I rather like Warren Spector. For a man whose portfolio includes such deliciously dark-hearted efforts as Deus Ex, Thief and System Shock, he sure can twinkle, and for a man whose studio was recently shuttered by the House of Disney, he's startlingly short on acrimony. Games Industry International has just published Spector's first ever interview in the wake of Junction Point's closure - a full and frank read, from which I pluck the following wisdom.
Number one, Spector entertains familiar doubts about the future of consoles, but doesn't think there's much point to rampant speculation. "Prediction is a fool's game, so I'll give you a qualified 'maybe'," he began, when asked whether next gen machines would reprise the success of their predecessors. "It seems likely that success will come less than usual in the pure gaming space and more in the home entertainment space.
"And there, the consoles are going to be up against some stiff competition. But it seems likely that the multi-purposeness (is that a word?) of the consoles will be enough of a differentiating feature to keep consoles going for a while, at least.
"The biggest risk associated with consoles, at least to me, is that they're frozen, hardware-wise, while mobile platforms - phones and tablets - will continue to get more and more powerful," he added. "I mean, where do you think the iPad or Kindle Fire or Surface or whatever will be in 3 years? 5 years? It's crazy to think about. And the consoles will still be right where they were in 2013 or whenever they come to market. That'd be a little scary to me if I were a console manufacturer."
Smells like truth - but on the other hand, Warren, the prospect of buying three new iPads over the next three or five years is rather distressing to me as a consumer. I like hardware that overstays its welcome.
Asked whether he set much stock by the graphical capabilities of forthcoming consoles, Spector was engagingly dismissive. "Better graphics are better graphics. Nice to have, but that's about it. The irony is that increased hardware horsepower often sends us back a few steps in terms of design innovation - it takes so much energy just figuring out how to achieve graphical quality players expect, make sure our characters can pathfind around increasingly complex game worlds, and so on.
"Just figuring out what to do with new hardware eats up design bandwidth," he said of Sony's new PlayStation (aside: Microsoft's next Xbox is reportedly very similar, according to Ubisoft). "I'm certain we'll come up with all sorts of innovative designs, but it might take a while. And if I knew what design innovations the PS4 might allow us to pursue, I'd probably be pursuing them.
"That's the thing about innovation - you can't see it coming! If you could, it wouldn't be all that innovative, would it?"
What do you think? Me, I hope he gets another shot at working on Xbox - Epic Mickey wasn't the stuff of daydreams, but it had a good heart. Perhaps there's an opening at Arkane Studios, many of whose employees have worked with Spector in the past...