where do you see the game industry going in the future and what role do you see LucasArts playing in that future?

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Monkey Island 4 - In Production

Now, there's a question. Sadly, I see the game industry going through further, and even more severe consolidation. The barrier to entry is being raised, and many small developers and publishers will struggle to co-exist with the multi-million dollar development and marketing budgets wielded by the industry publishing powerhouses. The new consoles will afford even greater market leverage to the big Japanese publishers, and only a few Western companies will consistently see their games in the charts.

Through supplying a small number of high-quality games that build a loyal customer base, we aim to establish a happy niche for ourselves in a marketplace dominated by more commercially-oriented companies.

We don't intend to grow to compete with the 'big boys' in terms of size - we aim to be small, focused and highly creative.

7. Are you a gamer? If so, what is/are your favorite game(s)?

Yes, I'm a gamer! Always have been, always will be. My favorite games are Elite, Populous, Half-Life, X-Wing and Monkey II. Most recently, I've been way too absorbed by The Sims.

8. The music of LucasArts games has proved to be an essential part of the gaming experience. In the past LucasArts has released soundtracks to games such as The Dig and Grim Fandango. Also, many fans have voiced their desire for additional soundtracks to be released.

Does LucasArts plan to create sountracks in the future on a grander scale?

We don't have any specific plans with regard to music, other than to continue producing music that rocks!!

9. Recently, LucasArts has been porting games such as Episode I Racer to the Mac. Does LucasArts have any plans to port adventure-game greats such as CMI and Grim Fandango which were previously unavailable to Mac users? Also, will future titles be developed for the Mac platform?

The Mac market is a difficult place for games. We have had mixed success historically. Whilst I don't want to say that we will not publish on the Mac again, I also don't want to commit to any products right now...

10. Has LucasArts made the ultimate plunge into 3d gaming? Or might we see a few 2d games still popping up from time to time?

Never say never... ;)

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Monkey Island 2 - one of Mr Jeffery's favourite games.
11. What is the selection process which is used when a new game idea is proposed?

This is a question that could take weeks to answer. In short, we have many qualified people who look at all game ideas internally (we do not accept game ideas or submissions from outside of the company).

Our Project Leaders, marketing folk, management and creative-types all look long and hard at any game idea that we believe may work out. No single person makes a decision - it's a group process, and we are constantly fine-tuning it in our continued efforts to increase the quality of our games.

12. What occurs in a typical day at the office?

Finance arrive at 8:30

PR arrive at 9:00

Artists arrive at 10:00

Programmers arrive at 11:00

Everyone goes to lunch at 12:00

We spend the whole afternoon in meetings.

We get work done in the evenings.

Programmers go home after midnight

13. Finally, how often do the nerf gun fights at the office take place?

Hey, we're not EA!

On behalf of the LucasArts fan community and The International House of Mojo, we'd like to thank Simon Jeffery for this interview.
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