Exclusive Rob Smith Interview

[Date: March 18, 2002]

Rob Smith is the Senior Producer responsible for the up-coming PS2 Superman game "Superman: Shadow of Apokolips".

The Superman Homepage would like to thank Rob for agreeing to do this interview.

This interview is Copyright © 2002 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.

Click on the images to view larger versions.



PS2 Superman Game Screenshot Q: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

A: My name is Rob Smith and I'm the Senior Producer responsible for Superman: Shadow of Apokolips. I've been working in the games industry for a little over 8 years, having worked at Activision and LEGO before joining Infogrames in January 2000. My job within the Sheffield Studio is to manage the 30 strong team and coordinate with Warner Brothers and DC Comics ensuring the quality of the game. When I'm not working I read comics (a lot), watch movies (a lot) and ride stupidly fast motorbikes (when it's not raining, well not too much anyway!).

Q: How did your company land the contract to produce "Superman: Man of Steel" PS2 game? Did you pitch the idea to Warner Bros? Or did they contact you?

A: Infogrames acquired the Superman license for both the Animated Series and DC Comics versions of the characters in 2000. We had a 2 day Superman meeting in New York to get a proper introduction of the universe from DC Comics in January of that year, from that we developed a concept and pitched it to WB and DC.

Q: Are the creators/developers working on this game Superman fans? Have they watched "Superman: The Animated Series" which the PS2 game appears to be based on?

A: One of the first things WB did was to provide us with all of the Animated Series episodes, all 54 for 'em. I initially took them all home and spent the weekend watching them - fantastic! We then spent several weeks as a team watching them to study every aspect, from how the characters looked, moved, how the plots were developed, how the sub-plots worked throughout the episodes, etc.

It became clear that the Timms and Dini partnership had created enough content for several games and we were heavily influenced by how they focused so heavily on action, characterization and highly stylized shots.

PS2 Superman Game Screenshot Q: What involvement (if any) have you had with the Superman comic book creators at DC Comics?

A: If you work on a Superman game you've got to work with DC Comics! Working with them has been great fun, they're totally enthusiastic and positive about how we have built the game around the Superman universe. We've worked closely with David Erwin, Gregg Ross, Mike Siglain, Paul Kupperburg, Eddie Berganza, Bill Eng and Marilyn Drucker to name a few! They've been very supportive in every aspect of the project, from art, modeling and animation to plot and characterization - a lot of fun...

Q: How long has the PS2 Superman game been in production? When will it be released?

A: The game has been in production for about 2 years and will be released around October/November 2002...

Q: What do you think fans will most like about this new Superman game? What are you most proud of about the game?

A: Graphically the game is as close as possible to the animated series, our Lead Artist, Mark, has been obsessive about it (he even runs around the office in a red cape ;-). From a gameplay point of view, the player has access to all of the powers from the start...we came to the conclusion that people buying a Superman game wanted just that, not something with contrived pick ups to give you an ability.

Also, the size of the levels is really impressive, there's really a sense of scale! Oh, and bearing in mind you play the World's Strongest Man, when you hit someone you really HIT someone!

PS2 Superman Game Screenshot Q: What is the soundtrack for the game like? Does it use the theme from the animated series?

A: We're working with Red Mustard Productions in London. They have years of industry experience and also compose the kind of large scale, orchestrated music we're looking for. We thought about the original theme but we had more flexibility composing something ourselves - I'm delighted with the current theme we have, it's got enormous scale and presence, it really says 'Superman' to the listener!

The music itself is 'context sensitive' being run by our proprietary audio system, i.e. it will react to events happening in-game and change tension level accordingly - pretty clever stuff and adds much to the atmosphere.

Q: Which of Superman's powers are available for players to use during the game? Any you wanted to add which couldn't be used?

A: All of Superman's key powers are available from the start. With so many powers open to us we really didn't need (and we wouldn't be allowed!) to invent any new ones. We've got a pretty cool heat pulse that is a quick burst of heat vision - if you combine that with telescopic sight you get a sniping style attack (very cool!).

PS2 Superman Game Screenshot Q: Which characters (both friends and villains) appear in the game?

A: Loads! You get to play a level as Clark Kent, but in addition there's Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Angela Chen, Professor Hamilton, Luthor, Mercy, Livewire, Parasite and Metallo - plus others (not going to give it ALL away!). In addition we have dozens of secondary characters - our modelers and animators have been very busy...

Q: Fans have emailed me concerned about the necessity for Superman to have to re-energize throughout the game (based on images of the game showing an "energy bar" of his remaining strength/stamina). Any comment on this?

A: We've had to develop some sort of constraint for the player otherwise the game would be too unbalanced to be any fun. Our thinking is simple, if in combat the player had unlimited power then they would heat vision everything and the game would become pretty boring and without challenge.

Bearing in mind that Superman is effectively a solar battery we concluded that it would be reasonable to use this as a device to constrain and improve the gameplay. Effectively, the player can't just rely on one move to complete the game, they'll have to learn all of Superman's abilities and understand tactically those that are best in certain circumstances. Remember though, Superman does recharge too so the power bar goes up over time - we're making a compelling game not something to frustrate!

Q: Superman fans were badly let down with the release of the N64 Superman game a few years back... Many people have high expectations of the PS2 Superman Game. In your opinion, what is it about this game that will make it such a huge success?

A: We've looked into the history of Superman games and hopefully learnt by the flaws in other similar games...We've been true and consistent to the Series but balanced that with our primary aim of making a great game. Being honest with the license has been an important consideration for all of us and we hope that the attention to detail will demonstrate that. Comparing a game from several years ago on a completely different format by a different company, in my mind at least, is silly...

PS2 Superman Game Screenshot Q: At what point did you hear about the (almost) simultaneous release of a new Superman game to the xBox? Did you know before you started production? During production? Who told you?

A: The other Superman game, 'Superman: Man of Steel', is also being published by Infogrames, exclusively on Xbox. We've known about this from the start, infact both Superman games are being produced by the same Publishing Producer, David Abrams, in the US. Both games are quite different in terms of graphics, plot and gameplay...

Q: Did the news of an xBox Superman game affect your team's aims and/or production of the PS2 Superman game?

A: Not at all, we're all working for the same company on a really cool license...the aims for the PS2 version can be easily summarized in our team's mission statement:

"A contemporary interpretation of Superman that will be as iconic to the games player as the 'S' Shield is to the comic book fan."

Thanks for allowing the Superman Homepage to interview you!