Eric Caen is an interesting person. At 44 years old, he’s worked on over 100 different games, and co-founded his first company, Titus Interactive at the age of 19 with his brother. Currently, Eric is the President of Interplay, heading up projects such as Interplay Discovery, which allows for game developers looking for publishers the chance to get their games released to the public.
In the credits of Superman 64, Eric is listed as the Producer, which means he was heavily involved in the development of the game. Eric was kind enough to perform an interview over email with me and answer a number of questions about Titus, Interplay, and Superman 64.
Before we get started, how about telling the people reading this a little bit about yourself?
Eric: Hi, I am Eric Caen, 44 years old, and have been creating games since 1980. I founded what became Titus Interactive in 1985 (I was 19), and have worked on over 100 games in 30 years.
What was the first game you ever worked on?
Eric: Octopus (the game & watch from Nintendo) that I converted for Commodore 3032 (before Vic20 & C64), but the first you may know is Crazy Cars on Amiga, or Blues Brothers on NES…
What game(s) are you currently playing?
Eric: Only the ones I am producing, and of course the ones that are proposed to Interplay by developers across the world. Except that, the most two recent games I played are Mario Wii, and Angry Birds iPad.
Out of all the games you’ve worked on, which one was your favourite?
Eric: One isn’t enough…
Prehistorik Man SNES (then GBA and this year on DSiWare)
Automobili Lamborghini N64
Top Gun Combat Zones PS2
More recently: Legendary Wars : T-Rex Rumble DSiWare (coming on iPad in 2011)
You have worked alongside your brother in various companies for over 25 years. Has working so closely with a family member ever caused any problems or have things always gone smoothly?
Eric: It is a lot smoother than with anyone else. We trust and we respect each other’s judgment. Also we are not in the same fields of expertise (me creating games, him selling games)
How come there’s not much information online about the history of Titus?
Eric: I don’t know. Maybe because most of Titus’ success existed before the public internet era?
Close to the turn of the millennium, Titus picked up a number of studios such as Blue Sky, Interplay and Virgin Interactive Entertainment. Do you feel that Titus expanded too quickly or was the value of these acquisitions worth the risk of over-expanding?
Eric: Maybe, but it is very hard to exist in this industry as a mid-size company. Either you become global, and your portfolio generates recurrent revenue or you are stuck being a very small developer struggling to survive. I think the acquisition of Digital Integration and then the license of Top Gun made a lot of sense, and Top Gun Combat Zones was a very good game. The investment in Interplay and in Virgin Interactive were also clever, but maybe we went too fast, without enough senior management to help us.
Over the years, you’ve worked on and produced a number of different games based on licenses such as the Blues Brothers, Xena, Hercules, Superman and Robocop. Why did you choose these licenses or did the holders of the rights to them come to you first?
Eric: For all the licenses you are naming, it was our move to go and get them. Also, Lamborghini, Quest for Camelot, Kasparov, Top Gun… We always tried to stay away from the licenses that would disappear too fast. We were looking
for cults… Blues Brothers was the first license we worked on, and we did it many years after the movie.
Do you feel that working on a licensed property restricts your team’s creativity in any way?
Eric: Sometimes yes, but sometimes it is the opposite because the challenge generates good adrenaline.
Superman 64 was the first 3D action/adventure game that Titus worked on, as your prior 3D releases were racing and chess games. Do you feel that this hindered development?
Eric: The main issue was working with the licensor. They caused us so much trouble. Also our design originally was too ambitious compared to what an N64 was able to deliver…
In previous interviews about Superman, it was mentioned that you would be able to free-roam through Metropolis, but in the final game ring mazes were implemented which restricted the player’s ability to explore the (for that time, very impressive) square mile of Metropolis. Why is that?
Eric: Rings are only in the “tutorial” levels.
Where did the idea of Superman going into a virtual world to save his friends come from?
Eric: Political reasons, as the licensor refused to let Superman kick “real” people…
Why was the decision made to limit the use of Superman’s powers in the game when that is one of the primary draws of the character?
Eric: Again, it wasn’t our decision
What took up the most development time?
Eric: Politics!!! Approval process!
Was development restarted at all while working on Superman?
Eric: Not really.
Eric: We missed the original marketing date by 6 months, mostly because we had to do the same things again and again for political reason.
Jon: Did DC review the game during each of its production stages, or the finished product before release, or were they only concerned with when it was being released?
Eric: The licensor caused us A LOT of problems… they generated the final quality of the product!
Jon: How was the general mood of the development team when the game went gold and when reviews/sales figures started to come in.
Eric: It was a relief to move on to other projects with less political constraints!
Jon: Despite the reviews, how did this game sell? Was a profit made off of it?
Eric: The N64 game sold very well and was profitable for us… until we had to kill the PS1 version even though it was 75% developed. Then we lost a lot of money!
Jon: Have you personally beaten Superman 64?
