VFX Gaming Industry Stalwart Noah Falstein -

Gaming Industry Stalwart Noah Falstein

“The most exciting new trend to me is Serious Games. I think that within ten years this could be a larger field than current entertainment games”

nullNoah Falstein. Stalwart. Veteran. One of the most respected names in Game Development Worldwide.

Falstein has been in the game development space since as early as 1980 when he started at Milton Bradley’s Advanced Research Division. Since then he has contributed to over 40 games, including several bestselling and critical hits.

Among his best known games are the Arcade classic Sinistar from Williams Electronics (1983), PHM Pegasus from Lucasfilm Games (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade from Lucasfilm Games (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, LucasArts Entertainment (1992).

As one of the first ten employees at Lucasfilm Games (LucasArts), The 3DO Company, and Dreamworks Interactive, Falstein has taken a leading role in launching major game companies. He has worked as a programmer, project leader, producer, executive producer, and creative director.

Currently, Falstein runs The Inspiracy, a game design consulting firm established in 1996. The Inspiracy has provided game design and production experience to companies as diverse as Disney Interactive, Dreamworks Interactive, Totally Games, Humongous Entertainment, Cavedog, Sega, Mattel, Intel, and Shell Oil.

Animation ‘xpress Editor Anand Gurnani had the privilege of meeting and interacting with Noah Falstein at the X Media Lab, organised by Brendan Harkin in Singapore late last year.

Following are excerpts from an exclusive, quick Interview…

With your experience and expertise in the gaming and interactive space, we would love to hear from you a small history of how games and gaming have evolved in the past 2 decades?
That is a huge topic. I guess the most obvious trend is the size of the biggest games, going from budgets of perhaps $300,000 and a team of about 5, to $50 million and a team of 250 people. But that’s obvious.

Perhaps more subtle is the effect that this has had on experimentation and creativity. I think currently there are many more exciting, interesting games on the Nintendo DS than on PS2 or Xbox, because the big budget console games are so expensive that they can’t afford to take chances being innovative.

Where is gaming and interactive headed? What are the new trends and what’s contributing to them?
I expect some very interesting games for cell phones that have GPS, blending real-world interaction with the game space. I think cell phone gaming will just be one option among the many others, but mobile devices are constantly gaining capability and changing – I never would have predicted the success of the Ipod, but I expect it may in turn fuel other types of game development, and better integration of cameras and more bandwidth in mobile communications could make some great new games possible too.

The most exciting new trend to me is Serious Games. I think that within ten years this could be a larger field than current entertainment games. These are games that have a purpose beyond entertainment, like instruction, research, simulation training, etc. I’m seeing growth of these games in so many areas – Academics, the Military, Medicine/Health, Science, and more – that I think it will grow explosively. Interactive training just makes sense for a generation that has grown up on video games. As chronicled in many new books, people who grow up on games seem to have their brains wired differently.

Do you see console and PC game development work coming in a big way to Asia or is it dominated by online and wireless gaming?
I think there will be a balance. PCs are so useful for other purposes besides games that they will be around as a platform and the temptation to develop for them will be strong. Consoles will spread as a (relatively) cheap way to have high quality games at home. And online gaming will of course continue to have a strong role. But many people still prefer to play when THEY want to, not when their friends or some strangers are available for online play.

Could you share some information on serious games development and the emerging opportunities in that space?
I believe that ALL games are intensely about learning, it’s just a matter of what the subject is. Accordingly, using games to teach real-world information seems like a logical step. Perhaps my favorite subset of serious games is in the medical arena. There are games in development that will help kids with cancer or ADD, train surgeons to be faster and make fewer mistakes (saving lives), and games to help physicians learn to talk to their patients more humanely. And that’s just a start. Look at the new Nintendo DS brain-training games and their amazing success in Japan for one example of this trend. 50 year olds buying game systems just to keep their minds sharp – the possibilities are staggering.

What is the 400 project?
It’s an attempt to define rules of good game design. Sort of a toolbox for game designers. There is more at my website, www.theinspiracy.com, and in April it will be updated substantially

What’s the latest projects at theinspiracy?
I’m usually under NDA, but most of my current projects are serious games of various types. I recently completed work on a game about the Hungarian revolution of 1956, and also contributed to the recent LucasArts release, “Empire at War”.

What’s your advice to young Indian entrepreneurs in Game Development aspiring to develop and publish their own games and titles? What’s dos and donts to follow for those who want to work with the best in the world?
The simplest advice is to aim high, and be persistent. If you focus on doing your best work, and follow what you love to do instead of focusing too much on money or fame, you will achieve more and likely be happier too. There are so many opportunities in the world today, it’s much more varied then when I started. But to thrive in this industry you have to love change and variety, and be willing to constantly update your skills. For game designers in particular I strongly recommend fostering a lifelong love of learning.