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Media Consumption: Introversion's Tom Arundel (Defcon)

This week's Media Consumption speaks to Introversion co-founder and director Tom Arundel, discussing reaction to the studio's Darwinia and Defcon, plus plans for Multiwinia, alongside his media favorites, from Soma.fm through Jack Ker
For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Tom Arundel, co-founder and director at independent British developer Introversion, developer of Darwinia and Defcon. The latter title has just been released via retail channels in the US following its Steam launch back in September of 2006, with a European retail release set for June. The apocalyptic real time strategy has been the most positively received game from the company so far, with Arundel noting that it has seen scores of around 80% from the majority of outlets. “I think the reaction to Defcon was pretty astonishing. We didn't really have any idea what sort of response we'd get which is why come launch day we weren't so well prepared for the exceptional demand,” he reveals. “We learnt our lesson that evening when all the servers collapsed. Fortunately we had some technical wizards on hand to set things right but we'll certainly make sure we're ready next time round.” 2005’s Darwinia was well received by sections of the community – it won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Technical Excellence, and Innovation in Visual Art awards at the 2006 Independent Games Festival – but Arundel admits that the title “did get some pretty ropey reviews... when it first launched”. “Mainly because things like the demo were pretty inaccessible,” he says, “and the game was complex to try and explain. A lot of people just didn't understand it. We made a second Darwinia demo though and once we launched on Steam things really improved; especially after we won three awards at the IGF which was a massive morale boost.” “We always take any criticisms on board,” he continues, “and some we use to make changes to the games, like we did with the second Darwinia demo for example, and others we choose to just accept as differences in opinion, like the criticism about not having a save-game option in [2001 hacking sim] Uplink. The only criticism I remember from Defcon was that some people complained that there was the potential for imbalance within Defcon between various territories for example, that Europe might have an advantage. We took it on board but haven't changed anything. As you'll see from our forums alone, opinions on this differ greatly!” Up next, the company plans to release a multiplayer version of Darwinia, titled Multiwinia, which Arundel describes as a case of “finishing the job”. “Darwinia was originally a multiplayer game that we had to restrict to single player due to time and severe money pressures,” he comments. “Also, it's taken a lot of nights down the pub to figure out how to make Multiwinia work as a game. It was good to have Defcon to work on as a means to focus our thoughts away from trying to solve the multiplayer Darwinia problem, so that we could let ideas churn over in our mind. We've got a brilliant implementation as a result; sometimes good things really do come to those who wait!” We spoke to Arundel recently, and asked about the tinned soup and vacuum packed space bars in his fallout bunker media diet of late. Sounds: I love SHOUTcast - it's absolutely awesome. Soma.fm does loads of really cool mp3 streaming of chillout and ambient music which is great to work to; it's calming, which means that you're less likely to make rash or heated decisions. Other than that, we have to work pretty hard, so it's just easy to listen to for a long period. On that note, I've been listening to a lot of Jon Hopkins recently. Contact Note and Opalescent are excellent albums! Alternatively, when I'm roller skating through London, you can't beat a bit of club music. I find it very energizing. It's good to listen to when you're exercising - makes you work harder! Lee Harris is running this awesome podcast of the latest UK house tunes. It's great because he covers all the latest tunes before you hear them in the clubs! Moving Pictures: I really quite like sci-fi horror - Aliens and Event Horizon are great movies. Aliens is an all time classic; a sci-fi film that doesn't date nearly 20 years after it was made. Truly amazing. Space stations are excellent settings for horror thrills. Thrills are…just thrilling! And sci-fi horror movies deliver them in a particularly effective way. On that note, the last movie I saw was Sunshine. I really quite liked it, especially the way that you could feel the terror as each of the crew was picked off, only to find at the end that had they would have died had the mission gone to plan anyway. With Casino Royal - and more importantly Daniel Craig - Bond's make a definite turn for the better. I quite like smart crime/spy films. The Bourne films are good, and Layer Cake is great – again with Daniel Craig. Delivers well! Words: Reading is one of those things that I don't get to do much except when on holiday. I enjoy a lot of American fiction from the last century; some of the older classics are the best, like Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Nabokov and Jack Kerouac. They describe a society and a culture under enormous transition, when the ways people thought about life, and how they should live it, were being constantly challenged, and people were generally pretty confused. Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are fun. I don't think there's a man alive who doesn't find something appealing about James Bond and perhaps that was Fleming’s biggest achievement: he was really able to tap into people's aspirations. What's interesting about the books is that they're a lot darker than the films. Bond in the books is a much tougher character and more realistic, but perhaps because of that, less likable to most people. The films tend to sugar-coat everything. I read a lot of autobiographies - Richard Branson's is a pretty good insight into the entrepreneurial psyche. That aside, I also enjoy the odd light-hearted conspiracy theory. Love him or loath him, Dan Brown spins a good yarn. At the end of the day he wrote an extremely readable work of fiction. But that's just it, fiction, and hats off to him he found a subject-matter that was extremely interesting, open to conspiracy theory and appealed to people's imaginations. I'm not aware of there being any moment in the promotion of the book when Brown turned round and said 'This is all true'. Some people have difficulty recognizing that fact - they see it as a direct attack on their beliefs. Instead I think we should feel lucky that we live in a society that allows freedom of expression and encourages people to look at things from a different point of view. Games: Well, apart from our own games, of course, the management team here at IV Towers are swinging our arms about playing Wii Sports. I really like Wii Sports and Wario Ware: Smooth Moves because they're really quick to play. They don't require much time to learn... and I really don't have much time. I'm more of an outdoors sort of person if I'm honest so I like to keep my gaming experiences short and sharp, so I can make the most of my other interests. Also, I spend 12 hours a day in front of a computer nearly every day for work - after that I really have to get out the Aeron and de-square my eyes! More importantly to me, they're very social games. As soon as someone starts, everyone wants to join in. There are few other activities - that you can do with the curtains open - in which that happens! I'm really into social games - my friend from Japan often has sushi parties where he brings out these mad Japanese games on PS2 that eight people can play with four controllers. [I don’t know what they’re called] - I can't speak nor write Japanese, and my mate doesn’t know what they're called in English! Mix that, the bento box and some chilled sake, and you've got a recipe for a huge amount of fun.

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