WIth Jason Hall
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
ew people can claim to have tangled with Microsoft and come out on top...not only has Monolith managed to sever its ties with the evil empire, but in the process they managed to set themselves up as a self-publisher in an ever-condensing industry. Add to that the fact that they internally developed and released two first person action titles while the engine itself was actually being written. Pretty impressive indeed. We caught up with Monolith CEO Jason Hall to find out just how the heck they managed to do it.
How was Monolith started?
Many of the board members at Monolith worked at development houses before Monolith. While we enjoyed making children's software at Edmark, we desired to have their own freedom and create games themselves would play. The original members started a "demo crew", one thing led to another, and Monolith the company was born.
One of your first projects was actually the original Windows game demo frontend...how did that come about?
Hmm...this is a long story, but the 5 cent version is this: Monolith (while at Edmark) was really into the European "demo scene"... We were duly impressed with the skills that were being displayed whenever we saw those cool little "demos" in action. The "demos" that were being made at the time were coming from groups like the Future Crew, etc.
Every year some of these groups would come together somewhere in Finland for a competition (to see who REALLY had it goin' on) that was called "ASSEMBLY". "ASSEMBLY '94" was coming up and we wanted to do a kick ass demo CD and compete.
The competition in Finland was going to be tough, so we had to figure some special way for us to stand out and win. We thought that the best way of doing this was to make our demo using Windows 3.1. At the time, Windows was notorious for being incredibly slow and cumbersome, so ANYTHING written under Windows that graphically looked good and moved fast was considered to be a fairly impressive programming accomplishment. A new technology for Windows called "Win-G" had recently emerged, and with that we felt that we could pull off some neat stuff and possibly win. Anyhow, (long story short) we made the "Monolith CD" and we planned on entering the competition. Before that could happen, we received a call from Microsoft. Apparently, after we finished the "Monolith CD" a copy somehow found its way into hands at Microsoft. They where very interested in what we had done with Windows and soon we where working on the Microsoft Game Sampler CD and later the Game Sampler 2 CD. This was the start of our working with Microsoft and DirectX.
Why the split with Microsoft?
Simple. Monolith and Microsoft had different visions with regard to Shogo's development.
It would appear that as soon as you split with Microsoft, you immediately went into self-publishing. Was there any desire on your part to shop Shogo (then Riot) around to other publishers, or were you set on publishing it yourself?
We were very confident that Shogo would aid Monolith in reaching its long-term goals. We had the opportunity to publish Shogo ourselves and we took it!
Do you think self-publishing is a viable option for a startup game developer, or are we a few years away from that being a reality? (Or, of course, do you think it will never be a reality at all.)
Here is how I see it: self-publishing is a difficult thing to do and is very expensive. I would not recommend it to everyone. Although it does open up more opportunities for your company in general, those increased options come with much greater risk. Fortunately, I think that as bandwidth goes up and ESD becomes more commonplace startup developers will have more publishing options available to them. From my point of view, technically, ANY startup developer could self-publish, but having the necessary resources to do so is not an easy thing to achieve (IMHO).
Does Monolith have any plans to expand into consoles? Are there any ports of your games in the works?
Monolith is filled with talented people and great 3D technologies. I must say that the new console systems look pretty interesting...Monolith may have some surprises in the future! We will see...
How about Mac/Linux/BeOs ports?
Boy, you just want me to give away all the good info huh...? No comment! What I will say is that LithTech is an ever expanding 3D Game operating system (engine) and Monolith is dedicated to maximizing its potential.
Why the decision to publish other developer's work?
Monolith is the little guy out there who was given a small chance to make it. We are doing the best that we can on all fronts, and when an opportunity presents itself for Monolith to aid/publish/promote another developers work (and it makes financial sense for us) we will do it. Also it is important for us as a new publisher to have a reasonable amount of products continuously moving through our new channels/relationships. We will only do this with kick ass titles that we feel we can best serve and promote.
Do you see Monolith becoming the sort of giant publishing empire that GT Interactive, Activision and others have become, or are your plans to always remain a smaller, more independent publisher?
Right now it's not our plan to be a huge publisher. We have found a comfortable position in being a small publisher, self-publisher and just developer - BUT - you never know what the future may hold!
How many outside-developed games will Monolith be publishing this year?
Looks like two this year. Septerra Core and Odium.
Credits: Illustration © 1999 Michael Krahulik. This interview is © 1999 Jason Bergman & Jason Hall. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...or we'll give you a publishing deal with Microsoft. Muhahahahah.