Interview with Mario Wynands , co-founder of Sidhe Interactive, Wellington-based game developers
About Sidhe and Yourself
Could you please give us a quick intro to Sidhe, when it was started, who is behind it and how it has evolved.
Sidhe was started in May 1997 by myself, Tyrone McAuley, and Stuart Middleton. Back then we were just 3 guys with an idea in a living room.
Since that time we have grown to over 30 people, and we have developed a number of different products for platforms including PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Probably our most recognisable title for readers would be Stacey Jones Rugby League for PS2/Xbox/PC.
Sidhe - that’s an interesting name, is there a story behind this? Who’s the little critter with the huge boots in your logo?
Sidhe (pronounced ‘she’) is a term which refers the ancestors of leprechauns and faeries - the ancient people who were driven underground before the arrival of the humans. The character is our take on what the Sidhe may have looked liked.
Do you believe that being over here in New Zealand is a disadvantage to game developers (with us being far away from the main gaming industry centres overseas, and even with our smaller market of game purchasers)?
It certainly makes it difficult (and expensive) to initiate and build relationships with publishers who are typically based in the US and Europe. We also don’t have much depth of experience here as the local industry is fairly young by world standards.
That being said, we have a great deal of talent in New Zealand. We are a nation of passionate, hard working, innovators. There is no reason why AAA titles can’t be developed here.
How do you guys anticipate the market to change with the introduction of the new handhelds and now, just recently the next-generation consoles like the PS3, XBOX 360, etc.
A changeover in consoles is always a turbulent time for the industry as developers and publishers must invest heavily to get up to speed on new platforms without the guarantee of swift returns. Certainly it’s a time when we might see new industry players emerge, and established players might disappear if they make the wrong choices.
For the gamer, it all spells opportunity as new consoles are normally accompanied by new IP and new ways to interact. Videogames (generally) and the videogame experience just keep getting better.
The new handhelds I think are the major innovation in this round of console releases. Only now can we have the same sorts of experiences that we are used to on our home consoles in a handheld form. PSP and DS will bring handheld gaming to the masses.
What are you guys working on at the moment? Do you have anything in the pipeline for development?
Sidhe Interactive is currently working on 3 titles, all due for release during 2005 -GripShift for the PSP and Rugby League 2 for PS2/PC (due in September) - see side panels on previous page for details
We are also working on a horse racing title for PS2/XBox/PC. Based on the Melbourne Cup this game will feature realistic graphics, a career mode where you can manage your stable of horses, a jockey mode where you can participate in the race, and online play. It is due in October/November this year.
A tricky question, but which next generation console (Nintendo Revolution, XBOX 360, PS3) are you most looking forward to and why?
Really, we still know very little about the consoles at this stage despite a slew of media being released in recent weeks. Until you get you hands on one, it’s difficult to make a judgement call about which console will provide the best gaming experience.
How about 5 years from now - how do you think the gaming industry may change in the future?
I think the key significant change is that digital content distribution will become much more prevalent, with gamers being able to purchase full games, expansion packs, and other premium content online. Gamers themselves will be creating and sharing much more of their own generated content. Digital distribution opens up the door to a lot of different opportunities for gamers and developers alike.
About your time in LA
at the E3 Expo
Being at E3 must’ve been mind-blowing - what was your highlight of the event?
When we attend E3, we are mostly involved in back to back meetings, and unfortunately we didn’t actually get to spend a lot of time on the show floor. The highlight was actually getting to spend a few hours on the last day just browsing the games without having to rush off somewhere.
How was Sidhe received over there?
It’s the first time we have ever had any games on display on the show floor (and we had 3 this year), so we had a much larger presence than ever before.
We managed to get some great press coverage for all our titles, and the products themselves were well received by the media, retailers, and the public.
What game from E3 are you most looking forward to playing?
I really liked the look of some of the upcoming World War II FPS games - they just oozed atmosphere with great graphics, sound, and AI. I haven’t gotten into any first-person shooters in a while but one of these may just tempt me back.
Any news from E3 that the general public may not know about that you can tell us? Even if you just lie and start a rumour
I have some news from E3, but unfortunately am unable to disclose specifics. All I can say is that gamers are in for a treat in the next year with some of the things Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo each have up their sleeves.
Any rival companies break out into fights during the event? And if so - who won?
Sony and Microsoft were slugging out a virtual battle of announcements, specs, footage and demos at E3. Sony may have just edged out Microsoft in this round, but expect Microsoft to come back strong.
What really surprised you at E3? What announcement really took your attention?
What really surprised me is that there was not a definitive standout title. There were certainly a lot of great games on display, but in the past people gravitated to a handful which were clearly head and shoulders above the rest. That didn’t happen this year which was kind of strange.
For more information on Sidhe, you can check out www.sidheinteractive.com