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Epic's Capps On EA Partners: 'They Give Us What We Want'

Epic president Mike Capps sat down with Gamasutra to explain why the studio signed its new IP with Electronic Arts and its EA Partners label, explaining of the world's largest publi
Asked how Epic Games ended up signing with EA Partners, studio president Mike Capps immediately responded, "Lottery pick." Capps elaborated further in an interview with Gamasutra conducted following the announcement of a deal that will see Electronic Arts' division for independent developers distribute new multiplatform titles from Epic as well as Grasshopper Manufacture (Killer7, No More Heroes). Many of his responses addressed a point that numerous EA Partners studios have recently voiced: the publisher doesn't become unduly involved in the development process. "We don't bid out," said Capps, whose studio created the Unreal series and its ubiquitous engine, as well as Gears Of War. "We don't have to play that game. It's more about finding someone who's really passionate about a product. We took this game to EA, and they just lit up. I think they were excited about a relationship with Epic that wasn't just using our technology." The game in question is a currently-untitled project by Warsaw, Poland-based People Can Fly, developer of frenetic first-person shooter Painkiller as well as the PC version of Epic's own Gears of War. Last year, Epic took a majority stake in the company. "We were working with PCF, and we asked them to come up with some new IP ideas," recalled Capps. "We picked one we really liked, we developed it for a little while, and we showed it around to a few publishers." Echoing sentiments voiced by John Carmack of id Software, which recently signed its own EA Partners deal, the Epic executive explained that he talked to other EAP developers before moving forward with the deal. "We called [Valve's] Gabe [Newell] and Scott [Lynch], and [BioWare's] Ray [Muzyka] is a good friend; I know him well," he explained. "I said, 'Really? EA? Are you sure? Is it just a big check they're giving you?' They don't have a false bone in their body; they're not politicians, those guys, and they were really excited. They're people who we expect to be prima donna developers, like us. We expect to be in charge. Those guys said, 'Yeah, they didn't screw with us.'" In a recent interview, Valve's Doug Lombardi indicated that an important part of deciding to sign with EA was that, unlike many potential publishing partners, EA was willing to stay hands-off with parts of the publishing process Valve felt comfortable undertaking. Capps described similar reasoning for Epic's deal. "They give us what we want, checklist-style," he said. "If you don't want design direction help, they cross it off the list, and you just won't have that assigned to the project, and they just won't worry about it. I mean, [they've got] friggin' Valve. They're going to make a good game. We don't want somebody telling us how to light levels." "I think there's a real maturity there, because there are publishers that try to control the process," Capps continued. "They'll say, 'Well, this is what we used on this budget title coming out of Eastern Europe, and we feel like we need it to use it on your title, because you're on stage 3, and you're doing it wrong. And I'm like, 'I've been making games longer than you've been a publisher. Just do the things I need you to do.' And [the EA] guys get it." When asked about Electronic Arts' past missteps with development studios, sometimes with disastrous results for those studios, EA Partners global marketing VP Craig Rechenmacher chimed in. "There's something you see within EA since [CEO] John [Riccitiello] has joined: a concerted effort to prop the studio and the creative team up," responded Rechenmacher. "We've got a city-state model that's about the products that are coming out, where it's not about EA; it's about the development teams. John is a huge supporter of EAP. It's absolutely our charter to work with the best and the brightest on the planet."

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