Eric: I don’t remember if I completed it, but I played it again & again during the two years of its development.
Jon: Did Superman 64 turn out to be near what your team had envisioned at the start, or was the finished product sidetracked by hardware or other limitations?
Eric: Of course not. It is not even 10% of what we intended to do, but the licensor killed us!
Jon: What content was cut from the game? If you cut a lot from the game, then what were the big things that you wish you could have kept in the game?
Eric: I am not allowed to detail what we had to remove, but it was a lot.
Jon: Is there anything in Superman 64 that you feel was done right, or that you are very proud of?
Eric: I think it was still the first game that tried to display a full city with a way to fly over it, and to land where you want… There are many games I am more proud of, of course!
Jon: Are there any secrets still hidden in the game which players have yet to find?
Eric: I don’t know.
Jon: Did you consider making games out of any other heroes, like Batman or Spider-Man?
Eric: We tried to get Spiderman rights, but Activision was faster than us.
Jon: Do you feel the reputation that Superman 64 has earned is justified or is it overblown?
Eric: Superman is a cult character especially here in the USA. I don’t think it is easy to deliver even a portion of players’ expectations, and we were probably too ambitious and a bit presumptuous at that time… but its terrible
reputation is exaggerated mainly because Superman is an icon!
Jon: Blue Sky Software was working on a Playstation 1 version of Superman, and apparently it was finished but could not be released due to the license for the character having expired. Do copies of this game still exist and is there any way for people to play this game?
Eric: It wasn’t totally finished, but close. We had about 400,000 units in pre-order in the US itself, and WB killed it!
I don’t know if a build still exists.
Jon: Was the transition from working at Titus to working at Interplay a smooth one?
Eric: Of course! The main difference is that it is a lot easier and fun to work on your own IP’s than on big licenses.
Jon: You recently released Prehistorik Man on DSiware, which was an IP you had in the Titus days. Are you planning on bringing any more IP’s back, such as Crazy Cars?
Eric: Prehistorik 1 is coming to iPhone & iPod Touch pretty soon. We are working on a Crazy Cars project but it is too soon to disclose anything about it, but at Interplay, with our developer partners, we are also preparing a new
Stonekeep, a new Clayfighter, a new Descent, a new Battle Chess, a new MDK, and so on…
In a recent interview with Edge Magazine, you stated that Fallout Online will be going into beta in 2012. Will this be a public or private beta or has that been decided yet?
Eric: No comment
Where do you see the future of the gaming industry going?
Eric: Social, Viral, and more physics & fluid animations
What advice would you give to people wanting to get into the game industry?
Eric: Be creative, and submit your project to the Interplay Discovery program… if it’s good, we can help you!
I’d like to thank Eric for taking some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me, and for bringing a couple of aspects of the game’s development to light. Now the question is, if Warner Bros. and DC caused so many problems with the game, where do we go from here?
I’ve been toying with some new ideas lately to publish after Superman 64. Some non LP ideas.
Heaven forbid I shake up or annoy subs by putting up something that isn’t an LP or involving gameplay (The last Speed Gamers ad did that enough) but I want to try something different on top of the usual. Who knows if I’ll actually do this though, considering that I’ve had a lot of crazy ideas before that got scrapped halfway into production. The Superman 64 live action movie was probably my favourite but it got scrapped for how complicated it was, and how bad it would’ve looked on my camera.
Don’t worry though, if this works out it won’t overtake LPs or anything, it’ll just be a side project. I’ll be working on a proof of concept later on after the next few episodes of Superman 64 go out, and it might get posted on the channel later.
Sometimes something happens that makes me forget any regrets I ever had about the whole LP/internet thing and makes me think “Okay, it was totally worth it.”. This is that something.
This is Trevor Leadbeater. He’s been stationed in Afghanistan for almost a year now. He saw that I was supposed to be running an event at Otafest (Calgary’s local anime convention) and did this for me out of the blue. Now, I ended up missing the con due to being sick so I felt miserable but when I saw this, all that immediately went away. Thank you so much Trevor for this image, it’s greatly appreciated and I hope you come home safe.
Might as well use this as a platform to update people huh?
Progress on Superman 64′s currently on hold for a week and will resume Monday, May 24th. Reason is two fold:
1) This weekend is Otafest, a local convention here in Calgary, and I’m running an event there so I need this week to actually get everything prepared.
2) I lost a bunch of progress in editing the video due to carelessness and I’ve just gotten fed up with it for now. A few days off to work on something else will help me focus a bit more. That and I’ll be on nights at work so I can actually get some editing done then.
There, so that’s where things are at the moment. I’ve gotta get back to making this game in RPG Maker VX for this event. Here’s hoping it goes well.
The hardest part of writing anything is knowing where to start. The first lines are always the hardest, and then the end. The middle’s super easy, you just spout off random nonsense and it’s okay because it’s framed inside a sensible start and end. For some reason, writing stuff like that makes it easier to think about what to write or do when editing or coming up with ideas. I’ve never quite understood why, it might have to do with the way I was taught in school.
