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Media Consumption: Zoe Mode's Paul Mottram

In Gamasutra's latest Media Consumption column, we investigate the media diet of Zoë Mode senior producer Paul Mottram (Crush), who tells us his pan-media favorites from Pavement, to Peep Show, to Xbox 360 action title Crackdown.
For this edition of Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Paul Mottram, senior producer on Zoë Mode’s PSP puzzle cross platformer Crush. The game was released back in May, and generated almost consistently excellent reviews, and current sits with a Metacritic rating of 84%. “The reviews have been excellent and the praise we’ve received has made all the hard work worthwhile,” Mottram says happily. “It was a very risky game for us since we knew that such an original concept would be hard to sell to the game playing public. The aspect that pleased us most was how much everyone liked the core mechanic and appreciated a developer trying to do something original. We had great faith in the concept but you never know how well it’s going to be received.” Additionally, Crush won the Develop Award for Best Handheld IP at the end of July, which Mottram describes as “the high point so far”, as it “demonstrated how much our peers in the industry appreciated Crush”. The acclaim didn’t translate into sales in quite the way the team had hopes, however. “We have always wanted as many people to play Crush as possible but it’s a very ruthless market at the moment, especially on the PSP,” Mottram muses. “Crush is one of those games that will hopefully stick around for a while and continue to shift units but it would have been nice to see us top the charts.” “Unless you’re shifting millions of units it’s always slightly disappointing but Crush was all about trying to do something innovative and new, and in that respect is was an unprecedented success,” he continues. “It’s such a competitive industry and you always hope that review scores will always be matched with sales but that is not always the case and we end up with some rubbish title shifting millions and some brilliant pieces of entertainment sinking without a trace. Hopefully this will start to change in future, digital distribution is going to get bigger and bigger and the public will start to get much more knowledgeable about their game selections.” And while Mottram admits that he would love for Zoë Mode to work on “another version of Crush, expanding on the existing concept” and seeing what could be done with “other platforms”, there’s nothing currently on the boards. Instead, the company will continue their work on Sony’s SingStar and Play franchises, as well as “several undisclosed projects”. “It’s going to be a busy couple of years,” grins Mottram. “At Zoë Mode we are continuing to look for new and exciting game ideas to develop. Our philosophy is that there is a game for everyone and we are determined to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy the ones we make.” We spoke to Mottram recently, and asked about the hearty meals that have satisfied his crushing media hunger of late. Sounds: At home I listen to the radio predominantly, mostly [BBC Radio 1’s] Zane Lowe and Russell Brand who seem to share all my musical tastes. My walk into work recently has been dominated by Jamie T, Bright Eyes, Jack Peñate and Maxïmo Park. In the office I usually just put my iPod on shuffle which means I get to hear albums I haven’t listened to for years. I don’t limit my music to any specific genre although currently it’s more guitar focused alternative, indie bands and hip-hop. Music is such a key element in my life and when I moved from coding to production and discovered that I couldn’t spend the entire day with my headphones on it was great loss. In terms of recommendations; anything by Pavement especially since they’ve started re-releasing all their albums at a ludicrously cheap price with more additional content than you would ever need. They were greatest band of the nineties and they never seem to age. I can go back to any album and it still sounds as fresh and original now as it did the first time around. Also try Takk by Sigur Ros; it’s a few years old now but I’m still to find a better album to inspire me and listen to at work. Dans Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip’s The Beat That Your Heart Skipped is going to be my song of the summer. Moving Pictures: Two young children have ensured that my chances of going to the cinema are limited so it’s mainly TV and DVD’s that keep me entertained at home. British TV can still do good comedy and documentaries; however the majority of the shows I watch are American. I’ve recently discovered Arrested Development which I managed to miss for its entirety and am slowly working my way through all 3 seasons of that. It’s probably the best scripted show I’ve seen in years and only Peep Show comes close in my opinion. Star