We recently got to talk with Julian Eggebrecht, President of Factor 5, and asked him about all things GameCube, and Rogue Squadron 2. We're unleashing our first part of our three part exclusive interview!
Planet GameCube: Can you give us some background info on Factor 5, like how the company got started, where you're located, and how many people work there?
Julian Eggebrecht: We are located in San Rafael, Marin County. That’s north of San Francisco and just around the corner from LucasArts and Skywalker Ranch. We have been at this location since 1996, when the company moved from Germany to the US. Factor 5 was originally formed out of an Amiga-Computer hacker group. It was the late 80s when the Amiga became very popular in Europe but didn’t have good action games. It was a port-platform which deserved better and our games were amongst the first ones to really push the specific technology. With the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive re-inventing the console market worldwide we moved on to these platforms and got into contact with LucasArts, Konami, and Nintendo.
The games you might remember from that time are Super Turrican 1+2 and Mega Turrican on SNES and Genesis, Indiana Jones - Greatest Adventures on SNES, International Superstar Soccer Deluxe on Genesis and Contra 2 on Game Boy. When the PSX arrived, we started work on BallBlazer Champions and Rebel Assault 2 for LucasArts. The 9-hour time difference between California and Germany became a problem with CD-based projects. The Internet wasn’t fast enough in the mid-90s to transfer these data amounts so we always had to burn versions and send them via courier. It really was bad so LucasArts at one point asked us if we might consider moving the company to the US. They offered their help in legal matters and finally, in May 96 we packed up. After BallBlazer there was Rogue Squadron, then Battle for Naboo and Indiana Jones N64 and now Rogue Leader.
Planet GameCube: How many people worked on Rogue Leader?
Julian Eggebrecht: Our in-house team consisted of 25 people. In addition, we had one additional freelance musician and a friend from Germany did additional work on the cut-scenes because of the time-constraints and workload. On top of that there were many people at the LucasArts QA, production, voice, and marketing departments working on Rogue Leader.
Planet GameCube: Will Factor 5 simultaneously develop multiple titles, or will you continue to focus your collective efforts on a single project?
Julian Eggebrecht: We have a lot more time for the next projects so we would like to do one large project like Rogue Leader and a smaller, quirky and unusual title with far fewer people. Rogue Leader really needed every resource during the whole production time. The next big one has a longer schedule and won’t need all resources for the whole duration of the project.
Planet GameCube: What's your background in the gaming industry?
Julian Eggebrecht: I finished school in Germany in ‘89. When I was in the last year of school I really wanted to make games and thought I had a pretty good group of friends assembled to do that. There was no real games industry in Germany, nor was there any formal training, so we just went for it. One of the first games we wanted to do was an Amiga update of the LucasArts classic Ballblazer. I found out the LucasArts phone number and somehow got hold of the president at the time. He of course wanted to get rid of me and gave me a contact at their German publisher, Rainbow Arts. I called them and four weeks later we had a contract for a game. When one of their producers left two months later, the company asked me if I wanted the job and although I had no clue what a producer did and was just fresh out of school I went for it. At Rainbow Arts I met the rest of the Factor 5 team and we pretty quickly became very good friends and partners.
I left Rainbow Arts in ‘91 to go to film university in Munich but by that time making games had turned into a real business and all the principals at Factor 5 had to make the choice between university and making games. Well, we all chose games - I spent about 2 hours total at film school before quitting for good.
Planet GameCube: What's your favorite game of all time?
Julian Eggebrecht: That’s a tough one. It’s probably a draw between Robotron: 2048 (arcade), Atari’s vector Star Wars game (arcade), Yoshi s Island (SNES), Mario 64, and R-Type (arcade)
Planet GameCube: Jar Jar Binks: should Lucas keep him or make him Bantha fodder?
Julian Eggebrecht: We dropped a Nintendo logo on him in the intro of Battle for Naboo, didn’t we?
Planet GameCube: Explain in your own words what "The Nintendo Difference" is.
Julian Eggebrecht: For me it s the complete focus on the gaming experience and trying to do new, fresh concepts. Easy and intuitive controls are something Nintendo does better than any other company and they are able to merge them with new game concepts. Pikmin is a great example for the Nintendo difference as a game; the GameCube controller is the perfect example for it in game hardware design. Everything around the controller is about rethinking and reinventing how to control games in the most intuitive way. A lot of the playability and fun of Rogue Leader is inspired by and depending on the GameCube controller, so I hope Rogue shows a little bit what the Nintendo difference is all about.
Planet GameCube: How high on your priority list are new, original titles? We haven't been blessed with a totally original Factor 5 title in quite some time.
Julian Eggebrecht: You have to make the right choices as a developer if you want to continue working well in the industry. We are quite conservative when it comes to monetary risks. We understand the worries of a publisher who has to invest several million dollars into a project. So if we do something original, everybody, including the publisher, has to stand 100% behind the project. We are quite comfortable working with existing franchises if we really like them. Of course it would be neat e.g. to revive our Turrican-character and turn him into a modern franchise, but the game, its design, and the gameplay experience really have to justify the risk.
Planet GameCube: Are you interested in doing anything other than GameCube? Arcade, portable?
Julian Eggebrecht: Arcade games would be fun, but it is hard to make money with them nowadays. So you have to have the home conversions in mind and at that point you can as well go for home right away. There are almost no technological incentives in the arcade market anymore. In the 80s and early 90s we would have killed to make an arcade game, just because arcade technology was so much ahead then.
Portable is another thing. The Game Boy Advance is a nice machine and the people here love it. We will probably do something for it sooner or later.
Planet GameCube: If you could work on a game of a different genre than you've done before, what would it be?
Julian Eggebrecht: I personally would like to work on multi-player, but not necessarily via the net or split-screen but all players on one TV screen. In the action-genre, a lot of character camera and control has not been completely explored in 3D and I think we could do something fresh and new with that.
Planet GameCube: What do you think about the other GameCube games coming out for the North American launch? Any favorites?
Julian Eggebrecht: I am really looking forward to Tony Hawk 3 and Super Smash Bros...Pikmin would have been my killer app, but I already have the Japanese one so it doesn’t count for US-launch.
Part II coming tomorrow night!