Born in: Illinois
Favourite Manga or Anime: Ghost in the Shell, Bubblegum Crisis, Evangelion
Favourite music: Some techno, some popular
Brent Pease is the one to be held responsible for Oni's existence, and
I am eternally grateful he brought it to life. He was the first I interviewed,
and I learned a few nice things...
Harry: So how did this idea [of developing Oni] come to you?
Brent: It was really after I saw the movie 'Ghost in the Shell'. I thought that was just very cool from an artist standpoint and also from an action standpoint. And so from that I had the idea of having a game with hand-to-hand martial arts and gun play. You know, I never saw a game done like that before, so I wanted to see if I could pull it off.
Harry: How did you get this concept over to the Bungie people in Chicago?
Brent: I've known the Bungie People, Alex Seriopan and Jason Jones, for a long time when I worked at Apple. When I was at Apple, I did a lot of 3D technology so I talked to them a lot about 3D technology and tried to get them to use our technology. I visited them a couple of times and we got along really well. And so we had actually talked about doing a project together for about 12 months before we actually made it happen. So when it finally did happen we were both very excited to get it going.
Harry: Who decided on the the name "Oni"? Where did that come from?
Brent: (laughing) Where did that come from? That was actually the code name for the project, and where that came from is...I was trying to come up with a name, so I turned to my girlfriend at the time and asked her what' ghost' meant in Japanese because she was taking Japanese classes, and so she said "Oni". So that was the original code name for the project. And in the process of trying to come up with another name that was more suitable for the outside world we couldn't come up with anything so it kinda stuck.
Harry: Is there any special significance with the name 'Konoko'?
Brent: (laughing) Heh, that just popped into my head.
Harry: Because on our [Oni] page people wrote in saying the letters 'Ko' and 'No' meant something. They were coming up with these theories.
Brent: You know, actually I heard 'Konoko' to some extent means 'This Girl' in Japanese, which is entirely coincidental.
Harry: Is this the first game you're leading?
Brent: Yeah, this is the first time I've done a game. When I was at Apple I was manager of interactive media technology which was on RAVE and the interactive rendering for 3D.
Harry: So how does it feel like to be the boss?
Brent: Oh, it has its challenges. There's about 11 people in the project now, and we just became 11 about 2 weeks ago, and we do status reports every weekend and I have to read through all of them. And I was thinking this morning "it's a long time to read through all the status reports" and plus being lead engineer of the project there's a lot of pressure and it's difficult to balance writing code versus managing the project. But we've got a producer on the project, Hamilton Chu, he's really really good, he helps out a lot.
Harry: So why did you decide on a female protagonist?
Brent: Well, again I have to say it was influenced by 'Ghost in the Shell', I really thought that a female protagonist that has the agility and strength that is compelling and interesting.
Harry: Tomb Raider 4 is coming out soon, and let's say Tomb Raider 4 and Oni come out at about the same time, do you think Tomb Raider 4 could be competition, because it's also going to come on the PC and Mac.
Harry: And Oni might be on a console...
Harry: Might...but this is just a rumour! But they might be competing, so do you feel that way?
Brent: Obviously I spent a long time thinking about that, and I don't believe they are going to be competing. I think they're very different games. There's two similarities between the games: that's a female protagonist and third person...
Harry: And Oni has more story.
Brent: And Oni is more focused on action. There's no close contact in Tomb Raider, and the challenge - some people may say the fun- of Tomb Raider is solving the puzzles and seeing the environment.
Harry: Will there be any cut scenes in Oni?
Brent: Uh huh.
Harry: What are they gonna be? Anime like in Myth 2 or in-game?
Brent: During the course of the game, they'll all be in-game. It will be in-engine so the quality will be very nice. You know, I don't think we've really announced anything concerning animated cut scenes yet, I think we told people we have. I think the current plan, nothing definite, is to have a anime Myth 2 style cut scene for the intro and the outro, but it really hasn't been finalised yet.
Harry: About the third-party expandability: Marathon was very well received for the fact that you could endlessly add stuff to it. Will you be able to do that with Oni?
Brent: We are not going to ship with our own tools, because unlike with Marathon the tools were built in house, the tools built in house here are very minimal, it's all text-based, and fairly difficult to know the UI (User Interface). The tools we use to create the actual geometry of the characters is in 3DStudioMAX, and we have AutoCAD for environments. However what we will do is, I'm about 90 percent sure of this, is give away the file format. So we have exporters that export the data from 3DStudioMAX and into this file format, that goes into our little importer tool, which takes all that data and munges it together to get into the game. So we'll probably give away that tool, even though it's really difficult to use and we'll also give away the file format.
Harry: And specifically as the lead engineer, what exactly are you doing in your job?
Brent: I do several things, there's a chunk of code I'm responsible for, which is the core of the engine and the environment engine. And I pick up things - everyone picks up things- as it goes on, but I assign tasks to various people, to some extent monitor the progress and see how things are coming along. And I make sure things are getting done, and help solve problems when they come up. In some cases when a problem comes up and it turns out to be too difficult to solve, I have to say we're not going to able to do this because of this or that.
Harry: And you're always in close contact with Bungie in Chicago.
Brent: Yeah. Jason and I talk a lot, and we exchange a lot of ideas and to some extent we both help each other out.