If there’s one thing I miss about school, it was the chance to just write insane things in English class and get graded on them. Back in Grade 11 (Ugh, 9 years ago, I feel so old now…) I used to write mystery short stories for my Language Arts class. They were about a grizzled, hard-boiled detective who was world renown and whose life was full of girls, guns and a bottle of Jack Daniels. My teacher seemed to love the stories and always urged me to come up with more stories for the character (The 95% – 100% marks on the stories didn’t hurt either) but after I graduated High School, I never really did much with him.
Last time I was at my parent’s place (About a year ago before they moved back to Newfoundland), I went through a few boxes and I found a binder full of the stories, along with some other projects from that class. There was a short story on the dangers of talking to strangers on the internet (How ironic that I do that all the time now) and how it could lead to you being kidnapped and sold as a slave on the black market, along with a bunch of the mystery stories. I took it home but I’ve once again lost it, so maybe I’ll find it during the next move in a month or so. I could always resurrect the character and do something for NaNoRiMo (National Novel Writing Month) if I was bored in November. Then again, who knows? I tend to do things sporadically so I could be into being a vigilante in November. It is after Hallowe’en after all.
Now to close this out with what I’m sure someone out there wants, proof that I’m actually doing something.
I suppose this is where I should close on a strong note, but odds are anyone who went to this post is just looking at the picture and that’s it so I’ll just go back to work now.
Man, just thinking about that weirds me out. Time goes too fast sometimes, especially when you’re as unorganized as me. Here’s an example:
Superman 64′s first episode has been sitting in my editing queue for half a month now. In that time I’ve made two other videos (one for work and one for promoting The Speed Gamers), I was involved in The Speed Gamers Mother Marathon where I co-hosted with Chuggaaconroy and Chase (One of the founding members of TSG), bought around 40 games (Most being NES stuff like the original Mega Man games and some Game Boy games) and finished only one game, worked about 10 12 hour shifts and worked on a project for an event at a local convention.
What’s really weird to me is that all of this happened in that short time span, and it feels like absolutely nothing was accomplished. That’s how it always goes though I guess, you do stuff, look back and think “Wow, that seems like nothing now, how did I actually spend all that time?”. What’s worse is, in a few weeks I’ll look back at this moment and think the exact same thing and have completely forgotten about this moment. It’s like amnesia without the part where you forget what your name is (Although that kinda happened once…).
In the war against time, I’ve come to realize that my Backloggery is the bane of my existence. It’s like a ticker that taunts me, stating I’ll never beat everything I own unless I either play two games at once (Wouldn’t be the first time…) or I quit my job and social life and just play games constantly (Not gonna happen). You can look at my torment by clicking on the image below.
For those of you looking for an update on the start of Superman 64, the first episode’s about 75% done. It just needs some tweaks/audio balancing and TLC. You’ll see it posted soon hopefully (Since I have a project I need done before Saturday the 22nd, it had damn well be done before then), but don’t go around posting that it’s nearly done, people still seem to think that I’m not posting a video until December 2012 and I don’t want them to realize that they’re bad at getting jokes. Might break their hearts.
Alright, back to work. One more hour of this 12 hour shift and then I can go sleep. Take it easy guys.
Yeah, neither do I.
Last week I ended up moving to a new place and moved in with a new roommate. Things are going well and I don’t see that changing at all anytime soon, but I’m being reflective today because the whole situation seems kinda silly. I guess not the situation, moreso what I did in said situation.
Originally I was moving because I got a new job and wanted to find an apartment instead of just renting a room from a family like I was doing during University. Spurred into finding a place by browsing Facebook, originally I wanted to move in by myself but my friend Daniel was also looking for a place to move into so it made sense financially for both of us to get the same place. After we found a place and settled on it, signed the lease, etc…, we had to prepare to move. We both had three weeks to prepare, and lo and behold I don’t even start until the day before.
I’m a constant procrastinator. Anyone who knows me or pays attention to the rate I post videos at is well aware of that. It’s just funny how it keeps happening though, especially when I don’t mean to. It’s probably just a nerd thing, since practically everyone I went to University with did the same. Maybe there’s just something in the water…
We’re pretty much unpacked at the new place, we just need to set up TVs in the bedrooms and move around some of the gaming stuff in the living room/make more space. Having a housewarming party this weekend, hope it goes well. The only thing we’re really missing at the new place is a wired internet connection for our desktop computers. Thank goodness for wireless internet and laptops.
So I guess I’ll be back to doing videos this week if all goes well. I still have to finish Season 2 of House before I do that though, gotta have my priorities straight.
Welcome to my new blog, part of my new site, ProtonJon.com . I’m really excited to have my own running website now and hopefully if you’re reading this, you’ll become a regular visitor of the site.
Here I’ll be just writing whatever comes to mind, any new plans coming up, etc…