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Media Consumption: Evolution Studios' Matt Southern (MotorStorm)

For this week’s Media Consumption, Evolution Studios product manager Matt Southern (MotorStorm) talks about press reaction to the PS3 game, while breaking down the constituent elements of his media diet, from Spiritualized through Hot Fuzz to Tw
For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Matt Southern, product manager on Evolution Studios’ PlayStation 3 racer, MotorStorm. The game launched with the system in Japan last November, and reached U.S. and European shelves during March. Along with Insomniac’s Resistance: Fall of Man, MotorStorm was placed in the difficult position of having to be a system seller, though Southern notes that this pressure wasn’t entirely obvious; to him at least, since he “had a perspective that wasn't too close the coal face”. Even so, he comments that, as product manager, he is “very happy that the press and fan reaction has generally been positive”. Indeed, the reaction was positive for the most part, though a number of reviews criticized the game for a perceived lack of tracks and options, something that Southern hints could be fixed to some degree in the coming months, revealing that downloadable content is the company’s next “big focus”. Still, he remains convinced that some reviewers simply didn’t understand the game properly. “The team did an incredible job of really adding genuine depth to a launch title,” he says. “Many games these days are 'deep' in the cheapest way, i.e. they throw in a load of superfluous modes and fluff, but this is because they use established ideas that are now becoming moribund. With MotorStorm we focused on giving depth to the absolute nucleus of the game experience. Whenever I see a less complimentary review it feels like they just haven't 'got' this ethos. I think the team has actually surpassed expectation in the most important areas, like handling, AI and vehicle balance, and we can now try to address other areas with our downloadable content.” As for Evolution’s next project, Southern simply comments that the company has “some new ideas to explore in secret” and is looking to expand “team sizes with a recruitment push”. “You know,” Southern adds with a laugh, “throughout five excellent WRC games we were rarely asked this question. I guess people assumed the answer would be 'more of the same'. Now we get asked it every day, and it's a real thrill; it feels like people care what we are up to now. So it's with a certain amount of ironic pleasure that I can say next to nothing!” “We're 100% independent, and yet we have a granite-firm relationship with one of the biggest publishers in the world,” he concludes. “It's a good time to be a part of Evolution Studios.” We spoke to Southern recently, and asked about the mud pies in his race day media diet of late. Sounds: "Currently I'm listening to the new Kings of Leon album [Because of the Times], and I quite like a young band from Scotland called The View. I hadn’t bought a CD in 10 years till I got theirs. My favorite band is Spiritualized. The visionary behind the band, Jason Pierce, once described the difference between music with a slower rhythm than the human heartbeat - which tends to relax you - and anything faster than a heartbeat, which tends to make you feel energetic. This underpins their music, and it’s no surprise that depending on mood I’ll either play their punkier, fast guitar-driven stuff, or else I’ll go for their epic gospel/orchestral work. Metal is probably the most popular type of music at Evo, but I’m far too old and stuffy for that." Moving Pictures: "Last movie I saw at the cinema was Hot Fuzz, a fantastic British action comedy from the team behind the equally great Shaun of the Dead. They also did a sitcom called Spaced which I’ve been watching again via on-demand digital TV. Despite not being very patriotic I have a soft spot for British cinema, although in reality they are often only tentatively “British”. I like Children of Men, Dead Man’s Shoes, Borat and classic cinema like early Hitchcock, Monty Python and Ealing comedies. I did Film & TV studies for my first degree, and it continues to be a gold mine of inspiration for game development." Words: "Right now I'm reading Blockbuster by Tom Shone, as are nine other members of staff. Whenever Martin [Kenwright, CEO] reads something that he thinks is useful for what we do, he buys several copies to circulate amongst staff. Blockbuster is a much more balanced and sympathetic look at what is usually called the 'movie brat' generation of filmmakers: Spielberg, Scorsese etc. They are often accused of ruining Hollywood cinema, when in fact they reinvigorated it. A current favorite is From Hell by [Alan] Moore and [Eddie] Campbell, which I wish I’d read years ago. I now believe that Alan Moore is one of the greatest contemporary writers of English and it is an absolute gift that his preferred medium is comic books. From Hell is ostensibly about the Jack the Ripper murders but in truth it is a breathtaking study of London during a period of immense change. It's about magic versus science, poverty versus privilege, morality versus corruption. And it's full of blood and fornication." Games: "Playing games is a critical part of my job, no matter how much my fiancée scoffs at this. However, I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer and I believe this helps me retain a good business perspective on what we do. I'm nearly through Twilight Princess on Wii which I've loved - I'm a sucker for the 'hero's journey' type of adventure and the way they can really flatter the player and make them feel like an empowered, heroic protagonist. Sadly however, it only does some interesting things with the Wii controls. Naturally I've also taken a look at the PS3 launch window titles; there is some great work there, and our game is the best. The game I'm permanently addicted to is Football Manager on my laptop. Like many simulations, it succeeds based on the player having a passion for the 'real' thing it simulates, i.e. it allows me to pretend that I manage my beloved Everton F.C."

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