Stories was another great UK show which is due to get a remake in the states soon, especially the one they did on Tom Cruise. I try to keep track of all the new shows that are arriving from the US. The delay in them being broadcast over here means I can see whether the show has been canned after a couple of episodes. It’s a shame that some brilliant TV has been lost due to poor scheduling and over enthusiastic networks that are not willing to try something original. Dexter has been the best find so far this year, Heroes was excellent and I can’t wait to see what they do for the second season. Pushing Daisies is one I’m looking out for next. The final episodes of The Sopranos are about to air so it’ll be good to see how it all ends as it has been one of the most consistent shows of the last decade. I unfortunately managed to read a snippet on a website somewhere which is going to take the gloss off it a bit. The last film I saw was The Simpson’s Movie which I found disappointing, it’s just an overlong episode and they used all the best jokes in the trailer which meant there was very little new to see. Next stop is The Bourne Ultimatum. Words: I haven’t been reading much lately, I’ve got a book called Purple Cow on my desk at work which is supposedly going to transform the way I make games and envisage marketing people, but I haven’t managed to get past the first chapter yet, given some of the marketing decisions I’ve seen made over the course of my career I’m sure it will be an interesting read. I tend to read a varying selection of books and not just stick to one genre, each year I go and buy whatever won the booker prize to see what the fuss was about. The next book I’m going to read is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins which will probably give me hundreds of facts I can misquote and bore my wife with. Then I plan to read The Lovely Bones. My wife loved it but now Peter Jackson is going to make a film about it I thought it was worth giving it a go myself. Recommendations? Ignore Harry Potter and read His Dark Materials trilogy instead if you want to see what children’s writing is all about. Games: I’m a recent convert to the 360 and as it’s been out a while I find I can get my hands on a vast back catalogue of titles reasonably cheaply. Online coop has been a revelation for me and I’ve found I’m much more likely to persevere and finish a game if I’m working through it with a friend. I usually play for a few hours and then move onto the next thing if I’m playing on my own. Downloading demos is a fantastic feature for the new consoles; unfortunately, it’s a double edged sword. If your demo is great it can majorly enhance your sales however a poor demo can completely screw it up. I’ve been shocked at how poor some demo’s have been and can’t believe there were ever allowed out of the office. Crackdown has been my game of the year so far. It’s got its flaws but I haven’t had so much fun in years and there has been nothing more satisfying than just jumping around the city with a rocket launcher. It was always being compared with GTA before its release but it my mind there was no comparison. Crackdown managed to demonstrate how simple shooting should be in a game like this and the open ended gameplay meant there was none of the frustration I’ve found in the GTA franchise. God of War II surpassed the original yet changed little which is exactly what I wanted and it’s been putting a lot of next-gen games to shame. We shouldn’t forget that we’ve only just figured out how to really get the most out of the last generation of consoles and there is going to be a massive PS2 market for some time yet. I’m halfway through Bioshock now and the hype is worth it. I think a lot of first person shooter developers are going to be very worried after playing it. It’s not the perfect game some people may have you believe and as a shooter goes, the AI is pretty basic. The Big Daddies aren’t so scary once you realize a couple of grenades can put them down, but an example of how to create a brilliantly polished gaming experience you’re not going to find a better example outside of Nintendo. FlatOut 2 has also been a pleasant surprise and one a keep going back to, it’s the perfect antidote to more serious racing games which I just don’t have the time to dedicate myself to, instant action for half and hour and then you can move onto something else. Super Mario Galaxy is coming later in the year in November so my Wii might still be worth the cost. After Wii Sports and Zelda I’ve been disappointed there hasn’t been a game on the platform which I’ve really wanted. The Orange Box will also be a must buy so I can finally play Half Life II since I’ve never had a decent enough PC to play it. Apart from that I still find time for Tiger Woods, Advance Wars and Peggle, which in my opinion is the best game you can buy for £5.

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