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Louis Castle, Electronic Arts/Westwood Studios

Louis Castle is the general manager and co-founder of Westwood Studios, one of the most successful game development houses in the world. Westwood is best known for its Command & Conquer franchise, as well as Blade Runner, Monopoly, The Lion King, Earth and Beyond, and others. In early 2003, Westwood Studios become integrated with its parent company and publisher, Electronic Arts.

Castle provides some advice on creating successful computer games:

    1. Know your audience. Spend the time to figure out who is likely to buy your product and research competitive or similar products. If none exist, spend time playing the best-selling and respected titles on your platform of choice. Be your best and worst customer.

    2. Make design a deliberate process. Abstract the activities, emotional beats, and just about everything you can think of. Use the abstractions as filters and compare them to your favorite products. Design in any form is a deliberate action that requires planning, execution, and ongoing analysis.

    3. Listen to others. The more exposure you can get and the sooner you can get it, the better your chances are to realize design flaws before you're committed to them. Be able to give up your best idea if it doesn't work in the context of your vision. Don't "make it fit."

Asked to comment on the key differences when creating a game for a console versus a PC, Castle has these comments:

The main difference between consoles and a PC is that a console game is one in which you're "playing" the interface device. You need to treat the controller as the actual game and let the audiovisual systems be subordinate to the device. The console player builds skill in a game through manipulating the interface device. The PC player builds skill from understanding the game and environment. The interface needs to be transparent, and the best PC games don't require "skill" in manipulating the keyboard and mouse—but rather, knowledge of what to do and when. Of course, both of these points are important on both platforms, but the emphasis is different. Console games are about instant satisfaction and long-term skill development. PC games are about quick entertainment and accomplishment followed by in-depth understanding and mastery.

How can you acquire a "dev kit" to work on a console game?

Console development kits are acquired through well-known publishers who support the platform. Developers can get systems directly through the manufacturer, but it usually requires a track record and volume of titles to be of interest. The very early systems typically cost tens of thousands of dollars and are in very limited supply. (They're considerably less now, although developers are not allowed to reveal exact prices. Formerly of THQ, Mike Rubinelli talks more in depth about dev kits in Chapter 21.)

Chapter 21 thoroughly discusses the various ways to break into the industry, but Castle offers some sound advice here:

Take a low-paying job in any discipline you can. This minimizes the exposure for a company and gives you an opportunity to prove yourself. Learn to follow and execute; then worry about leading. Put your ego on hold and let your professionalism win you the creative jobs. I've always found the best way to get a job is to prove you can do it first, with the blessing of your boss and peers.
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